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Culminating Project: Civil Rights or Human Rights?


“How is a black man going to get ‘civil rights’ before he first wins his humanrights? If the American black man will start thinking about his humanrights, and then start thinking of himself as part of one of the world’s greatest people, he will see he has a case for the United Nations.” 

 Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X, 1964

Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee, the cry is always the same: 'We want to be free.'” 

Martin Luther King, Jr., "I've Been to the Mountaintop," Address delivered at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, 3 April 1968

“How could all of the blood, all of the courage, and all of the martyrs of the Civil Rights Movement still leave in its wake a nation where schools are more segregated than ever, where more than half of all black children live in poverty, and where the life expectancy of African Americans has actually declined? The answer lies, I believe, not so much in the well-documented struggle for civil rights, but in the little known, but infinitely more important, struggle for human rights.”

Eyes Off the Prize,Carol Anderson,2003


As a culminating assignment students will examine common perceptions of the “Civil Rights Movement” and create an educational tool to inform others about the international dimensions of the African American Freedom Struggle and its central theme of human rights. Students will choose one of the above quotes to guide their project. For those who choose the quote from Malcolm X, they will focus on the definition of human rights and civil rights as it concerns the goals of the freedom struggle of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Students who choose the quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., will focus their project on the international dimensions of the freedom struggle of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Those who choose Carol Anderson’s quote will explore connections between the past and present. Each project will be unique and students may use the suggestions below to stimulate ideas.

Lesson Objectives:

  • Students will create a unique project to be used as an educational tool to teach the African American Freedom Struggle.
  • Students will communicate through their project the historical context of the African American Freedom Struggle and analyze the common misconceptions of the period.
  • Students will present their project to their fellow students.
  • Students will answer the following question in essay form; In what ways was the African American Freedom Struggle, better known as the Civil Rights Movement, part of a global movement for human rights in the 20th century?


  1. Ask students to form groups of three or four and to choose one of the quotes as their guiding theme. 
  2. After students identify their theme, they will choose an educational tool. Possibilities include; a textbook chapter to replace their classroom text, a short documentary, an art installation, an article for a local publication, a website, a public service announcement, a comic book, a power point presentation for a community group, a lesson plan for a grade school class. Students should be encouraged to be creative in choosing their educational tool.
  3. Students will write a one page proposal to you for feedback and guidance.
  4. Depending on your class needs, you may want to create a rubric. The following criteria is suggested; accuracy of historical content, adherence to objective of assignment, creativity, organization, effectiveness as educational tool.
  5. Students will present their project to the class and should be encouraged to bring their project to a larger audience.
  6. After the presentations, ask students to reflect in essay form on the following question: In what ways was the African American Freedom Struggle, better known as the Civil Rights Movement, part of a global movement for human rights in the 20th century?