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On Violence and Nonviolence: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi lesson plan

OVERVIEW

In this article for Mississippi History Now, Dr. Curtis Austin challenges students to investigate both the violent and nonviolent aspects of the civil rights struggle in Mississippi. Living in a world increasingly affected by large-scale violent acts, students will examine in this lesson the crucial role of nonviolence to the success of the movement.

CURRICULAR CONNECTIONS

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3, 4, and 5; Objectives 05, 10, 20.

TEACHING LEVELS

Grades 7 through 12

MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT

1.

Mississippi History Now article, "On Violence and Nonviolence: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi"

2.

Video, “Mississippi: Is This America?” from series “Eyes on the Prize” (available in most school/public libraries and from Mississippi History on Loan, Old Capitol Museum, P.O. Box 571, Jackson, MS 39205-0571 (601-354-6222).

3.

Minor, Bill, Eyes on Mississippi: A Fifty Year Chronicle of Change, J. Prichard Morris Books, 2001 (optional)

OBJECTIVES

Students will:

determine how violence and nonviolence were used as primary “weapons” in the civil rights movement.

evaluate the significance of “public exposure” to the success of the civil rights movement.

explore the dilemma of public nonviolence versus private violence faced by many civil rights workers.

identify Mississippians who were victims of violence during this period.

OPENING THE LESSON

Using one or more resources—a classroom text, articles from the state’s primary newspapers of the time, or excerpts from Eyes on Mississippi, pp. 165-169, the teacher will read aloud a description of civil rights protests in Mississippi. Ask students to write several facts they heard and to briefly describe their feelings regarding the reading.

DEVELOPING THE LESSON

1.

Students will read the Mississippi History Now article and will write answers to these questions:

a.

Both violence and nonviolence were used as “weapons” in the civil rights struggle. By whom were they used and to what end?

b.

How important was it that people outside the South be exposed to the violence and nonviolence of the civil rights movement? What did civil rights leaders hope would be accomplished by this exposure?

c.

What avenues could be used to “show and tell” the story of the civil rights struggle?

d.

What federal legislation resulted, in part, from national public exposure to the civil rights struggle in the South?

e.

How did some civil rights participants justify their use of weapons?

2.

In small groups, students will discuss their findings. Teacher will monitor discussions for accuracy.

3.

Teacher will lead brief large-group discussion to determine understanding.

4.

To reinforce this activity, students will write a one to two page essay on the use of violence and nonviolence in the civil rights struggle. They should incorporate their written answers as well as what they learned in group discussions.

5.

Teacher will show scenes from the “Eyes on the Prize” video. Students will compare/contrast their feelings after having seen the video with their feelings as they listened to the description read in opening the lesson. This should enable students to discuss the impact of public exposure as they realize the powerful impact of seeing actual footage.

6.

Assign group projects to create memorials to victims of violence in Mississippi during the civil rights struggle. Suggestions: a wall of martyrs, a scrapbook, a video production, an assembly program, etc.

CONCLUDING THE LESSON

1.

Using the “Think-Pair-Share” technique, have each partner do the following:

a.

determine what new things you learned about the civil rights movement;

b.

speculate on the outcome of the civil rights struggle if violence had been the only “weapon” used;

c.

consider any applications to life today.

2.

Ask students to respond in writing to this query: In what ways has your perspective on the civil rights movement changed as a result of our study?

ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING

1.

Completion of written class assignments.

2.

Class/Group participation

3.

Essay

4.

Group project

5.

Perception report

EXTENDING THE LESSON

1.

View exhibits highlighting the accomplishments of distinguished black Mississippians at the Old Capitol Museum during Black History Month programs.

2.

Investigate the “objectivity” of local print media during this period. Of particular interest is the article in the June 24, 1963, The Clarion-Ledger, entitled “Californian Is Charged With Murder of Evers.”

3.

Review the article, lesson plan and extensions, and resources in the Mississippi History Now article, "When Youth Protest." Look under the Black history category on the online publication's Archives page.

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