Teachers

Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan:
An Act of Courage, The Arrest Records of Rosa Parks

Teaching Activities

Standards Correlations:

This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.

  • Era 9 -Postwar United States (1945-early 1970s)
    • Standard 4A -Demonstrate understanding of the Second Reconstruction and its advancement of civil rights.

This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.

  • Standard V.B.4. -Evaluate, take, and defend positions on the relationships among personal, political, and economic rights.

Note: These activities are designed to accompany a unit on racial segregation in the South in the 1950s.

Analyzing the Documents

  1. Duplicate and distribute the featured documents. Ask students to study the documents and answer these questions:
    • Who was arrested?
    • Who arrested her?
    • When and where was she arrested?
    • Who signed the warrant for her arrest?
    • What was the complaint?
    • Does anything surprise you about the arrest? The arrest records?
    • What else do you want to know about the arrest that the records donít tell you?
  2. Ask a student to look up the word "nationality" in a dictionary and read the definition aloud to the class. Direct the students to read again what was written on the police report for Rosa Parksís nationality. Ask them to compare the dictionary definition with the answer written on the police report. How do they differ? What explain this difference about the official view of black citizens of Montgomery, Alabama, at the time of Rosa Parksís arrest? Ask a volunteer to obtain a blank police report from a local police department. Allow time for a student to report to the class on any differences between the modern form and the report on Parks. Conclude this activity with a discussion of why they think information about race and nationality are collected on these and other forms. You might want to extend this discussion to the current controversy over ethnic data to be collected in the U.S. census for 2000.
  3. Ask a student to read the charges against Parks to the class. Then invite students to tell the class about any experiences they have had in refusing to obey an order from someone in authority. Encourage any student who answers to explain what motivated his or her refusal, and what the consequences were for the student and perhaps for other people.
  4. Assign students in groups to do one of the following activities:
    • Write and perform a one-act play based on information in the documents and the readings suggested below. Videotape the best performances and make them available for other classes to view.
    • Write interior monologues for Parks, the bus driver, a white passenger, or the police officer involved describing his or her thoughts and feelings during the incident that resulted in Rosa Parksís arrest.
    • Find out more about more about the lif of Rosa Parks and try to determine what motivated her actions on the bus, and what the consequences were for her and others. Then write a brief essay on some aspect of this subject.
    • Research the lives of other people?famous or obscure?involved in the civil rights movement of the 1950s-60s, and choose one person for a report in written or oral form.
  5. Assign students to search their textbooks, reference books, and other books on the history of the period, and to fill in the data retrieval chart for this and succeeding events in the black civil rights movement between 1955 and 1968. Follow with a class discussion of the data collected. Students could do further research on the forms of protest used in the civil right movement in terms of how they were chosen and how effective they were. This research should also be followed by class discussion.

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