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Please refer to the Pennsylvania Standards Aligned System website: (http://www.pdesas.org/module/sas/curriculumframework/SocialStudiesCF.aspx)

for information on the Pennsylvania Curriculum Framework for Social Studies. You will find much of the information about PA Academic Standards, essential questions, vocabulary, assessments, etc. by navigating through the various components of the Curriculum Framework.
LESSON / UNIT TITLE: Civil Rights Movement in American History

Teacher Name(s): Amy Cheresnowsky & Cheryl Stropko

School District: Athens Area School District

Building: Athens Ares High School

Grade Level: 9-12

Subject: American History

Time Required: 10-12 class periods

Lesson/Unit Summary (2-3 sentence synopsis): The Civil Rights Movement in American history was a revolutionary social movement that brought about major changes socially, politically, and economically. This unit will focus on the changes America experienced from the years of Plessy v. Ferguson to the years following Brown v. Board of Education. The use of literature, diverse perspectives from the National, State, & Local levels, Supreme Court cases, historical facts, and primary documents will allow students to analyze this traumatic time period.

Essential Questions for Lesson/Unit

  1. Why and how do people struggle for social justices?

  2. What were the major goals of the Civil Rights Movement?

  3. How were the goals of the Civil Rights Movement achieved?

  4. How did the political factors of Reconstruction lead to the Civil Rights Movement?

  5. How did the economic factors of Reconstruction lead to the Civil Rights Movement?

  6. How did African Americans challenge segregation after World War II?

  7. How did the Civil Rights Movement gain ground in the 1960s?

  8. What successes and challenges faced the Civil Rights Movement after 1964?

  9. Who were the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement at all different levels (National, State, & Local)?

Pennsylvania Academic Standards / Common Core Standards Addressed in Lesson/Unit




Statement H.8.3.12.A

Identify and evaluate the political and cultural contributions of individuals and groups to United States history from 1890 to Present.


Descriptor H.8.3.12.A.4

Innovators and Reformers (e.g., Wilbur and Orville Wright, John L. Lewis, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King)


Statement H.8.3.12.D

Identify and evaluate conflict and cooperation among social groups and organizations in United States history from 1890 to the Present.


Descriptor H.8.3.12.D.2

Ethnic and Racial Relations (e.g., internment camps for Japanese Americans, Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott, land tensions with Native Americans)





Category C.5.1.12

Principles and Documents of Government


Category C.5.2.12

Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship


Descriptor C.5.1.12.L.1

Civil rights


Statement C.5.2.12.B

Evaluate citizens’ participation in government and civic life.


Lesson/Unit Objectives
At the end of the unit, students will be able to:

  1. Analyze primary documents from the Civil Rights Movement.

  2. Explain the goals of the Civil Rights Movement and their leaders.

  3. Discuss the impact of landmark Supreme Court Cases that changed society following the years of Reconstruction.

  4. Make connections with literature and historical context.

  5. Describe treatment of African American within American society following the years of Reconstruction.

  6. Illustrate the historical progression of the novel The Express.

Vocabulary/Key Terms for Lesson/Unit

  1. Racism

  2. Civil Rights

  3. Segregate

  4. Discriminate

  5. Integrate

  6. Jim Crow Laws

  7. Affirmative Action

  8. Plessy v. Ferguson

  9. Brown v. Board of Education

  10. Little Rock 9

  11. Freedom Riders

  12. Poll Tax

  13. Literacy Tests

  14. Black Muslims

  15. Black Panther Party

  16. Congress of Racial Equality

  17. NAACP

  18. Southern Christian Leadership Conference

  19. Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee

  20. Stokely Carmichael

  21. James Farmer

  22. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  23. Elijah Muhammed

  24. Ernie Davis

  25. Rosa Parks

  26. Sit-ins

  27. Rioting

  28. Boycotts

Historical Background for Teachers / Research Narrative

The Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement sought to ensure racial equality in the fabric of American society and government. The movement crosses decades of struggling for equal rights. After the Civil War and Reconstruction, legal acts such as the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Fourteenth Amendment and the Fifteenth Amendment were put in place toward achieving racial equality. Nonetheless, obstacles stunted the movement. Jim Crow laws and black codes restricting voting based on literacy tests and poll taxes blocked the path for racial equality.

The Civil Rights Movement was further frozen with the conservative ruling in the landmark court case of Plessy v Ferguson in 1896. In this decision, the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” facilities were within the interpretation of the law. With the passing of this legislation, the movement made minimal progress. Some prominent African Americans continued to challenge the ruling. Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois overtly promoted social and economic equality. A legal interest group, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was founded in 1910 to challenge Plessy v Ferguson.

Segregation of the armed forces during World War I and World War II was protested. A. Philip Randolph, President of the National Negro Congress, and others protested the segregated troops. Eventually, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, which desegregated the war factories. President Harry Truman supported this move when he signed the Executive Order 9981 desegregating the military.

The NAACP continued to fight for racial equality socially and legally. Thurgood Marshall, lawyer for NAACP, managed to challenge the issue of segregation by providing counsel in Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. With this decision handed down in 1954, the Warren Supreme Court overturned the doctrine of “separate but equal” and declared that segregated public schools were unequal. To complement this legislative act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which required desegregation and equal access in public places and prohibited racial and gender discrimination in employment procedures, would be moved through Congress and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Discrimination continued to be addressed into the 1970s through the legislative process such as the affirmative action cases.

During the Civil Rights Movement, civil rights activists engaged in civil disobedience and nonviolence to bring about change. Groups, such as SCLC, SNCC, CORE, and the NAACP targeted the discrimination and disenfranchisement of African American voters. Leaders emerged to challenge laws and promote racial equality. Such leaders included Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. Events such as the Little Rock High School, The Montgomery Bus Boycott, The Freedom Rides, Bloody Sunday, and The March on Washington demonstrated that, while discrimination continued to be evident, the Civil Rights movement actively addressed these issues.




Instructional Prodedures and Activities

Part 1: Introduction to Unit

Students will be taking a “Walking Tour” of the Civil Rights unit. To set up the Walking Tour, choose passages, pictures, or statements for a topic. Place one per chart. Number each chart and post the charts around the room. In small groups, students spend 2-5 minutes at each chart, reading, discussing, interpreting, and reacting to the idea--orally or in writing. The groups move from chart to chart until they have visited all of the charts. As the students take their “walking tour” they will fill in the graphic organizer E.S.P and place each primary document in the proper category. When the "tour groups" have finished, have the students discuss and summarize the charts with the entire group and explain why each primary document was placed in the given categories. Primary documents can be accessed through Cicero using the Gallery or resources. An extended thinking strategy will be incorporated as students will be asked to write a topic sentence for the unit from the documents analyzed in class.

Part 2: Court Cases

Students will be analyzing landmark Supreme Court Cases that brought about changes during Civil Rights Movement: Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education. At the beginning of class students will engage in the activating strategy In the Hot Seat. Prior to the beginning of class, the teacher will prepare questions related to the topic of study and write them on sticky notes. Four to five questions are usually enough. Sticky notes are placed underneath student desks/chairs so that they are hidden from view. At the start of the class, inform students that several of them are sitting on "Hot Seats" and will be asked to answer questions related to the topic of study for the day. Students who have questions on sticky notes will then take turns reading the question and attempting to provide an answer. Following a Power Point presentation students will use the A.R.T.I.S.T. strategy to interpret social images following both court cases. These images may be accessed through Cicero.

Part 3: Taking a Stand: Influential People

Provide students with a copy of the novel The Express: The Ernie Davis Story by Robert Gallagher. Students will be assigned to read this novel for the remainder of the Unit and required to create a “Story Board” highlighting the Plot, Setting, Theme, and Characters/Influential People through illustrations and clipart. In-class Activity: Power Point Notes. Students will analyze newspaper reports on the Rosa Parks situation/arrest and compare and contrast the different perspectives.

Part 4: Integration

Students will be engaged in a learning activity highlighting integration and the Little Rock. Nine. Students will be provided an envelope with a question enclosed in it at the beginning of class. Each student will be responsible for answering their question at the end of the period pertaining to the content addressed in class. Power Point presentation on Little Rock 9 and Ole’ Mississippi.

Part 5: The Man in Charge: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Students will be exposed to the man Martin Luther King, Jr. and his goals for the American population. Students will be analyzing the “I have a dream” speech and pulling out factors that show integration, tolerance, and acceptance. As students analyze the speech they will use the strategy “What my return address?” by Anthony Fitzpatrick. Given half the class period to complete this activity, students will come together and try to create a thesis statement as a class from the primary document.

Part 6: Nonviolent & Violent

Students will be comparing protests of the Civil Rights Movement that were both violent and nonviolent. After being a provided a brief Power Point presentation highlighting the following: Birmingham Attacks, Freedom Summer, Selma March, Watts Riots, Sit-ins, and boycotts. After being exposed to the different forms of protests students will analyze the role both sides, including the United States government. As a class students will analyze a picture of a Woolworth Sit-in. Students will do the following:


What details do you notice about the people in the picture? Include a list for the students sitting at the counter as well as the other people you can see in the restaurant.


Detail the strategy and reasons behind holding a sit-in. In other words, why did they think it would work, and how was it planned?


Where else might a sit-in work as a means of peacefully negotiating a change in societal actions? Can you think of any examples of sit-ins that have occurred during your lifetime?


What might have been the outcome if the student sit-ins had not been peaceful?


Compare the tactic of a sit-in to other nonviolent protest strategies. Be sure to include the reasons for doing it, the type of people who participated, and the outcomes.


Do you believe that a peaceful, nonviolent approach was always successful? Why or why not?

Part 7: Government Reacts: Political/Economical Changes & Policies

Students will be using their prior knowledge of events and research done in class that occurred to the Civil Rights Movement that lead to government mandated changes. Students will be using time in class to research events (using laptops and visiting


that prompted government officials to pass change. Students will analyze the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, 1964, and 1968. Students will be expected to make connections between their congressional approved policies and acts that occurred within society. Class Discussion.

Part 8: Promote Change

Students will be drawing historical connections between the Civil Rights Movement for African Americans and other minority groups in 20th Century America. Taking a close look at programs such as Affirmative Action and other minority groups will be the main focus. Have students read an article highlighting Affirmative Action from Cicero. Use discussion questions as a guiding force for the class. Students will then create a newspaper headline highlighting the passing of this policy. The class will be using yellow journalism tactics discussed in class. An Affirmative Action Webquest will be completed.

Part 9: Local Civil Rights/Story Board

Students will be presenting Story Maps in class.

Suggested Strategies for Differentiating Instruction


Students will be given the opportunity to learn about the Civil Rights Movement through nonlinguistic activities. The story map activity will allow students to make a visual representation of the novel The Express and the Civil Rights Movement.

Assessment of Student Learning (Include both Formative and Summative Assessments)
Assessment of activities and assignments completed for each part of the Unit

Assessment of Story Map presentations- rubric graded assignment

Affirmative Action Webquest (technology exercise)

Unit Exam on Civil Rights Movement

Materials and Resources

All of the following resources may be accessed through Cicero (www.cicerohistory.com) especially Units 8 and 14:

  • E.S.P Graphic Organizer

  • Gallery Pictures (Civil Rights)

  • A.R.T.I.S.T activity

  • Compare/Contrast Graphic Organizer

  • I have a Dream Speech”

  • Woolworth Sit-In Picture/Activity

  • Affirmative Action Guided Reading

The following resources will also be needed to fully complete the following unit of study:

  • Reference materials (Internet, The Express novel, & Textbook)
  • Civil Rights PowerPoint (included with Unit Plan as a Supporting Resource)

  • Rosa Parks Newspaper Articles: http://www.montgomeryboycott.com/index_article.htm

  • Story Board/Map Activity

Author(s) of Unit/Lesson Plan [Include name(s) and school district(s)

Mrs. Amy Cheresnowsky, Mrs. Cheryl Stropko, Athens Area School District, Athens, PA

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