Little Rock, 1957

9, 10, 11, 12

In this lesson, learners view footage from the PBS documentary Eyes on the Prize on the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Learners discuss and answer questions on the process of desegregation in Little Rock, and the Core Democratic Values related to that process.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Fifty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • watch a segment of the PBS video Eyes on the Prize, episode two, then answer questions (Attachment One) related to the video.
  • PBS video Eyes on the Prize, episode two.
  • Little Rock Questions (AttachmentOne)
Teacher Preparation 

Eyes on the Prize is a 3-disc boxed set of a PBS series about the Civil Rights Movement. You will need to obtain a copy of the DVD prior to this lesson. It is available at Amazon.


Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years. Episode Two: Fighting Back (1957-62). Produced by Blackside. 60 minutes, 1986. DVD ASIN: B0031WNYHK.

"Eyes on the Prize" TV series. PBS.




  1. Anticipatory Set: Ask students to imagine that a group of parents (all of whom made less than $150,000 a year) got together and decided to fight the enrollment policy of School One (see Lesson One). The Court decided that the $150,000 income standard was unconstitutional, and you and eight other honors students were admitted to School One. The families of the students already attending School One vowed to fight to keep the lower income families out of the school. The governor, a graduate of School One, agrees with the upper income families, and goes on television vowing to keep lower income students out of School One. On the first day of school, you and the eight other students decide to meet and show up at School One together. However, you somehow get separated from the others and are threatened by the angry mob. You finally reach safety, and you and the others are forced to leave School One for the day. Your parents return to court, finally the federal government steps in, and you and the others return to School One. Once in school, you and the others are assigned bodyguards, but are continually harrassed and threatened by some of the students and their families. How do you react to the student body at School One? Do you think this scenario could actually happen?

  2. Introduce the class to the video series Eyes on the Prize. This is a six-part PBS series produced in 1986. The segment shown in this lesson begins with footage of Linda Brown walking into the formerly all-white elementary school she desegregated in Topeka, Kansas. Stop the video before the opening credits to ask the class who that little girl is. Pass out "Little Rock Note Taking Form," (Attachment Three) then restart the video.

  3. Stop the video right after Melba Patillo says she did not know if she wanted to go back to school the next year, and the announcer says it would not matter because Little Rock's schools would not open the next year. (This segment runs 35 minutes)

  4. Spend the last ten minutes reflecting on what the class has just witnessed. Ask the class what Core Democratic Values they feel were involved in the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, for example, diversity, equality, integrity (truth), popular sovereignty (majorities have the right to make political decisions), promote the general welfare (the common good).


Students turn in Attachment Three, "Little Rock Note Taking Form," and participate in teacher-led large group discussion.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. 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. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give an example why conflict may exist between individual freedom and the community.
      2. Benchmark HS.10 Discuss the results of private citizen voluntary action intended for the common good on public policy changes.
      3. Benchmark HS.5 Identify and discuss civil society sector organizations working to build community/social capital and civil society resources.
      4. Benchmark HS.7 Examine the role of a country as a member of various international communities.
    3. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Describe how the common good was served in an historical event as a result of action by a civil society sector organization.
      2. Benchmark HS.5 Identify positive philanthropic historic acts or events that helped build the community, state, and nation.
    4. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Analyze and synthesize information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to public policy. Discuss these issues evaluating the effects of individual actions on other people, the rule of law and ethical behavior.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.6 Identify and discuss conflicting viewpoints of how philanthropic actions relate to democratic principles.