Skip to content Skip to navigation

Part Five: Social Transformation


  1. Opening Activity: Ask students to watch Kazu Haga's discussion of the philosophy of nonviolence from Freedom's Ring.  Ask students to put the philosophy in their own words and apply it to an event in their own lives.
  2. Classroom Activity: Ask student to read and discuss the Six Principles of Nonviolence and Six Steps to Nonviolent Direct Action. Using the Document Analysis Worksheet read and analyze the Statement on the End of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Integrated Bus Suggestions. Ask students to identify examples of the philosophy of nonviolence within the Integrated Bus Suggestions.
  3. Discussion/Reflection Questions: What is the philosophy of nonviolence? In what ways does nonviolent direct action lead to social transformation? Who is transformed by nonviolent direct action? How does the following quote reflect King's commitment to nonviolence?

    "This morning the long awaited mandate from the United States Supreme Court concerning bus segregation came to Montgomery. Our experience and growth during this past year of united nonviolent protest has been of such that we cannot be satisfied with a court 'victory' over our white brothers. We must respond to the decision with an understanding of those who have oppressed us and with an appreciation of the new adjustments that the court order poses for them. We must act in such a way as to make possible a coming together of white people and colored people on the basis of a real harmony of interests and understandings. We seek an integration based on mutual respect." Martin Luther King, Jr., 20 December, 1956

  4. Classroom Activity: In Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching, Alana D. Murray (2004), describes the ingredients for social movements and strategy. She identifies the Montgomery bus boycott as an ideal model. Drawing on what they have learned over the last few days, ask students to choose specific examples to coincide with each of the key ingredients. Next, ask students to identify a current injustice and choose a strategy to address and change it. 
  5. Debate Resolution: The philosophy of nonviolence, in the form of a bus boycott, was successful in transforming the institutional racism in Montgomery, Alabama. The debate can be organized in a number of ways. You can split students into groups of 2–4 and ask them to prepare affirmative and negative arguments supported by examples. You may also split the class in half and ask students to participate in a discussion of the statement. Finally, you may ask students to write individual responses.
  6. Discussion Questions: Did the citizens of Montgomery achieve justice, social transformation and/or reconciliation as a result of the nonviolent direct action? Some have described the Montgomery bus boycott as the beginning of the civil rights movement. Is that an accurate description? How should the boycott be situated in the broader black freedom struggle? How should it be told?