Civil Rights Movement: Protest and Progress

DURATION: Two sessions

  • Internet/audio access
  • Art supplies to make posters/signs


During the Civil Rights Movement, protest helped instigate social change. Non violent protests, such as sit-ins, boycotts, lie-ins, and marches, allowed activists to spread their message and garner support. Tennessee was the site of many of these protests, and university students and many local citizens played a major role in these events.

Guiding Questions: 

  • How did individuals protest discrimination during the Civil Rights Movement, and how did their activism, specifically through sit-ins, change society?

Objectives:  Students will 

  1. Learn about sit-ins and local students who participated in this type of protest
  2. Understand the role protests played in the Civil Rights Movement, specifically in Tennessee


  • Student will create a protest sign that resembles the types of signs used during the Civil Rights Movement


Session 1
1.   Have students listen to “We Shall Overcome” ( from the TN4ME website
2.   Discuss this song with the class: Why was it important? What was the main theme of the song?
3.   Ask students if they can list ways that individuals protested during the Civil Rights Movement.
4.   Show the students a picture of a counter stool ( and introduce and the term “sit-in.”
5.   Have students visit ( and read about sit-ins during the Civil Rights movement.
6.   Divide students into groups of four or five, giving each group a short biography or instructing  each group to locate the biographies on the TN4ME website
( of a Nashville student who participated in the sit-ins, have the groups make a list of the major facts about the student, and then, select a member of the group to share with the class what they learned about this student.  (Students: Diane Nash, C.T. Vivian, James Bevel,Bernard Lafayette)
Session 2
1.   Students will be split into groups of 3 or 4 and examine photographs of protestors and protest signs from the TN4ME website.
Each group will then create their own protest slogan that could have been used during the Civil Rights Movement and design a sign with the slogan.
2.   Each group will share with the class their poster, slogan, and why they chose their slogan.


  • National Standards:
  • NSS-USH 5-12.8
    Understands the struggle for racial and gender equality and the extension of civil liberties
  • Tennessee State Standards
  • 5.5.12 understand domestic policies in the post World War II period.
    c. Describe the struggle for racial and gender equality
    f. Describe Tennessee's involvement during the Civil Rights movement.
  • Individuals, Groups, and Interactions
  • Content Standard: 6.0
  • Personal development and identity are shaped by factors including culture, groups, and institutions. Central to this development are exploration, identification, and analysis of how individuals, and groups work independently and cooperatively.
  • Learning Expectations:
  • 6.01 Recognize the impact of individual and group decisions on citizens and communities in a democratic republic.
  • 6.02 Understand how groups can impact change at the local, state, and national level.
  • Accomplishments
  • 5.6.01 Recognize the impact of individual and group decisions on citizens and communities in a democratic republic. 
  • a. Identify and describe examples of tension between an individual's beliefs, government policies, and laws.
  • b. Identify the accomplishments of notables who have made contributions to society in the areas of civil rights, women's rights, military actions, and politics.