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This Little Light

The Role of the Youth in the Civil Rights Movement

Young people played a pivotal role in the struggle for equality in our country and, in some cases, they inadvertently catalyzed a movement through their untimely and tragic deaths. Placed in chronological order, these resources document the children and teens that dared to sound the alarm, alerting a nation to the injustices black people were facing. Meet the young freedom fighters and see interviews as they recall their experiences today. Through interactive features, primary source materials, lesson plans and articles, we hope to inspire your students to think critically about how their own actions can contribute to a more equitable future.

Ruby Bridges: A Simple Act of Courage| Scholastic

The story of 6-year-old Ruby Bridges is a great one to share with younger students. These photo slideshows document Ruby’s life, the world she lived in and her brave contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. This resource also features an interactive magazine, student-produced film, as well as a lesson plan to accompany the interactive portion.

Click here to access the lesson plan. 

Ruby Bridges Flip Book | Teachers Pay Teachers

This free downloadable activity is the perfect follow up to the Scholastic assignment. It contains instructions and materials to produce a 6-page flip book and timeline about the life of Ruby Bridges.

Ruby Bridges Lesson Plans | Stanford / King Institute

This two-part lesson is designed to encourage students to develop a deeper understanding of the African American struggle through the story of Ruby Bridges. The lesson plans require materials that you may have to purchase but that are widely available. However, Literacy Central has a recorded version of one of the required texts and Discovering Justice has a read-aloud question guide that can be used with that text.

Click here to access the recorded version from Literacy Central.  

Click here to access the read-aloud question guide from Discovering Justice. 

Beyond Brown | PBS

When 7-year-old Linda Brown attempted to attend the elementary school just blocks from her home in Topeka, Kansas, she had no idea that she would spark a movement that would change history. This interactive provides an in-depth analysis of the Brown decision and its interactive timeline provides a larger context for the court ruling’s place in the larger battle to end segregation. It also includes lesson plans and a video tour of segregated schools, making it perfect for both self-guided study or more traditional classroom engagement. Also contains resources for high school students. ic

Integrating Central High: The Melba Patillo Story | Scholastic

Learn about Melba’s historic and often terrifying experience through short reading passages and photographs. This interactive gives a more detailed account of this historic event in a way that allows students to set their own pace.

Bet You Didn’t Know: Claudette Colvin | ClassHook

Before Rosa Parks, there was 15-year-old Claudette Colvin. This ClassHook clip introduces students to the lesser known face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott Rosa Parks. This might prompt an interesting discussion about why history favors certain voices and narratives over others. In addition to the video, this BBC article profiles Colvin in her own words and offers another instance of historic favoritism in looking at Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth.

Click here to read the BBC article.

The Children’s Crusade Lesson Plans | Stanford / King Institute

This four-part lesson plan series is designed to help students focus on the contributions made by the unsung young heroes of the Civil Rights Movement through opinion writing, group discussions, and analysis of primary sources and political cartoons.

The 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing | CommonLit*

This article recounts the aftermath of the bombing and the response of the American people. It includes a guided reading mode with comprehension questions as well as an assessment.

Black-ish: Public Fool | ClassHook

Black-ish’s patriarch, Dre, offers a more humorous yet honest overview of the history of the United States public education system through desegregation and beyond. Not only will students receive another analysis of the effect of the Brown vs. Board decision but see its impact on academic achievement and the subsequent disappointment when the ruling was overturned. Includes reflection questions for guided discussion of the content.

When the Little Rock 9 Integrated | Unstripped Voices

In September 1957, nine black students attempted to enter Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas and were met by armed state troopers and a hostile mob, determined to keep them out. Share this primary source footage of what transpired that first day of school as a way to have students imagine the terror these courageous students faced, all in the name of receiving a quality education. After they witness Elizabeth Eckford facing the irate mob, ask them to think about their rights as students and whether they believe that all students have access to the same quality of education today.

The Legacy of Emmett Till | Biography

Although he didn’t live to see it happen, 14-year-old Emmett Till became the face of racial injustice as his murder was widely regarded to be one of the major catalysts of the Civil Right Movement of the 1960s. This video clip invites students to explore the legacy of Emmett Till and his family by looking at footage of the actual locations related to his murder and learning about how his death inspired young black people in the Jim Crow South to get on their feet.

Emmett Till Lesson Plan Series | Facing History

Facing History’s curriculum has a wealth of really powerful lesson plans rooted in social justice. The well-structured and thought-provoking lessons in their Emmett Till series ask students to build an understanding of the historical context of his murder and what it meant for the modern Civil Rights movement while also sharing their own feelings about the events surrounding his death.

Mighty Times Film Kit |*, in association with HBO, is offering educators the opportunity to bring an Academy Award-winning documentary film into their classrooms for free. By going to this link provided, you can request a film kit which includes the 40-minute teacher’s edition of the film as well as lesson plans. This film tells the powerful story of how the young people of Birmingham, Alabama demanded the world’s attention when they went toe-to-toe with police officers in riot gear, fire hoses, and dogs in an effort to end segregation. If you’d like a sneak peek at what the film has to offer, we have provided a short clip.

Four Little Girls | Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

On a Sunday morning 1963, members of the KKK detonated a bomb in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing 4 little girls and injuring others. This web page allows students to explore photographs, newspaper clippings and other documents that show the impact of this tragic event.

Teaching Civil Rights with Direct Access to Eye Witnesses |

This lesson provides a really thorough examination of the effects of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing through the eyes of a few of its residents who experienced it, directly or peripherally. Then students use the source materials to write and share a found poem.

Eboni Hogan

Content Specialist

Eboni has extensive experience in curriculum development, with a focus on culturally-responsive and arts-based approaches. Having spent years creating academic content and providing professional development to teachers, she now curates themed playlists meant to provide educators with valuable, time-saving resources.

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