Do you think Rosa Parks should be seen as the "mother" of the civil rights movement? Why or why not?
Why do you think museums acquire items like the bus Rosa Parks was on when she was arrested? Do you think seeing the actual objects helps people better understand history? Do you think replicas would be just as effective? Why or why not?
In the article, William Pretzer states that, "History makers are those that sense the moment." Do you agree with Pretzer's statement? Why or why not?
Have you ever looked back, thought of something seemingly insignificant that happened in your life, and realized that it was a catalyst for major change? If so, what was it? Why do you think that minor event became so important later on?
- Instruct students to brainstorm a list of ways the class could be divided into different groups. Tell them to go beyond the expected categories like gender and race. Instead, encourage students to be creative with their ideas. For example, categories could include hair color, number of people in a student's family, month they were born or number of letters in their middle name. Record students' ideas on the board.
- Select three of the categories. Circle one group in each. Then tell the class to imagine that you have a new rule. From now on, students who belong to all three of these groups will receive special treatment. Explain what that might include. (i.e., no more homework, special study sessions for tests, extra-long recess or optional field trips) For everyone else, nothing will change.
- Encourage students who don't fit into this special group to share their opinions on the new rule. Challenge them to think of something they could do that would make you get rid of it. After students have voiced their opinions, point out that what they are doing is protesting the new rule. They are making their objections known.
- Have students conduct research to learn more about protests. Instruct them to write a summary or short essay explaining what they learned.
Invite students to share their texts with the class. Challenge students to identify events that sparked various protests. As a class, discuss how protests can bring about change in the world.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Divide the class into small groups. Instruct groups to conduct research to learn what a protest is and why people hold protests. Encourage them to find an example of a protest that brought about change. Challenge them to write a brief summary telling what they learned.
Divide the class into small groups. Instruct groups to conduct research to learn what a protest is and why people hold protests. Encourage them to find both modern-day and important historical examples of protests that brought about change. Challenge them to write a brief essay telling what they learned.
As a class, discuss the different ways people protest when they feel something is unjust. For example, people can write letters, picket with signs or simply sit at lunch counters and refuse to move. Point out that some protests are peaceful. Others are not. Then have students identify a topic that has been the subject of important protests throughout time. Divide the class into small groups. Instruct each group to select one style of protesting that has been used to fight this injustice. Give them time to conduct research. Challenge them to write an essay in which they explain why they chose this type of protest. Encourage them to include examples of successful protests on this topic that used their preferred approach.
Divide the class into small groups. Have groups conduct research to learn about major protests that have occurred in the past five years as well as historical protests on the same topics. In each case, challenge groups to answer the following questions: How did the people protest? What did the people hope to achieve? Were they able to bring about change? And in what ways, if any, has social media changed the way people protest ongoing issues? Based upon what they learn, instruct groups to write an essay comparing and contrasting modern-day and historical approaches to protesting.
This Smithsonian Channel video bears witness to the story of four young men who stood up to racism and social injustice by taking a seat. WARNING: Some content in this video is not appropriate for younger students.
This site from the National Museum of American History explores a period of U.S. history when racial prejudice and fear upset the delicate balance between the rights of a citizen versus the power of the state.
Read this Smithsonian article to learn about the simple act of disobedience—thrusting a black-gloved fist in the air—that produced shock waves across the nation.
Invite student to explore the music, significance and social/historical context of famous protest songs with this lesson from the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
This lesson plan from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service examines questions on immigration, human and civil rights and social justice. Students will expand their historical thinking by interpreting “texts” developed from the personal perspective of those who have struggled for social justice.
In this activity from the National Museum of American History, students will assume the role of fictional Americans in 1963. They will make decisions based on the evidence found in a historical artifact to decide whether or not to join the March on Washington.