Activism and Legislation

This activity asks students to read and compare the language of two oral histories, asking them to think about prejudice, stigma and fundamental rights and freedoms.
Grade Level


  • Explain the provisions of the 14th and 15th amendments and the political forces supporting and opposing each
  • Evaluate the agendas, strategies and effectiveness of Americans from underrepresented groups, including people with disabilities, in the quest for civil rights and equal opportunities
  • Explore how laws uphold democratic ideals and how changes in laws accompany social change



The 14th Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed "equal protection" for all citizens, and the 15th Amendment guaranteed voting rights for former slaves, yet not until the latter half of the 20th century did these rights become realities, or possibilities, for many Americans, particularly African Americans and people with disabilities.

Often, society places stigma on people of color and people with physical differences in ability. Discrimination based on physical characteristics affects many Americans as they try to enter public places like restaurants and movie theaters, find housing, travel on public transportation and obtain an equal education or position in employment. The parallels between the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) reflect patterns of exclusion and prejudice but also reflect the social movements that shattered these patterns.



  • Introduce students to the text of the 14th and 15th amendments.
  • Discuss the background of the amendments (Emancipation and Reconstruction), and explain how the ADA and Civil Rights Act enforce the amendments.
  • Ask students to explore the Voices of Civil Rights page and find two stories (one by a person with a disability from any year and one about the early 1960s). If your students don't have internet access, select and print stories for them
  • Have students compare and contrast stories to produce an essay or poster (instructions on handout).

These activities meet curriculum standards in Language Arts and U.S. History as outlined by Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education, 4th Edition.

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Welcome to Learning for Justice—Formerly Teaching Tolerance!

Our work has evolved in the last 30 years, from reducing prejudice to tackling systemic injustice. So we’ve chosen a new name that better reflects that evolution: Learning for Justice.

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