Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement 1954-1985

US History


Individuals, groups and nations have responded to injustice throughout history. The purpose of this series of lessons is to look at one particular approach to responding to injustice: the strategy of nonviolence. While these lessons were written to be used together, they can also be used on their own.

The first lesson helps students understand the goals and rationale that provided a foundation for the philosophy of nonviolence as advocated by activists in the civil rights movement, including James Lawson, Martin Luther King Jr., Diane Nash, Bayard Rustin, John Lewis, Ella Baker the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and many others. The second and third lessons explore how this philosophy played out in practice throughout the civil rights movement. In the second lesson, students become familiar with the overall strategy of nonviolence by identifying how these steps played out during one important struggle of the civil rights movement: the student protests in Nashville to end segregation. The third lesson focuses on the direct action tactics of nonviolence used at different points during the civil rights movement. It is our hope that students come away from these three lessons understanding the ways individuals and groups can apply the philosophy and practice of nonviolence to inform contemporary struggles against violence and injustice.

The purpose of these lessons is to help students

  1. Understand the philosophy of nonviolence
  2. Understand nonviolence in practice
  3. Explore how the philosophy and practice of nonviolence played out during various moments in the civil rights movement
  4. Understand how the philosophy and practice of nonviolence can inform contemporary struggles against injustice and violence


Lesson 1 of 4
Race in US History

The Philosophy of Nonviolence

Students build an understanding of civil rights activists’ rationale for supporting a philosophy of nonviolence.

Lesson 2 of 4
Race in US History

Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change

Students explore the six steps of nonviolent social change that activists during the civil rights movement practiced.

Lesson 3 of 4
Race in US History

Tactics of Nonviolence

Students identify the tactics of nonviolent action used during the civil rights movement and consider how these tactics can be used today.

Lesson 4 of 4
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Taking a Stand: Models of Civic Participation

Students build a definition of participation and reflect on several episodes throughout history when young people chose to take a stand.

Recent Changes to Eyes on the Prize Series Availability:

We are no longer able to stream Eyes On The Prize episodes and our library is not able to lend DVDs at this time. The Eyes on the Prize series can be found through Kanopy (a streaming service provided by public libraries) and Amazon Prime. We apologize for the incovenience.

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