Lesson Plan: Key Events of the Civil Rights Movement

Early Advances in Civil Rights

Journalist Callie Crossly asks experts about the origins of the civil rights movement and its early beginnings after the second World War.


The Civil Rights Movement was the struggle for equal rights and freedom for African Americans in the United States. It was accomplished through a series of protests, social movements, and events carried out by various groups and leaders. In this lesson, students will explore the key events of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, including the methods used and groups who participated in them, and then analyze the impact and legacy of those events.



    As a class, view the following video clip and then discuss the questions below.

    Video Clip: Early Advances in Civil Rights (4:17)

    Journalist Callie Crossly asks experts about the origins of the civil rights movement and its early beginnings after the second World War.

    • Describe the ideological shift that occurred from a pre-world war II climate on segregation to post war.

    • What does Ernest Green believe is one of the untold stories of the civil rights movement?

    • According to Carol Anderson what post war events cause Truman to take action against a fundamentally corrupt civil rights system?

    • Discuss the differences between civil rights and human rights.

    Break students into groups and have each group view the following video clips or assign each group selected clips. Students should take notes using the handout provided, and then share their findings with the rest of the class.

    HANDOUT: Key Events of the Civil Rights Movement Handout (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (5:34)

    Justin Sochacki gave a tour of Monroe Elementary School, one of the four formerly segregated schools for African Americans in Topeka, Kansas, and talked about the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.

    Video Clip: Emmett Till's Kidnapping (8:51)

    Simeon Wright, cousin of Emmett Till, provides an eyewitness account of events surrounding the kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till.

    Video Clip: Important Figures in the Early Fight for Civil Rights (4:11)

    Senior Curator for the National African American Museum of History and Culture, William Pretzer, highlights the work of three civil rights activists whose stories are on display in the museum.

    Video Clip: Jackie Robinson and the Civil Rights Movement (5:04)

    Documentary Filmmaker Ken Burns discussed Jackie Robinson, his breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball, and its impact on the Civil Rights Movement.

    Video Clip: Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King (15:27)

    Felicia Bell and Rickey Brown talk about the Rosa Parks and her impact on the Civil Rights Movement.

    Video Clip: Greensboro, North Carolina Sit-Ins (6:16)

    Deena Hayes-Greene visited the Woolworth’s counter that sparked the Greensboro sit-ins in 1960, and discussed how the museum tells the story of the young civil rights activists who started the sit-in movement in Greensboro.

    Video Clip: Freedom Riders (12:04)

    Dorothy Walker told the story of the Freedom Riders and their trip from Washington, D.C. through the South to challenge illegal segregation laws related to interstate travel. Many travelers were attacked and arrested along their journey in 1961.

    Video Clip: Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing (6:29)

    The Reverend Arthur Price talked about the history of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and the bombing of the church that occurred on Sunday, September 15, 1963.

    Video Clip: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail (3:40)

    In April, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for marching in Birmingham, Alabama. While in jail, King wrote a letter to eight white religious leaders in the south in response to a statement they wrote about protests during the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham.

    Video Clip: 1963 March on Washington (11:49)

    Professor William P. Jones talked about the history of the march.

    Video Clip: Freedom Summer (11:25)

    Stuart Rockoff, Executive Director of the Mississippi Humanities Council, talked about “Freedom Summer” and the movement to promote voter registration and civil rights in Mississippi in the 1960s.

    Video Clip: 1964 Civil Rights Act (7:15)

    Robert Brammer explains the content of the 1964 Civil Rights Act through the exhibit in the Library of Congress.

    Video Clip: Selma March and "Bloody Sunday" (2:24)

    Representative John Lewis (D-GA), recounts the events of the march from Selma, AL known as "Bloody Sunday" and its impact on the Civil Rights movement.

    Video Clip: Black Panther Party (6:36)

    Photographer Stephen Shames shows pictures from his book with Bobby Seale about the beginning of the Black Panther Party.


    After watching the videos and reporting out to the class, have students write an essay (or similar culminating activity) that includes the following information. Students should cite specific examples from the videos and class discussion.

    • Describe the core ideas and actions of the Civil Rights Movement

    • Describe the different groups and people involved in the Civil Rights Movement, including the differing philosophies of each

    • Explain the impact of the key events of the Civil Rights Movement on the United States at the time

    • Explain how the Civil Rights Movement changed the United States moving forward

Additional Resources


  • Black Panther Party
  • Brown V. Board Of Education
  • Civil Rights Act Of 1964
  • Civil Rights Movement
  • Emmett Till
  • Freedom Riders
  • Freedom Summer
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Jim Crow Laws
  • John Lewis
  • March On Washington
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • National Association For The Advancement Of Colored People
  • Rosa Parks
  • Segregation
  • Sit - Ins
  • Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee


Civil Rights & Civil LibertiesU.S. History


Middle SchoolHigh School