Human Rights Throughout History—Philanthropy and History of Human Rights Activists

3, 4, 5

To recognize Human Rights and philanthropic values of historical figures fighting for Human Rights.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo to Four Forty-Five Minute Class Periods as introduction, approximately one week for research
  • Given a scenario students will identify the need.
  • Students will be able to identify an action designed to remediate a need.
  • Given a scenario students will identify the talent or treasure that was shared in response to a need.
  • Social Studies text or reference material pertaining to Bartolomé de Las Casas and other Human Rights activists
  • How Would You Feel? sheet (see Attachment One)
  • Character Web for Human Rights Poster based on lives of Human Rights activists (see Attachment Two).
  • The 20th Century 1997 Teacher Created Materials, Inc.
  • Web sites


  1. Anticipatory Set:As students study about Explorers coming to American, focus on Bartolomé de Las Casas as a human rights activist for the Native Americans. He fought for the rights of Native Americans to be treated humanely by Spanish soldiers. 

  2. As a class, brainstorm the term Human Rights. What does this term mean? Determine the definition.

  3. Briefly give examples of possible mistreatment of humans in history and currently. Example (enslaved Africans, Jewish citizens in WWII Germany, women in corporate America, Japanese-Americans in internment camps).

  4. Begin study of explorers coming to the Americas with social studies text or other instructional materials.

  5. Discuss the problems faced by Native Americans, Bartolomé de Las Casas' cause, the affect of his actions, and the future results of his efforts. Introduce the term Human Rights.

  6. In small groups have students complete the sheet How Would You Feel? (See Attachment One.)

  7. Have each group report to the class their reactions to each of the scenarios. Record each group's reactions and discuss with class. Discuss their feelings, and talk about what actions they could take.

  8. Students read short narratives of important human rights figures. Groups of students create a character-web of a philanthropic person and his/her contributions to human rights. See Character Web for Human Rights Poster (Attachment Two). Examples could include Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Abe Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Mother Theresa, or a third-sector philanthropy organization like Amnesty International. Students should present their findings in the form of a poster. The poster should include: the problem or the injustice against a group of people, the activist's action, the implication for the future and the degree of his/her success, and state some of the core democratic values or constitutional rights that were violated. A rubric is provided for the Human Rights Poster (see Assessment) and an Informative Writing Rubric is included as Attachment Three.

  9. Resources:

  10. Ask the media specialist pull books for research pertaining to Human Rights activists.

  11. Web searches on the Internet using key words like human rights, the activist's name, the name of rights movements

  12. Encyclopedias

  13. Magazine articles

  14. Discuss with class the actions a citizen could do if he/she feels someone's human rights are being violated.

  15. Use the following eight philanthropic questions to guide the discussion.

  16. What is the need?

  17. Who has the need?

  18. Who is in the community?

  19. Who fills the need?

  20. What talent or treasure was given or shared?

  21. What goodness does the community experience from that giving or sharing?

  22. What is the reward for the one who shared?

  23. What would have happened if the need weren't met?


Teacher observation of student participation. Student-created posters. 4 Point Rubric: Human Rights Poster 4 Points: A Human Rights activist is identified. An injustice to humanity is stated. A description of the activist's action is given. Statements are given about how the action has affected the future and the degree of the activist's success. Core Democratic Values or Constitutional Rights addressed.3 Points: Three of the four philanthropic requirements are given.2 Points: Two of the four philanthropic requirements are given.1 Point: One of the four philanthropic requirements is given, shows a lack of philanthropic understanding.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.1 Give examples of philanthropic traditions of diverse cultures.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
      3. Benchmark E.5 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibility.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.10 Give an example of an action by an individual or a private organization that has helped to enhance a fundamental democratic principle.
      2. Benchmark E.6 Identify and describe fundamental democratic principles.
      3. Benchmark E.9 Describe how philanthropic activities can bring about social change.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.