Understanding the Message of The Civil Rights Memorial

In this lesson students will identify key facts and details about the importance and symbolism of the Civil Rights Memorial.
Grade Level


Students will:

  • Use reading strategies to understand the vocabulary and themes of a news story;
  • Share and teach what they learned with others;
  • Use reading strategies to interpret a timeline;
  • Use creative thinking skills to apply what they have learned.
Essential Questions
  • What can we learn from the past?
  • Can a society ever be truly free of prejudice and discrimination?
  • How do people influence a society?
  • What are my responsibilities in creating positive social change?
  • What do good readers do to help them better understand the text?
  • Copies of, or Internet access to, the full article, The March Continues
  • Copies of, or Internet access to, timelines for one or more social change movements included in the Memorial Center’s “The March Continues” exhibit. Possibilities include disability rights, gay rights, the struggle to abolish Native mascots, Latino civil rights and, more specifically, the farmworkers’ movement for economic justice.  (Note: Consider excerpting  timelines for younger readers. Also, consider using several of these timelines at once, depending upon the students’ needs and interests.)
  • Other resource material on these movements available in your school (optional)
  • Pens, pencils, markers and paper
  • 5 x 8 note cards (optional)


memorial [ mə ˈmôrēəl ] (noun) something, esp. a structure, established to remind people of a person or event

monument [ ˈmänyəmənt ] (noun) a statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a famous or notable person or event

martyr [ ˈmärtər ] (noun) a person who loses his life for a cause

civil rights [ ˈsivəl rītz ] (plural noun) the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality

social justice [ ˈsō sh əl ˈjəstis ] (noun) movement toward a society based on principles of human rights and equality

social change [ ˈsō sh əl ch ānj ] (noun) acts of advocacy that advance causes that are subjectively seen as more desirable for a society

symbol [ ˈsimbəl ] (noun) a thing that represents or stands for something else, esp. a material object representing something abstract; a shape or sign used to represent something such as an organization, e.g., a red cross or a Star of David.



  1. Take notes as you read The March Continues. Identify key facts and details about the importance and symbolism of the Civil Rights Memorial. Also select two quotes, sentences or passages from the story that you find compelling or inspiring.
  2. Arrange a cluster of five desks as the front of the room. The five students sitting there should begin a “popcorn review” of the material. In this activity, the first student stands and provides a key fact about the importance or symbolism of the Civil Rights Memorial. Another then pops up and states an additional piece of information that adds to the prior point. Keep going until all five in the group have had a turn.
  3. Rotate in new clusters of five students and repeat the activity. Each new cluster should begin with a fresh fact or statement.
  4. Reflect for a moment on the information covered during the review. Craft a three-sentence summary about the importance, symbolism and impact of the Civil Rights Memorial.
  5. As a group, review the information on the provided timeline. Brainstorm ideas for creating a monument or memorial honoring this movement. Should it honor the movement as a whole or one key event or person?
  6. Draw on the information you have learned about the Civil Rights Memorial as you think about your monument. Consider:
    • What message(s) do you want your memorial or monument to convey?
    • What should it look like? Should it be big or small? What colors, materials, textures, and shapes might be best?
    • Should there be words on your memorial or monument?  Should there be symbols? If so, what words and symbols would you include?
    • Should you include educational exhibits?  Should there be an open space where visitors can reflect? Why?
    • Where should your memorial or monument be placed? Why?
  7. Create a sketch of your memorial or monument. Take turns sharing your drawings with the class. Explain why you came up with your design.
  8. Revisit the quotes or passages you identified in the news article at the beginning of this activity. Reflect on how they might relate to all of the designs your class created. Using both sides of a note card, write for three minutes on one or both of the following prompts:
    • Can a society ever be truly free of prejudice and discrimination?
    • What are my responsibilities in creating positive social change?


Extension Activity

“The March Continues” display at the Civil Rights Memorial Center also includes information reminding us that the problems of racism and intolerance are ongoing. It highlights issues such as continued violence against people who are deemed different from the “majority” in the United States, the genocide in Rwanda and the French government’s ban on the hijab and other religious symbols in schools. Students can research one or more of these topics and integrate key events they discover into their own timelines. Once their altered timelines are complete, ask students to respond to this question: How does this timeline relate to the idea that “The March Continues”?

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Welcome to Learning for Justice—Formerly Teaching Tolerance!

Our work has evolved in the last 30 years, from reducing prejudice to tackling systemic injustice. So we’ve chosen a new name that better reflects that evolution: Learning for Justice.

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