The three units we have developed require students to "do" history—to gather evidence from primary documents, use that evidence to make claims about the past, and then apply what they learn to their own lives today. In the first unit, students learn about the murder and trial of Emmett Till. This material asks students to consider the historical context that contributed to the growth of the civil rights movement in the 1950s. In the second unit, students explore voter discrimination in the South and the philosophy of nonviolence that guided civil rights activists' responses to this injustice, culminating in the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. The third unit exposes students to the civil rights movement in the North by focusing on the struggle over school desegregation in Boston in the 1960s and early 1970s. Thus, a journey through all units allows students to trace the development of the civil rights movement from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Note about grade level
This lesson was written for tenth grade U.S. History classes in Boston Public Schools. It can be adapted to meet the needs of students of varying ages and skill levels.