Grammar Guide: Simple Past Tense

The 1960s in the United States was a pivotal decade for civil rights. Leaders like John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Lyndon B. Johnson worked to bring true equal rights to the citizens of the United States. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was signed (see photo). This act forbade discrimination of any kind (including race, ethnicity, or gender) in public places.

Simple Past Tense
We have already discussed the simple future tense and the simple present tense. The simple past tense is used to express actions that began and ended in the past or actions that are complete. There are two different kinds of simple past tense verbs: (1) regular and (2) irregular.

Regular past tense verbs end with -ed.
  • I voted for the next president.
  • They asked me to speak at the conference.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Irregular past tense verbs usually change spelling but may have other past tense forms.
  • He ran for office, but he did not win.
  • Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.
  • I understood civil rights when our teacher taught our class.
The following is a description of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Notice all the examples of the simple past tense. See if you can recognize the regular and irregular verbs.
  • "This act [the Civil Rights Act of 1964], signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964, prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal.

    ". . . President John F. Kennedy urged the nation to take action toward guaranteeing equal treatment of every American regardless of race. Soon after, Kennedy proposed that Congress consider civil rights legislation that would address voting rights, public accommodations, school desegregation, nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, and more.

    "Despite Kennedy’s assassination in November of 1963, his proposal culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson just a few hours after House approval on July 2, 1964. The act outlawed segregation in businesses such as theaters, restaurants, and hotels. It banned discriminatory practices in employment and ended segregation in public places such as swimming pools, libraries, and public schools."

To learn more about the Civil Rights Movement, visit the National Archives website.
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