G.I. Bill of Rights

GRADES: 9 (American History)  
DURATION: 45 minutes



(adapted from information online here):  
The G.I. Bill of Rights, the popular name for the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, caused dramatic changes to people’s lives after World War II.

This act provided federal benefits in education and housing to 7.8 million veterans across the nation. 
One of the most important benefits was the educational one. Veterans who served as least 90 days received financial help to attend college or vocational school. 
Not everyone wanted to go to college. Many more veterans received vocational training classes, like air conditioning, welding, plumbing, and heating. This contributed to the technological advancement of the United States. Employers encouraged their workers to take classes using the G.I. Bill.
White and black veterans flocked to colleges and universities like Memphis State and Lemoyne College.  Historically black colleges had sharp increases in attendance and received federal funds for new school buildings. Many black veterans who could not get in overcrowded black colleges were still unable to attend all white universities. This would begin to change in the 1960s with the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1939 there were 1.5 million enrolled in colleges and universities. By 1949 this figure had jumped to 2.6 million. Most of this increase was due to the G.I. Bill. This easier access to college education encouraged parents to later send their children to college. By 1969 when children of WWII veterans were going to college, total national enrollment was 8 million.
Access to education was part of the reason that people in the U.S. started living more affluent lives. Whether their education was from a college or vocational school, it enabled them to get better paying jobs.
Benjamin Hooks was one African American who took advantage of this plan to complete his law degree. Hooks was born in and grew up in Memphis. After serving in WWII, Hooks used the G. I. Bill to attend Depaul University in Chicago and earn a law degree. He became a successful lawyer and was appointed the first African American judge in Tennessee since Reconstruction by Governor Frank Clement in 1965.  He served as the executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1977 to 1993. For his lifetime commitment to civil rights, Hooks received numerous awards.

Guiding Questions: 

  • What was the so-called G.I. Bill and what were its effects?

Objectives:  Students will 

  1. Examine a series of photographs to infer how the G.I. Bill affected the lives of WWII veterans in Tennessee.
  2. Understand how G.I. Bill impacted Americans even today.


  • Student handout


  1. Introduce the topic of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the G.I. Bill.
  2. Have students read the narrative describing the effects of this act from the website page.
  3. Discuss what they have learned about how this act affected the lives of WWII veterans. (money for college, low-cost housing)
  4. Project on a screen this 1944 film on Youtube about the G.I. Bill. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mB7Z2D-Wx8 8:21 minutes (Always check first to see if the right film is still up.)
  5. Pass out copies of the photographs.
  6. Have students read the captions for the photographs and then answer the questions on the handout.
  7. Allow students to share their responses. Have a short discussion on the idea that because the G.I. bill encouraged veterans to go to school, they also encouraged their children to go to college. How did this affect people’s ideas about the importance of a college education?
  8. Point out to students that Congress has continued G.I. Bill benefits to military veterans today. Some people even decide to serve in the military so they can take advantage of the money for education after they get out.

Extensions:Have students

  • Follow up this lesson with one exploring the importance of the G.I. Bill in providing educational opportunities to veterans today. (See information at the G.I. Bill website.)
  • Have students survey their older relatives to identify ones who got a college education or vocational training with the G.I. Bill. (Encourage students to share the stories of these relatives, or invite some of these relatives to come to class and share their own experiences.)




9.4 Explain the G.I. Bill and its subsequent effects.


            National History Standards (http://nchs.ucla.edu/standards/era9-5-12.html):
The economic boom and social transformation of postwar United States.
Standard 1B: The student understands how the social changes of the postwar period affected various Americans.

Grade Level
Therefore, the student is able to
Evaluate the effects of the GI Bill on American society. [Hypothesize the influence of the past on the present]
Examine the rapid growth of secondary and collegiate education and the role of new governmental spending on educational programs. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]