Beyond Rosa Parks: Powerful Voices for Civil Rights and Social Justice

Most history textbooks include a section about Rosa Parks in the chapter on the modern civil rights movement. However, Parks is only one among many African-American women who have worked for equal rights and social justice. This series introduces four of those activists who may be unfamiliar to students.
Grade Level

Lesson 1, Maya Angelou, focuses on questions of identity as students read and analyze Angelou’s inspirational poem “Still I Rise” and apply its message to their own lives. Students learn how Maya Angelou overcame hardship and discrimination to find her own voice and to influence others to believe in themselves and use their voices for positive change.

Lesson 2, Mary Church Terrell, focuses on questions of diversity among turn of the 20th century African Americans. Students read and analyze an 1898 speech by the founding president of the National Association of Colored Women about the class differences within African-American communities and the NACW’s philosophy of “lifting as we climb.”

Lesson 3, Mary McLeod Bethune, focuses on questions of justice. Students read an interview with this prominent African-American educator and learn about how her personal experience of discrimination motivated her to open a school for African-American students in Florida and to devote her life to the struggle for equality.

Lesson 4, Marian Wright Edelman, focuses on questions of activism. Students read a commencement speech given by this well-known founder of the Children’s Defense Fund and learn how Edelman has dedicated her life to "paying it forward" and rising above circumstances to make lives better for others. They are then encouraged to apply lessons from the speech to their own lives as they identify and implement opportunities to help improve the lives of those in their school or community.

Each lesson includes a central text and provides strategies for reading and understanding that text. Students are encouraged to make connections between the texts and their own experiences and to take action against the inequities they identify.

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