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Create Your Own Classroom Activity

Organized by themes and events of the freedom struggle, this section provides teachers and students an opportunity to build their own lessons and conduct research. 

Little Rock Crisis

Three years after the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal, nine African American students desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The students, Minnijean Brown, Terrance Roberts, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls, inspired a generation with their courage and dignity. 

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Montgomery Bus Boycott

Sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks on 1 December 1955, the Montgomery bus boycott was a 13–month mass protest that ended with the United States Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses is unconstitutional. The bus boycott demonstrated the potential for nonviolent mass protest to successfully challenge racial segregation and served as an example for other southern campaigns that followed.

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School Desegregation

Through the ruling in the Supreme Court case on Brown v. Board of Education and subsequent events in southern public schools, including the Little Rock crisis in Arkansas, the need for school desegregation became increasingly relevant.

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Birmingham Campaign

In April 1963 King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) joined with Birmingham, Alabama’s existing local movement, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) in a massive direct action campaign to attack the city’s segregation system by putting pressure on Birmingham’s merchants during the Easter season, the second biggest shopping season of the year. As ACMHR founder Fred Shuttlesworth stated in the group’s ‘‘Birmingham Manifesto,’’ the campaign was ‘‘a moral witness to give our community a chance to survive’’ (ACMHR, 3 April 1963).

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March on Washington

On 28 August 1963, more than 200,000 demonstrators took part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in the nation’s capital. The march was successful in pressuring the administration of John F. Kennedy to initiate a strong federal civil rights bill in Congress. During this event, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his memorable "I Have a Dream" speech.

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King and Malcom X

Explore and compare the ideologies behind two American Civil Rights icons: Martin Luther King, Jr., an advocate of nonviolence, delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and Malcolm X, the black nationalist, encouraging African Americans to fight racial oppression “by any means necessary.”

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King and Vietnam

Four years after President John F. Kennedy sent the first American troops into Vietnam, Martin Luther King, Jr. issued his first public statement on the war. Answering press questions after addressing a Howard University audience on 2 March 1965, King asserted that the war in Vietnam was ‘‘accomplishing nothing’’ and called for a negotiated settlement (Paul A. Schuette, ‘‘King Preaches on Non-Violence at Police-Guarded Howard Hall,’’ Washington Post, 3 March 1965).

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