Civil Rights Leaders; Past and Present

9, 10, 11, 12

The learner will discover and explain how people in society have worked to promote the common good. They will research famous historical figures in the Civil Rights and Anti-Apartheid Movements, and illustrate how these people focused their efforts on making life better for all.

PrintThree Fifty-Minute Class Periods (or five to six class periods if class presentations are used)

The learner will:

  • define and use the terms common good, segregation, and apartheid.
  • research and describe historical leaders that acted as an alternative power structure in America and South African society to improve conditions for the common good.
  • Student copies of Historical United States and South African Civil Rights Leaders (Handout One)
  • Rubric for Historical Research (Handout Two)
Home Connection 

None for this lesson.


None for this lesson.


  1. Anticipatory Set: On the display board, write the following words: common good, segregation, apartheid. Have the learners recall the definition of Common Good from Lesson One. The Common Good (n) Involves individual citizens having the commitment and motivation to promote the welfare of the community- even if they must sacrifice their own time, personal preferences or money-- to work together with other members for the greater benefit of all.) Ask the learners to now give you some words that could be used to define segregation (separation) andremind them that in the United States, segregation was viewed as separation of the Caucasian and African-American races. Share witht hem that apartheid also means -separation (apartness)-and that in South Africa it was viewed as separation of the Caucasian, Bantu, and Colored (mixed) races. Have the learners share their thoughts as to why someone working to promote the common good might choose the elimination of segregation and apartheid as something worthwhile to accomplish. Have the learners share an experience they have encountered or known/read about that resulted in people being treated differently and feeling separate/apart and whether they, the learner ,or someone else did something to improve the situation for the common good.

  2. Distribute the Historical United States and South African Civil Rights Leaders (Handout One) and explain to the learners that this list represents some of the historical United States and South African civil rights leaders that have been recognized as powerful individuals in the creation of positive changes intheir society.

  3. Distribute Rubric for Historical Research (Handout Two), and discuss the rubrics for the assigned writing task.

  4. Encourage the learners to explore the library/media center and research various books and web-sites.Allow three days for preparation and presentation to the class. Give extra credit to learners who use props and/or dress as the civil rights leader they are reporting on might have dressed during the time period, thus making the presentation more authentic.


The learners will be assessed on the writing of their chosen/assigned research paper as well as their sharing of their research findings with the rest of the class in an oral presentation . These assessments will be based upon the Rubric for Historical Research (Handout Two).

Cross Curriculum 

None for this lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss and give examples of why some humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Give examples of human interdependence and explain why group formation is one strategy for survival.
      3. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
      4. Benchmark HS.5 Describe civil society advocacy organizations and their relationship to human rights.
    2. 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.5 Describe how women and minority groups have used the civil society sector as an alternative power structure.
      3. Benchmark HS.7 Identify and give examples of the important roles women and minorities have played in the civil society sector in history.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.11 Discuss why organizations in the civil society sector work to protect minority voices.
      3. Benchmark HS.12 Explain why private action is important to the protection of minority voices.
      4. Benchmark HS.14 Give examples of how citizens have used organizations in the civil society sector to hold people in power accountable for their actions on behalf of the public.
      5. Benchmark HS.4 Identify and discuss civil society sector organizations working to protect individual rights, equity, and justice.
    5. 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.2 Give an example of individual philanthropic action that influenced national or world history.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.10 Identify reasons why historic figures acted for the common good.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Cite historical examples of citizen actions that affected the common good.
      3. Benchmark HS.5 Compare and contrast opportunities for students to improve the common good to the opportunities available to students in other countries.