1. Start class by showing footage of the "Bloody Sunday" massacre at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which can be found here:
Talk about the pressure that large demonstrations coupled with television put on Johnson. Two of his most significant achievements were the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Johnson, who was from Texas, went against the majority wishes of Democrats from the south to maneuver these bills through Congress. The Civil Rights Act overcame a major filibuster to pass, an account of which can be found here:
These two acts remain two of the most enduring legacies of the civil rights movement and among the most important and celebrated laws in American history.
2. Johnson also attempted to ameliorate economic inequality. Despite the overall strength of the economy persistent, large pockets of poverty existed. These were chronicled in the book The Other America, by Michael Harrington. An excerpt can be found here:
Johnson's "War on Poverty" took several forms, including the creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity and Medicare. Share some basic statistics about the cost of healthcare with your students. Some can be found here:
Then ask them to write a paragraph taking a position on whether or not the government should be responsible for helping pay for people's care as they age.
3. Johnson is probably most well-known for being the president during the worst of the Vietnam War. Explain the domino theory to students to help explain why Vietnam was so important to American foreign policy at the time. Remind them that China (Vietnam's neighbor) had become communist in the late 1940s.
While there were already American military advisors in the country when Johnson became president, it was his choice after the Gulf of Tonkin incident to ask Congress for the power to send American troops into combat. Have students read Johnson's message to Congress after the Gulf of Tonkin. It can be found here: