11th Grade New York

Civil Rights

This annotated inquiry leads students through an investigation of the civil rights movement using the lens of nonviolent direct-action protest. The content of this inquiry relates to Key Idea 11.10, Social and Economic Change/Domestic Issues (1945 – Present). The compelling question “What made nonviolent protest effective during the civil rights movement?” asks students to grapple with the means of achieving the various ends of the civil rights movement—an end to segregation as well as the achievement of voting rights and true equality as citizens. This investigation is situated in the unique time of the civil rights movement in which a large number of individuals and organizations strategically chose to use tactics that on the surface may have seemed counterintuitive and yet yielded effective results.

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Compelling Question:

What Made Nonviolent Protest Effective during the Civil Rights Movement?

Staging the Question: Discuss the recent die-in protests and the extent to which they are an effective form of nonviolent direct-action protest.
1

Supporting Question What was the impact of the Greensboro sit-in protest?

Formative Task Create a cause-and-effect diagram that demonstrates the impact of the sit-in protest by the Greensboro Four.

Sources Source A: Photograph of the Greensboro Four
Source B: Join the Student Sit-Ins
Source C: “1960: Sitting Down to Take a Stand”

2

Supporting Question What made the Montgomery bus boycott, the Birmingham campaign, and the Selma to Montgomery marches effective?

Formative Task Detail the impacts of a range of actors and the actions they took to make the efforts effective.

Sources Sources A–D: Source packet on the Montgomery bus boycott
Sources A–D: Source packet on the Birmingham campaign
Sources A–E: Source packet on the Selma to Montgomery marches

3

Supporting Question How did others use nonviolence effectively during the civil rights movement?

Formative Task Research the impact of a range of actors and the effective nonviolent direct actions they used in events during the civil rights movement.

Sources Source A: To be determined by students; see possible resources in the Events for Research table

Summative Performance Task

Argument: What made nonviolent protest effective during the civil rights movement? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, or essay) using specific claims and relevant evidence from historical sources. Express these arguments by creating a monument or memorial for nonviolent heroes of the civil rights movement and provide a rationale for its design.
Extension: Discuss the following: If the country were to build a monument or memorial (e.g., Mount Rushmore or the Vietnam War Memorial) for nonviolent heroes of the civil rights movement, what type of monument should it be and who, if anyone, should be on it?

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Examine several oral history archives. Focus on archives that feature individuals who participated in nonviolent protest within the civil rights movement.
Assess: Discuss the limitations of oral history and note its contribution to our understanding of the past.
Act: Create an oral history archive of individuals who participated in or witnessed a nonviolent direct-action protest.