Current Protests

Current Protests 

Overarching Question: How do recent protests about race and policing fit into the history of American civil rights protests?

Students will explore connections between the Black Lives Matter movement (2013-present) and the civil rights movement (1954-1968). After reading an article about recent protests about race and policing, students will analyze how those events fit into the history of American civil rights protests. To practice making historical connections, students will use an article and primary sources about a specific event from the civil rights era.

Article: “Activists responding to police killings see potential new civil rights era”

 Tip: Assign Instructions

Understanding the article: Comprehension Questions

Middle and high school (grades 7, 8, 12)

  • In the first paragraph of the article, the author includes protest chants such as “I can’t breathe!” How does including these chants affect the tone of the article?
  • The author suggests that there is a “new civil rights” movement growing in the U.S. Which lines from the text most strongly support this claim?
  • The author includes quotes from many advocates for racial justice in policing. Which of these quotes makes the most compelling argument for change, and why?

Elementary school (grades 4 and 5)

  • In the first sentence, the author mentions the Civil Rights Act. How is the Civil Rights Act connected to the protests in the article?
  • Why did the author mention the violence in Ferguson, Missouri?
  • Read the last section of the article. Choose two of the people quoted and explain what they have in common.

 Tip: Shared Annotations

Classroom Activity: Compare and Contrast

“Activists responding to police killings see potential new civil rights era” discusses the deaths of two men, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and considers whether those deaths are creating “a new civil rights era”. In the civil rights era of 1954-1968, the death of Emmett Till was one of the events that led to the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To put the comparison in context, students will read

“Emmett Till’s death, and history, fading in Mississippi town”
You can lead a class discussion with the questions below.

Guiding Questions:

  • What are civil rights? What was the civil rights era?
  • Find three similarities and three differences between the events in these two articles. Can you find anything that is both a similarity and a difference?
  • In “Emmett Till’s death, and history, fading in Mississippi town", Till’s family members talk about what his memory means more than 60 years after his death. How will people remember Eric Garner and Michael Brown in 60 years? How do these types of memories influence law and culture?

 Tip: Customized Write Prompt

Primary Sources

Now have your students work in groups. They can use these primary sources to compare the responses of the black community to the death of Emmett Till in 1955 and the death of Eric Garner in 2014.

NAACP press release concerning the lynching of Emmett Till (9/1/55)
NAACP press release concerning the death of Eric Garner (7/20/14)
Flyer for protest of the Emmett Till lynching and trial
Tweet for #wewillnotgoback march for Eric Garner

Guiding Questions:

  • What is the purpose of issuing these press releases? What is the organization that issued them?
  • How is the use of the word “justice” different in the two press releases?
  • Compare the flyer for the Emmett Till protest and the tweet for the Eric Garner march. How has communication among civil rights activists changed? How has it remained the same?
  • Based on these primary sources, is the reaction to the death of Eric Garner similar to the reaction to the death of Emmett Till?

 Tip: Monitor student progress from these activities by viewing your Teacher  Binder.

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