Power of Protest (The)

9, 10, 11, 12

Students will describe how Rosa Parks refusal to give up her seat was a continuation of long-standing acts of protest against forced segregation in public spaces in the South. They will explain how her action, which ushered change in public transportation, was heroic.

Lesson Rating 
One 45 Minute Class Period

The learners will:

  • describe Southern black resistance against legal segregation in public transportation during the World War II era.
  • determine the causes and effects of actual scenarios of resistance in the South during the mid 1940s and present possible alternatives to resolve those conflicts.
  • explain why Rosa Parks is called the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.”
  • images of Rosa Parks (pictures are available on the Ford Museum website at www.hfmgv.org/exhibits/rosaparks/default.asp#link)
  • Student journals
  • Student copies of Birmingham, Alabama: The Forties (Attachment One)
  • Student copies of the Five Scenarios (Attachment Two)
  • Student copies of Questions for Discussion (Attachment Three)
  • Projected copy of Terminology (Attachment Four)
  • Individual cards made from the I Have, Who Has (Attachment Five)
  • Student copies of Rosa’s Story (Attachment Six)
  • Student copies of Venn Diagram (Attachment Seven)
  • Projected copy of Concluding Quote (Attachment Eight)

  • Alabama Department of Archives and History. http://www.archives.state.al.us/ts.html “Alabama Moments in American History” section. Then go to the “Montgomery Bus Boycott” for further information.

  • Altman, Susan. Extraordinary African Americans. New York: Children’s Press, 2001. ISBN 0-516-22549-9

  • Henry Ford Museum www.hfmgv.org/exhibits/rosaparks/

  • Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia www.ferris.edu/news/jimcrow/what.htm

  • Kelley, Robin D. G. Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class. New York: Free Press, Distributed by Simon & Schuster, 1996. ISBN 0-684-82639-9


  1. Anticipatory Set:
    Display a picture of Rosa Parks on the board as the students enter the classroom. Using whole group discussion style, ask the students to identify the person in the picture; tell what she did and explain what impact her action had on American history.

  2. Hand out the copies of Birmingham, Alabama: The Forties (Attachment One). Go over vocabulary terms together which may be unclear (segregation, organized collective movements, Aryan Supremacy, white supremacy, racism, commons, militancy, wartime economy, migration, Jim Crow laws, color boards, blackjacks, “self-defined” police, “potential” white passengers, expired transfers, disempowered producers, consumers, second-class citizenship, empowered by their uniforms, assertive actions, profane, the masses, personal autonomy, repression). Instruct students to read the selection and write a brief reflection of the reading in their journals. They should be sure to include a quick summary and describe how the reading makes them feel.

  3. Display the overheads of Terminology (Attachment Four). Go over each of the terms and their definitions. Instruct students to take notes of the vocabulary terms.

  4. Distribute to each student one of the individual cards made from I Have, Who Has (Attachment Five). Instruct students to become familiar with the definition on their card. They need to be able to identify the term that matches it. They are to listen to the cards that are read, and when they hear the vocabulary term that matches the definition on their card, they then read off the definition on their card. When they have read their definition, they then ask “Who Has” the vocabulary term on the bottom of their card.

  5. Divide the class into diverse groups of four or five. Pass out one scenario from Five Scenarios (Attachment Two) to each group. Also distribute Questions for Discussion (Attachment Three) to each student. Explain that students must fill out the worksheet with the information related to their own group’s scenario. The groups should read their scenario and answer the questions on the worksheet. When the students are finished, have a member from each group read their group’s scenario aloud to the class and then share the information on their worksheet. Each presentation should be no more than two or three minutes in length.

  6. Distribute copies of Rosa’s Story (Attachment Six) and have the students read the selection. Use the questions from Attachment Three to discuss the article.

  7. Distribute the blank Venn Diagram (Attachment Seven) to each student. Compare and contrast Parks’ protest to those that occurred 15 years before. Ask students:

    • If Parks was not the first African American to protest legal segregation in public transportation, why is she remembered as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement? (Because her action influenced local leaders to protest her arrest, which led to the bus boycott, which ignited the Civil Rights Movement)
    • What made the Montgomery Bus Boycott so significant? (It represented a collaborative effort of the community to protest segregation, which was more effective than the earlier individual acts of resistance)
    • Identify the factors after her arrest that helped to give rise to the Civil Rights Movement. (Her arrest came one year after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the “Separate but Equal” doctrine in the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education. Also, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. happened to be a minister at the Dexter Ave. Baptist Church in Montgomery at the time of her arrest.)
  8. Display a copy of the Concluding Quote (Attachment Eight). Read the quote as a class. Ask students to write a brief reflection on what the quote means and how it can relate to them


The Venn diagram and journal reflections will assess student learning in this lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Explain and give examples of how a democratic constitution requires and protects philanthropic behavior as a democratic principle.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Give examples from history of how intolerance of ideas, religion, and minorities contributed to social disintegration.
      2. Benchmark HS.7 Identify and give examples of the important roles women and minorities have played in the civil society sector in history.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.9 Analyze a major social issue as a "commons problem" and suggest ways the civil society sector could help to resolve it.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.10 Discuss the results of private citizen voluntary action intended for the common good on public policy changes.
      2. Benchmark HS.12 Explain why private action is important to the protection of minority voices.
    4. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Give an example of individual philanthropic action that influenced national or world history.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Cite historical examples of citizen actions that affected the common good.

Academic Standards

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