Stepping into Selma: Voting Rights History and Legacy Today


“The activity helped me understand the reason why certain people took certain sides and why they acted the way they acted.” —Elijah W., high school student

This lesson invites students to step into the long history of the freedom struggle in Selma, introducing them to people, turning points, and issues. The lesson offers students the scaffolding for deeper study and is based on a format that is often used as a pre-reading or pre-film viewing activity. Each student takes on the identity of someone involved in one way or another in the Selma freedom movement.

If used in advance of viewing the film Selma, it can help students recognize more of the people and issues that are referenced.



Students will be able to discuss the history of Selma with more background knowledge and insight, including the following aspects of the context of the struggle:

  • long history of grassroots organizing for civil and human rights
  • the role of many local, state, and federal institutions that conspired and were complicit in preventing black voting
  • central role of youth, women, and key organizations such as the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
  • relevance and lessons for similar or current struggles


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