Respecting Yourself and Others

Essential Questions

  • What is respect?
  • If you feel respected (or disrespected), how does that impact the way you see yourself and others?
  • How does feeling respected or disrespected influence the choices you make?

Learning Objectives


  • Students will use the songs’ lyrics as a primary text for analysis.
  • Students will compare and contrast the lyrics and music of two songs about respect.
  • Students will make text-to-world connections between the songs, the civil rights movement, and current events.

Common Core Anchor Standards for Reading (R), Writing (W), and Speaking and Listening (SL)


Students will write a brief essay exploring how the songs “Respect” and “Respect Yourself” responded to and represented changing ideas in the civil rights movement.


This lesson opens a dialogue between two Stax recordings on a shared theme: Otis Redding’s “Respect” and The Staple Singers’ “Respect Yourself.” One song focuses on the human need to be respected by others, while the other song emphasizes respect for oneself.

Guiding Question

  • How do Otis Redding’s “Respect” (1965) and The Staple Singers’ “Respect Yourself” (1971) represent changing attitudes and ideas in the civil rights movement?



  1. Warm-up
    • Begin by writing the word “RESPECT” in large letters on the chalkboard or a big piece of paper. Provide each student with one sticky note, and ask everybody to write the name of one person whom they respect. When they are finished, have them affix their notes near the word RESPECT. Once the board is covered in sticky notes, read the names and ask a few students why they respect those persons. Bridge to a discussion of the idea of respect. How do people earn respect? How do people show respect toward one another?
    • Psychologist James Gilligan, author of Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, sees a strong relationship between feeling disrespected and using violence. He writes, “I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed.”1 To continue the conversation you might ask students, How does feeling disrespected affect how you think, feel, and act? What does Gilligan’s comment suggest about the relationship between respect and self-esteem?
  2. Analyzing the Lyrics
  3. Historical Context/Deeper Understandings
    • Both songs address the issue of respect, but in very different ways. Some music scholars identify “Respect” as a metaphor about broader social issues, whereas “Respect Yourself” was a more psychological work. To explore Redding’s metaphor, watch the video Stax Recording Artist William Bell Discusses Otis Redding's "Respect." This clip from Respect Yourself: The Stax Record Story will introduce students to the singer/ songwriter and his motivation for writing “Respect.” Students may wish to take notes while viewing the clip.
    • You can provide further context by sharing the reading “Respect” and “Respect Yourself” Historical Background. It contains some information about the inspiration for The Staple Singers’ “Respect Yourself.” You might ask students to respond to the text-dependent questions at the bottom of the historical background reading.
    • After considering the additional information about the song, students should reread the lyrics. Does anyone now have a new interpretation of the song?
  4. Outcomes
    • One way to assess student understanding of the relationship between music and its social context is to have them write an informative/explanatory essay, describing how these two songs represent changing ideas about the notion of respect within the civil rights movement. Where appropriate, be sure to incorporate evidence from the “Respect” and “Respect Yourself” Lyrics, the “Respect” and “Respect Yourself” Historical Background reading, and the video Stax Recording Artist William Bell Discusses Otis Redding's "Respect." If you feel students need additional context, you may refer them to our Eyes on the Prize study guide. The guide includes a number of readings that speak to the themes in this lesson.
    • You may also wish to return to the essential questions of this lesson by revisiting the James Gilligan quotation from the introduction. He observed, “I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed.” Why might feelings of respect be so important? Have students illustrate the ways that the two songs address his concern.

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  • 1 : Quoted in This Is About Vision: Interviews with Southwestern Writers, ed. John F. Crawford and Annie O. Eysturoy (University of New Mexico Press, 1990), 189

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