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Part One: Timeline Activity: Freedom is on the Move

Flyer, Appeal for Action against Apartheid

The flyer, Appeal for Action Against Apartheid, was distributed by the American Committee on Africa as part of an international anti-apartheid movement

Courtesy of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Records, 1954-1970, Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., Atlanta, Ga.

Instructions

In this lesson students create an African American Freedom Struggle timeline and map on a classroom wall and apply the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to the timeline’s events.  The lesson’s purpose is to transform the traditional understanding of the "Civil Rights Movement" as a domestic movement for political rights to an understanding of it as a struggle for human rights that is connected to struggles including political freedom, human dignity, and economic stability for marginalized and oppressed people around the world.

Lesson Objectives:

  • Students will create a timeline and map of the African American Freedom Struggle on a classroom wall
  • Students will identify the major events in the African American Freedom Struggle and connect them with related articles from the UDHR
  • Students will utilize the map and timeline to discuss the global dimensions of the African American Freedom Struggle
  • Students will define the differences between civil, political, economic and cultural rights and will identify examples of these rights within the African American Freedom Struggle
  • Students will critique the traditional framing of the "Civil Rights Movement"

Classroom set-up:

  • A large wall map of the world with string or tape for use along the bottom to serve as the timeline. On the timeline post the following years; 1940, 1950, 1960, 1970
  • A class set of the African American Freedom Struggle Timeline and the UDHR

Procedure:

  1. As an opening activity, ask students what they know about the "Civil Rights Movement" and write their answers on the board.  Who were the leaders? What were the major events? Where did they happen? What were the goals of the movement? Most students will identify Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X as key figures and will include only events within the United States, such as the March on Washington and the Voting Rights Act. Explain to student that the timeline and map activity will help them to see the movement as part of a larger global movement, not only for political and social rights, but also economic and cultural rights.
  2. Give each student a copy of the timeline: African American Freedom Struggle timeline. The timeline introduces students to thirty key events that illustrate the reciprocal relationship between the American civil rights movement and the international human rights movement, especially its campaigns against colonialism and in support of economic and social rights. 
  3. Split the class into two groups. Give each group a copy of the African American Freedom Struggle Timeline cut into squares. Group One will place each event on the corresponding location on the map. Group Two will place the corresponding event on the timeline.  Encourage students to add creative design to accompany the events.
  4. The timeline and map become a launching point for class discussion. Ask students to find Martin Luther King, Jr., on the map and the timeline. Where and when did he travel outside the United States? How do you think those experiences affected his leadership and philosophy? Before this activity, did you know about King’s travels outside the United States? Why do you think this is left out of our general understanding of King? How does it affect our memory of him? Continue the discussion with the same questions regarding Malcolm X.
  5. Share with students a brief background of the UDHR, if you have not already covered the document in your course. Give students a copy of the UDHR.
  6. Facilitate a discussion defining the differences between civil, political, economic and cultural rights. Identify examples from the UDHR’s articles.
  7. Organize students into groups of three. Ask the groups to identify events on their timeline which reflect the human rights guaranteed in the UDHR. Ask students to share their conclusions with the class by citing specific examples from the timeline.
  8. Ask students to think again about the goals of the African American Freedom Movement. How has their understanding of the people, the events and the goals changed? Does the term "Civil Rights Movement" correctly reflect the goals and events of the struggle? Using examples from the timeline, what strategies have people used to fight for their human rights?
  9. Discussion Questions:
  • What were the goals of the African American Freedom Movement?
  • Does the term "Civil Rights Movement" correctly reflect the goals and events of the struggle?
  • What strategies have people used to fight for their human rights?

Materials