Part 1: Democracy and Civil Rights

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Activity 1A: Equal Protection

A comprehensive vocabulary list for words taught and used in this unit is available here:

Activity 1B: Challenging Discrimination

Extension: Analyzing Children’s Literature

  • The politics of children’s literature: What’s wrong with the Rosa Parks myth” by Herbert Kohl (In The Zinn Education Project: Teaching a People’s History, published by Rethinking Schools). This article critiques the commonly told story of Rosa Parks and how that story de-emphasizes the role of community organization and the larger civil rights movement in the Montgomery bus boycott.
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose (Farrar Strauss Giroux,
    2009). This biography sheds new light on the underrepresented role that Colvin
    played in the Montgomery bus boycott and the Supreme Court rulings that
    eventually led to desegregation. Compelling photos and new interviews with
    Colvin herself make this book an inspiring and engaging read for high school students.
  • Rosa Parks didn’t act alone: Meet Claudette Colvin” by Michael Mechanic
    (in Mother Jones, January 20, 2009). A senior editor at Mother Jones reviews
    Hoose’s biography of Colvin and highlights the ways in which the book alters our
    perceptions of the civil rights movement.

Activity 1C: Investigating the Legal Landscape


  • They Had a Dream Too: Young Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement (Texas Young Lawyers Association, © 2006). This 28-minute film and downloadable curriculum guide, developed by the Texas Young Lawyers Association with support from the State Bar of Texas Law Related Education Department, focuses on the role of children and teenagers during the  civil rights era. Stories are told through pictures, footage, and interviews.

Handout 5: Plessy v. Ferguson (1892)

Plessy v. Ferguson Resources

  • Plessy v. Ferguson (Teachers’ Domain, WGBH Educational Foundation). This three and a half-minute video excerpt from PBS’s The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow provides a brief summary of the background and context for the Supreme Court’s decision in the 1896 case. The site also includes downloadable related resources.
  • Plessy v. Ferguson Re-Argument (Harvard University, April 20, 1996). This two and
    a half-hour video shows a re-enactment of arguments in the famous case, heard
    by contemporary jurists.
  • Plessy. v. Ferguson (1896) (Landmark Cases of the Supreme Court, c. 2000
    Street Law, Inc., and the Supreme Court Historical Society). This site contains a
    curriculum guide and downloadable resources for teaching about this landmark case. The curriculum is adaptable for different time frames.
  • Plessy v. Ferguson (excerpts) (, Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio). This site contains excerpts from the Court’s holding, written by Justice Henry Billings Brown with a dissent from Justice John Marshall Harlan.

Activity 1D: The Influence of the Past

Extension: Researching Additional Primary Sources

The following Web sites contain multimedia accounts and responses to the civil rights movement.

Personal Accounts and News Reports

Children’s Books

Comic Books




Speeches and Spoken Word

Extension: Civil Rights Rap

  • “Civil Rights Movement.” Rhythm, Rhyme, Results. This site contains lyrics and a downloadable audio file for a rap song detailing key events and people in the civil rights movement.

Activity 1F: Equality for All?

Extension: A Class Apart

  • “A Class Apart.” The American Experience, PBS. This one-hour film, available for purchase on DVD, tells the story of how a small-town murder led to a landmark case challenging discrimination against Mexican Americans. The site also contains a free teachers guide and a Spanish version of the film.