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Duration
More than 90 minutes
Topic(s)
  • Civil Rights
  • Constitution
  • Journalism
Grade(s)
  • 6-12

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

  1. As a class, define the term “turning point.”
  2. Ask students to give examples of turning points in their own lives to clarify the concept.
  3. Brainstorm historical turning points.
  4. Using this knowledge, students will identify and analyze historical turning points of the civil rights movement. This will be done using the NewseumEd online interactive and completing the Turning Points worksheet.
  5. Students will then create a multimedia slideshow to present their findings to the class.
  6. Last, students will discuss the First Amendment and its role for each turning point.

  • Turning Points worksheet (download), one per student.
  • Sample worksheet at the end of the Lesson Plan download that you may wish to distribute it to students, as well.
  • Internet access 
  • Civil Rights Glossary handout (optional)

Have students share their presentations. Ask:

  • Would these turning points have been possible without the First Amendment?
  • Who used their First Amendment rights? How did they exercise these rights?
  • Which freedom or freedoms seem to be the most important to the civil rights movement?
  • How would history have been different had these turning points not taken place? What changes would not have occurred? Would other events have ultimately led to the same changes?
  • Look back at your class’s original definition of a turning point. Having completed this assignment, is there anything you would change?

  1. Constitutional Comparison: Which constitutional amendment — the First, 13th, 14th or 15th — do you think was the most important to the success of the civil rights movement? Divide your class into four groups, and assign each group an amendment. Have the groups research their amendment and its impact on the civil rights movement, using the timeline as a point of reference for major events and their impact. Then hold a four-way debate over which amendment had the biggest impact on the movement.
  2. As a class, discuss the following questions. At the beginning of this exercise did you agree that the amendment assigned to you was the most important amendment to the success of the civil rights movement? Why or why not? After the class debate, which amendment do you think was the most important to the success of the civil rights movement?
  3. At the Newseum: Visit the “Civil Rights at 50" exhibit. Have students think back on the civil rights turning points they researched for this lesson. Students should write short essays using this exhibit as further evidence of how their turning point changed history. Why did these events have to take place before the turning point or, alternately, why could they only take place after? Ask students to incorporate at least three of the events profiled in the exhibit in their argument.

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