Lessons on the Civil Rights Movement

Here are lessons that we recommend for use before and/or after the Stepping into Selma lesson to place the freedom struggle in Selma within the larger context of the Civil Rights Movement and the long struggle for human rights and full democracy in the United States.


The Color Line

A lesson on the countless colonial laws enacted to create division and inequality based on race. This helps students understand the origins of racism in the United States and who benefits. (By Bill Bigelow from Rethinking Schools.)


Meet Medgar Evers: Introduction to the Southern Freedom Movement

This lesson introduces students to key people, places, and issues in the life of activist Medgar Evers and the southern Freedom Movement from the 1950s until his murder in June of 1963. (By Teaching for Change.)


Warriors Don’t Cry: Connecting History, Literature, and Our Lives 

Role play and writing activities for language arts and social studies on the Little Rock Nine, Brown v. Board, and schooling in general. Designed for use with the memoir, Warriors Don’t Cry. (By Linda Christensen from Rethinking Schools.)


Murder Mystery: Shining a Light on the Story that the Newspapers Left Out

The murder of Mississippi voting rights activist Herbert Lee (1961), and subsequent murder of witness Louis Allen (1964), were key events in the history of the modern Civil Rights Movement. This lesson for high school students and adults, using a “meet and greet” format, allows participants to take on the roles of key people and institutions from the period and interview each other.  (By Jenice View, et al. for Teaching for Change.)



History Detectives: Voting Rights in Mississippi, 1964

This lesson introduces students to the history, strategies, and challenges facing by people in Mississippi in their struggle for voting rights. The lesson focuses on four cities in Mississippi: McComb, Laurel, Canton, and Hattiesburg. In small groups, students are provided confidential packets of documents for one of the four cities and assigned the role of either a voting rights activist or a member of the Sovereignty Commission. The students’ folders are filled with background information and primary documents. Many of the readings are from the Civil Rights Movement Veterans website. The format of the lesson draws on the Historical Scene Investigation model. (By Teaching for Change.)



Sharecroppers Challenge U.S. Apartheid: The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party

This lesson explores one of the most important events in the fight for true democracy in U.S. history, when a coalition of grassroots activists challenged the Mississippi political system, the federal government and the national Democratic Party that excluded citizens on the basis of race. The showdown in Atlantic City in August of 1964 at the Democratic National Convention had a major impact on the approach taken by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to their organizing in Selma. (By Teaching for Change.)


Civil Rights or Human Rights?

A lesson to engage students in a discussion about the human rights violations perpetrated against African Americans during the 1950s and 1960s — and to serve as a springboard for looking at human rights today. (By Andrea McEvoy Spero from the King’s Institute Liberation Curriculum.)


Hidden in Plain Sight: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Radical Vision

This lesson introduces students to the speeches and work of Dr. King beyond “I have a dream.” (By Craig Gordon from Urban Dreams and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project.)


Recommend books for the classroom 

A list of books recommended by Teaching for Change for K-12 for about the history of the modern Civil Rights Movement.


More lessons, books, films, and websites

The Zinn Education Project provides free downloadable lessons and a database of books, films, and websites for the classroom.


Go to Teaching About Selma page for more lessons and related resources.