The Winds of Change, Tennessee 1945-1975
Civil Rights / Cold War Era Timeline

GRADES: 5 and 9 (United States History)
DURATION: 1 or more sessions for online research, 1 session for creating Living Timelines

  • Internet connection
  • Index cards (or strips cut from adding machine tape)
  • Pens and colored markers
  • Images from the TN4ME website (optional)
Note: To print out copies of the images from the website “slideshows”, follow these steps:

1.    Click on one of the subheadings under the Civil Rights / Cold War section.
2.    When the slide you want to print shows up, click on the upper right corner to stop the slide show.
3.    Right-click on the image and select Print. (To print in grayscale, first select Grayscale under the Color tab under Preferences.)


(from here): 
Between 1945 and 1975, profound changes occurred in Tennessee and the nation as a whole.

World War II helped set the pace for these changes as America found itself as the leading world power.   Even as the United States found external challenges from the Soviet Union (USSR) and China, social changes were happening at home.    
Tennesseans, black and white, fought in World War II. When African Americans returned from the war, they realized that even though they had fought for freedom for other countries, they didn't have the same freedom as whites at home. 

They started working for civil rights both through the courts and through protests. Many whites would support them, guided by a sense of moral urgency. By 1975, the Civil Rights Movement had made great strides towards social equality for all Tennesseans even though much remained to be done.

The G.I. Bill of Rights meant that more people had an opportunity to attend college or technical schools than ever before.  Thousands in Tennessee took advantage of this benefit.

Women, after being an essential part of the war effort, were forced back in the homes as returning soldiers needed their jobs. By the 1960s women began to question their role responsibilities and why they were not paid equal to men. 

Other social changes were happening at home. After the movement to cities in the first part of the century, Americans started moving out of cities to the suburbs.  Automobiles became more important as a means of transportation between peoples' homes in the suburbs and their jobs in the cities. 

People had more leisure time. The word teenager was first used in the 1940s. Youthful buyers became more and more important to sellers. Television became the medium which helped to define society.  
And a young man from Memphis named Elvis Presley became the “King of Rock and Roll.” Other singers were helping to define rock and roll at Sun Records in Memphis. Meanwhile country music continued to grow in popularity as Nashville became known as “Music City.”

Tennesseans were affected by these changing times, new technologies, periods of economic growth and military and social conflicts. All of these served to create a new direction for the state as it moved toward the 21st century.

In this lesson, students use the Tennessee 4 Me ( website to research important events and historical figures and then assemble themselves in chronological order to create a Living Timeline. (Note: If you cannot provide Internet access for student research, you could print out portions of the website ahead of time for students to use.) 

Guiding Questions: 

  • What important historical events occurred between 1945 and 1975?

Objectives:  Students will 

  1. Research important events that occurred between 1945 and 1975 using the Tennessee 4 Me ( website.
  2. Assemble individual events into a Living Timeline.


  • Cut the dates off of students’ “event cards” and redistribute them at random. Have students attempt to order the events without having the dates shown. (Allow them to collaborate.)


Ahead of Time:
  1. Gather the needed supplies.
  2. Decide how you will organize the students – individual work, pairs, or teams
  3. Decide whether students will choose their own events or you will assign them.
  4. Decide what students will create in addition to an Event Card. (Will they be allowed to download an image from the website to hang around their neck?)
  5. If necessary, reserve a computer lab.
Session 1, Online:
  1. Introduce students to the Civil Rights / Cold War section of the Tennessee 4 Me ( website. (See the Using Tennessee 4 Me lesson for information on using the website.)
  2. Explain that they will be researching important events to create a timeline.
  3. Explain how the class will work (individually, in pairs, or in teams) on the assignment.
  4. Give them their assignment (a specific event, a specific section of the website, or “free choice”).
  5. Pass out supplies.
  6. Allow students to conduct their online research.
Session 2:
  1. If desired, have students hang an image around their neck that represents their event.
  2. Have students arrange themselves in chronological order in a semicircle around the walls of the room.
  3. Starting with any events occurring in 1945, have each student in order step forward and read their event to the class.
  4. Optional: Use masking tape to tape the Event Cards and Images to the walls, in chronological order.

Extensions:Have students



Tennessee K-8 Social Studies Grade 5 Standards:
            5.5.spi.3. Interpret timelines that depict major historical post-Civil War events.
National History Standards:
Historical Thinking Standards for Grades K-12
Standard 1:
Chronological Thinking
  • Distinguish between past, present, and future time. 
  • Interpret data presented in time lines. 
  • Create time lines.