50th Anniversary: What Will Texas Students Learn about the Civil Rights Movement?

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That landmark legislation bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Its enactment came after decades of struggle by civil rights advocates in the face of virulent opposition — opposition that often resorted to brutality and even murder.

President Johnson didn’t sweep away bigotry and discrimination with the simple stroke of his pen on July 2, 1964. But his signature marked a key moment when the United States truly began to fulfill the promise of equality for all under the law.

Right-wing politicians and activists have spent decades trying to rewrite the history of the struggle for civil and equal rights in this country. One of those political activists — as we explain here and here — has been David Barton, the right’s favorite phony historian and head of Texas-based WallBuilders, which argues that separation of church and state is a myth. Barton has argued that conservatives — Republicans, in particular — were the real champions of civil rights.

It is absolutely true that white southern Democratic senators successfully led efforts to kill civil rights legislation for decades. But Barton ignores the conservative Republican senators who aided southern filibusters in opposition. And his distorted recounting of the civil rights movement also ignores the legions of conservative white southerners who swung from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in opposition to that movement — especially after enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Barton served as a so-called “expert adviser” when the State Board of Education revised social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools in 2009-10. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that certain state board members also have expressed similarly twisted views of our nation’s civil rights history.

On this anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, check out in the video clip above how Don McLeroy directed curriculum writers to address civil rights when they were drafting the new social studies standards. McLeroy had recently lost his seat as chairman but was still serving on the state board at the time. Note the puzzled — even stunned — look on the face of one of the curriculum writers as McLeroy suggests that women and racial minorities in America have white men to thank for granting them equal rights.

The State Board of Education is set this year to adopt new social studies textbooks based on the deeply flawed standards McLeroy helped pass back in 2010. The Texas Freedom Network will be closely monitoring this adoption and what the new textbooks teach students about civil rights and other important topics in American history. You will be hearing much more from us about this critical textbook adoption soon.

3 thoughts on “50th Anniversary: What Will Texas Students Learn about the Civil Rights Movement?

  1. Yes, between 1965 and 1970, my uncle in Nashville (an avowed racist) had been a life-long Democrat. He switched to the Republican Party during that period because he thought the Democrats had gone soft on what he saw as America’s “chigger” problem. He knew people like him would be welcomed with open arms by the Republicans—and for some other reasons too. The current Republican Party is no longer a political party. It is a right wing extremist hate group. It hates chiggers, women, Mexicans, toddlers from El Salvador, poor people, sick people, hungry people. You name it. They hate it. And I think that is a fair appraisal from everything I read and see on the daily news.

    Today in a newspaper, a person who I am sure is a Republican, wrote a letter to the editor to diss the Civil Rights Act. I didn’t even know today was the 50th anniversary, but this person sure did. This person claimed personal disgust with racism and argued that the act should be done away with because it unfairly dictates what property owners can and cannot do with their own property. This person then closed by saying that a property owner should be free to dictate what kind of person he does or does not want to be on his property because he owns that property.

    This country has a “chigger” problem all right, and white people like you and me are responsible for it because of our prejudices. Our white ancestors came from Africa too, and I would be glad to ship a large number of American white racists back to the land their ancestors came from.

  2. Dan. You can take it down. It’s just how I feel lately. I just wish these rats would come out of their holes and use the words they would really like to use and say what they would really like to say. For example, there is the person who walks over to me at family Christmas parties, nudges his knee into my side, and whispers in my ear, “Tennessee might win a few football games if they would find a way to get those “chiggers” (not the word he uses) off the team, and yeah, I’m pretty sure he votes Republican.

  3. The Civil Rights Movement should not be glossed over, eliminated from our textbooks, or hidden. All anyone needs to do is check out ACCORD Freedom Trail to learn about the Civil Rights actions in St Augustine, FL. In so doing, you will learn that YES, INDEED, there were people who were beaten, sent to jail, shot at, and yet they still peacefully worked to see that they were respected as Humans–all of us are created in God’s image so none of us are less than (my view).
    The Learning of our Civil Rights History will help us not repeat making anyone a second class citizen. In fact, learning history can help us not repeat or let events move in a direction that has already proven to be non productive.