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Making a Change: The First Amendment and the Civil Rights Movement

See how advocates for — and against — change in the civil rights era leveraged the five freedoms of the First Amendment to make their voices heard.

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Civil Rights: Reporting Now

SUMMARY: Students evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different methods of communicating the news over time, then submit a “remixed” civil rights report for publication on the NewseumED civil rights media map. 

GRADE LEVEL: Middle and high school

TIME: 60-90 minutes

MATERIALS: The Why Use It and Remix It worksheets (download), Do’s and Don’ts of Journalism handout (download), Internet access


  1. Make copies of the two worksheets for each student.
  2. Review the sample worksheet at the end of this packet. You may wish to distribute it to students, as well.
  3. Share the link to the Civil Rights Media Map with your students, or project the map on the board.

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Overview PDF DOC
Worksheets PDF DOC
Extensions PDF DOC
Full Packet PDF DOC

To request a large print or Braille version, call 202.292.6650.


(Note: For more support, see expanded procedure in downloadable lesson plan.)

  1. Start by telling students they are going to investigate how new technology affects the news media.
  2. With students, create a list of ways reporters share events today.
  3. Use the NewseumED media map to locate historical civil rights front pages and determine what technology was available during the civil rights movement. Create a list and compare it to the list from previous step.
  4. Discuss how technology has changed since the civil rights movement.
  5. Complete the Why Use It? worksheet.
  6. Review the best practices list from the previous lesson.
  7. Last, students will complete the Remix It! worksheet to “translate” an article from the civil rights movement to one created with modern tools and submit it for inclusion on the civil rights media map.
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Students share their projects and discuss their findings. Prompts include:

  • What was hard about creating the reports?
  • What was easy?
  • Did students discover anything surprising, either about their event or about communicating the news?
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  1. Reverse Translation: Pick a news story about a current civil rights issue that uses a form of media not available during the 1950s and 1960s (e.g., blog post, tweet, etc.). Create a news story like those in the front pages featured on the media map. What additional research do you have to do? What is easier about this process than that for creating a modern news story? What’s harder? For news producers, what are the advantages and disadvantages of using an older style and format? What about for news consumers?
  1. At the Newseum: Visit the “Civil Rights at 50” exhibit. Ask students to choose one of the featured events, and then retell the story of what happened using a modern communication tool: Twitter. Students should compose three to five tweets of 140 characters or fewer that communicate the key points of the story. Remind them that their tweets, though short, should still strive to follow the guidelines of ethical journalism and be accurate, fair and clear. Students may tweet in the Newseum, or write their tweets on poster paper in the classroom.
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