National History Day Project: The Civil Rights Act of 1964


Print, The Bird of Freedom and the Black Bird, 1863, F.P., NYPL Digital Gallery

I'm an 8th-grade student currently looking for information for my National History Day project on the topic of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It would be very helpful if some of these questions would be able to be answered.

  • What groups of people, if any, were negatively affected?
  • What were some consequences because of the passing of the act, good or     bad?
  • Were there any important events or political ideas that were led up by the     Act passing?
  • What were some key leaders and other people that led up to the Act?
  • What might be some successes because of the Act passing?
  • Lastly, what are some failures that the Act was unable to address?


It is great to hear that you are participating in the National History Day program at your school. I really hope that this project allows you to experience what it is like to work as a historian, analyzing and interpreting primary sources and secondary sources to draw conclusions about the impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Your questions about the Act are a good jumping-off point for starting your research. It sounds like you want to analyze the effects and consequences of the legislation on "groups" of people. However, the questions did not specify whom you might be thinking about. So, a good place to start is with the particular groups affected by the legislation. What was the goal of the act? How, for instance, did it affect people experiencing workplace discrimination and school segregation in the United States prior to 1964?

After you establish the aims and audiences of the act, you can move on to looking at important events, political ideas, and key leaders. The act was a part of the broader Civil Rights movement, so consider how the push for civil rights led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as how the act pushed the movement forward. There are lots of great resources on the web for this kind of research and our Website Reviews section is a good tool for this. It allows you to browse sites by keyword, topic, and time period to locate information pertaining to the history of the Civil Rights Movement. This feature will also help you bypass the millions of websites that a regular search engine will provide, and only return legitimate websites about historical research.

For example: Using the search box, try entering keyword terms that are critical elements of the legislation (i.e. segregation and discrimination).

Keyword: segregation
Topic: African Americans
Time Period: Post War US, 1945-Early 1970s
Resource Type: Any

The results of this specific search will generate ten different websites that vary in topic. Two might be of particular interest. Television News of the Civil Rights Era has the actual footage of African American students waiting to be picked up by the local school bus for the first time in four years. Other sites, like the Kellogg African American Health Care Project will provide first-hand accounts from African Americans during the era of segregated health care.

Information about the experiences of individuals will reveal how segregation and discrimination deeply influenced the lives of ordinary Americans. Finding clues to some of the answers to your questions should help you refine those questions and help you make your assessments about the failures and successes of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

I hope you find the answers to all of your questions.

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