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Early Civil Rights Movement

Last Updated: May-08-2009

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Developed By

  Deja Rojeski

Lesson Title

  Early Civil Rights Movement

Length of Lesson

  2 weeks

Lesson Unit

  Civil Rights




  Social Studies


  United States History and Geography

Michigan Content Expectations



  de jure segregation, de facto segregation, integration, civil disobedience



Jackie Robinson Integrates Baseball Upfront article

Supreme Court: Should America have segregated schools? Key Decisions in U.S. History Vol. 2

Early Civil Rights notes and clicker questions Turning Point

Document analysis: Rosa Parks. Historical Thinking Matters

Film The Long Walk Home and guided questions

Strategies of nonviolence PowerPoint

Supplies for Children's Books: Access to computer lab, construction paper, coloring utensils, glue, scissors, etc.





In this lesson students will examine the civil rights movement.  Students will examine the different types of segregation in the United States following WWII. Students will explore early movements towards integration including Jackie Robinson integrating major league baseball, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott and other early nonviolent means of protest. 


Big Idea(s)


Black Americans faced discrimination throughout the United States.

In the years following World War II Americans began a movement to demand equal rights for black Americans.

Early civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King encouraged the use of civil disobedience as a way to bring about social change.

Civil rights movements were met with violence from outsiders who did not agree with the movement.



Essential Questions


How did black Americans challenge segregation after World War II?

How did the civil rights movement gain ground in the 1960s?

What successes and challenges faced the civil rights movement after 1964?


Learning Objectives


Describe efforts to end segregation in the 1950s.

Brown v. Board

Little Rock nine

Montgomery Bus Boycott


Freedom Rides

March on Washington

Examine influential people and groups of the Civil Rights era.

Jakie Robinson, Rosa Parks, Earl Warren, MLK Jr., Malcom X, Medgar Evars, NAACP, SCLC, SNCC, Black Panther.

Examine successes and challenges of the civil right movement.

Students will understand that the majority of the movements were not knee-jerk reactions, but well laid plans.



Summative Assessment


Students will create a children's book geared towards 5-10 year olds on the civil rights movement.  The books will give a summary of one topic of the civil rights movement.  The book must be "kid friendly".  This will force students to have a good understanding of the topic.


Lesson Opening


We will begin the unit by completing a two column note while reading the Upfront article Jackie Robinson Integrates Baseball.  We will discusss as a class what this meant during this time in America.  Students will then take notes and participate in a TurningPoint slideshow.  We will discuss the state of race relations during the mid 1900s specifically regarding segregation by law and fact.  




Students will explore the information commonly left out of textbooks by examining primary source documents on Rosa Parks.  Document A is a common textbook analysis.  Document B is a letter written to Mayor Gayle of Montgomery more than a year prior to the boycott, threatening a boycott.  Document C is a letter written to the Highlander School that Rosa Parks attended for civil rights training before her historic action. 


Check for Understanding


Clicker questions will show the student's level of on-the-spot comprehension. Other checks for understanding will include dialogue from the discussions.




Students will explore further by talking to the text while reading about early civil rights issues/events/people. (SNCC, sit-ins, MLK, etc.)


Check for Understanding (2)


The notes in the right hand column of their two column notes as well as their T4 responses.


Extended Practice


Students will research one specific topic of the early civil rights movement and create a children's book on the topic.  Writing it as a children's book will force them to have an expert understanding of the topic in order to put it into language a 5-10 year old could understand.




Students will share their books with the class.  We will discuss the events together and how they led resistance from outsiders.