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Guiding Question: To what extent did Founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice become a reality for African Americans during the civil rights movement?
- Students will analyze the application of Founding principles of liberty, justice, and equality in this time period by:
- Analyzing ideas and actions regarding equality and justice by examining primary source documents.
- Examining the ways in which legislation and policy, the courts, and individuals and groups were complementary in the quest to fully realize equality and justice for all, and the ways in which these methods of change were in conflict.
- Students will reflect on the ideas, institutions, and individuals in history to assess how we might apply the lessons gleaned from this period to today.
The following lesson asks students to look at primary source documents as they consider the following question: To what extent did Founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice become a reality for African Americans in the civil rights movement? The documents come from a variety of actors: legislators and policy makers, the courts, and individuals and groups. As students go through the documents, encourage them not only to think about the principles of liberty, equality, and justice, but also about the way in which these groups interact with each other in creating or stalling change.
The main activity in this lesson requires students to conduct primary source analysis. Two sets of primary sources are included with this lesson: a longer set and an abbreviated set. The abbreviated documents have been selected for learners with lower reading levels or for classes wishing to explore the guiding questions for this lesson that cannot dedicate as much time to it. Questions have been provided for each primary source. Teachers may choose to use the provided questions as scaffolds for students or remove them as best suits their teaching situation. Graphic organizers have been provided to use as an additional tool alongside the questions accompanying each document or in place of them.
For primary source analysis, students may work individually, in pairs, or in small groups as best fits your classroom. Additionally, primary sources can serve as the basis for a stations or jigsaw activity.
Have students complete the Introductory Essay and accompanying questions.
Distribute the primary source: Image: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Logo, 1961
Have students answer the question accompanying the SNCC logo. Ask students to connect the logo to Founding principles.
Students will analyze the primary sources using the questions. They can work individually, in pairs, or in small groups as best fits your classroom. Use the provided questions as scaffolds for students or remove them as best suits your teaching situation.
A graphic organizer can also be used as an option for document analysis.
Once students have completed the primary sources, distribute the Concluding Analysis. Sorting the documents into the three groups can be done as a class, individually, in pairs, or small groups as best fits your classroom. Note that students may place a document in more than one category. If this happens, encourage them to explain their reasoning to generate discussion.
Allow students time to complete the final conclusion and analysis questions individually. These questions are meant to generate discussion.
Debrief with a class discussion if time permits and your classroom culture is well suited to dialogue. Students may also want to share their responses in small groups or with you privately in the form of responses/postings to a class website.
Identify an historical moment that resonated with you, or a person in this lesson whose words or actions made an impact on you. What lessons did this moment or person teach you? How might we apply that to the present day?
- Using the primary sources in this lesson, have students create an annotated timeline of important events during the time period. Ask them to include a written response to the essential question, “To what extent did Founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice become a reality for African Americans in the civil rights movement?”
- Assign students one or more documents contained in this primary source set and have them create a brief report or presentation on the context of the document, including the time and place it was created, the author and audience, and important phrases and arguments from the full text.
- Have students further investigate role of song in the civil rights movement by researching Freedom Singing: https://snccdigital.org/our-voices/song-music/bringing-people-together/
- How was song used in the civil rights movement?
- Was it effective? Explain.
- Do vocal artists use their medium to protest or call attention to issues in the present day? Explain with examples.
- Have students research the story of the Norman Rockwell painting, “Murder in Mississippi.” Consider investigating the following:
- Why did Rockwell paint this? Was this a deviation from his artistic subject matter? Explain.
- What is his message? How does this message connect to the larger civil rights movement?
- Have students study the 1965 debate on the American Dream between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley, Jr.
- Where and when did this debate take place?
- What were the respective backgrounds and ideologies of James Baldwin and William F. Buckley, Jr.?.
- What did they argue? What were their major points?
- Who won the debate?
- Is this debate still relevant today? Why or why not?
- Use https://billofrightsinstitute.org/videos/the-baldwin-buckley-debate-with-nicholas-buccola-bri-scholar-talks for additional context.
Lesson 6: Where Do We Go From Here? 1967-Present Day
Peter C. Myers: Civil Rights & Civil Disobedience | BRI Scholar Talks
BRI Senior Teaching Fellow Tony Williams sits down with Peter C. Myers, professor of political science specializing in political philosophy and U.S. constitutional law at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, to discuss Peter's compelling essay in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness on Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Birmingham March. Integrating material on constitutional principles and injustice of segregation including the Letter from Birmingham Jail and the I Have a Dream speech, they draw out the gripping and important story of civil rights and explain the ways it will interest students.
Brown v. Board of Education | BRI’s Homework Help Series
Brown v. Board of Education was a case brought to the Supreme Court in 1954 after Linda Brown, an African American student in Kansas, was denied access to the white-only schools nearby her house. Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was the lawyer for the case, and argued that segregated schools were inherently unequal. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Linda Brown and declared segregation unconstitutional. This is one of the landmark cases that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Reading Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” | A Primary Source Close Read
How do you find the strength to stand up for what you believe in? In this Primary Close Read video, Kirk and Rachel are joined by Dr. Anika Prather, Professor in the Classics Department at Howard University and founder of The Living Water School, to read Martin Luther King, Jr's "Letter From a Birmingham Jail." They explore the ways King planned to right the wrongs of injustice, and how he urged others to act. How does King's letter convey hope for the American story?
Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
By the end of this section, you will explain how and why various groups responded to calls for the expansion of civil rights from 1960 to 1980.
Rosa Parks’s Account of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Radio Interview), April 1956
Use this primary source text to explore key historical events.
Letter from Birmingham Jail
Excerpts of Letter from Birmingham Jail Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. April 16, 1963
The March on Birmingham
How did did the March on Birmingham impact the Civil Rights Movement?
Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet,” April 12, 1964
Use this primary source text to explore key historical events.