The Nashville Civil Rights Movement

Length: Two 55-minute class periods.

To commemorate Nashville's role in the historic Civil Rights Movement, the Metro Arts Commission approved the selection of artist Walter Hood to create new public art.  His design for Witness Walls utilizes iconic photos of the Civil Rights movement in Nashville to honor the events and the people who created the blueprint for nonviolent protest.  The installation will be located on the west side of the historic Metro Nashville Courthouse, steps away from the historic April 19, 1960 student-led protest.

In this English Language Arts lesson, students will:

  • as a whole group, read and discuss the article, “Area Students Lead the Way.”  Teacher will model how to pull and cite textual evidence to support claims.  
  • review the YouTube video of Walter Hood’s Witness Wall project in Nashville.
  • be assigned a prominent member of Nashville’s Civil Rights Movement to research.
  • create a timeline of events for their assigned civil rights movement member.
  • select a prominent quote to epitomize their character’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
  • select a photograph to copy or sketch.

Standards & Objectives

Essential and guiding questions: 

Assessing questions:

Day 1:

  • Refer to key notes in “Area Students Lead the Way” article to find both assessing and advancing questions, which guide students through thinking throughout the duration of the lesson.  Students will respond to questions on paper to allow teacher to circulate and check for understanding, respond with table partners (and/or through stand up, hand up, pair-ups), and share a few with the class.  
  • What is a revolution?
  • According to the article, “When the revolutionaries were ready, they attacked.”  How did the revolutionaries attack?  How is this different than our normal interpretation of the word “attack”?
  • What can you infer this quote means?  Cite textual evidence to support your answer.  

Day 2:

  • What is this person’s involvement in Nashville’s Civil Rights Movement?
  • What conflict(s) did this person face?
  • What was this person’s motive in becoming involved?
  • List a specific quote from the article that sums up this character’s involvement in the Nashville’s Civil Rights Movement.

Advancing questions:

Day 1:

  • What are the similarities and differences between the protests of desegregation in the 1960s to the protests today surrounding police brutality?

Day 2:

  • What can you infer would be the impact of this person choosing not to become involved in Nashville’s Civil Rights Movement?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 
  • Students can create a witness wall on the Civil Rights Movement for the entire south.  Students may create witness walls to highlight other parts of history as well.
  • To adapt the lesson, making it more rigorous for grades 9-12, students may conduct research using multiple sources on their assigned Civil Rights participant.

Helpful Hints

  • Teacher should place students in groups strategically based on level.  
  • Each group should contain a designated peer leader, middle level learners, and lower level learners OR lower level learners should be placed together to allow direct instruction with the teacher while other groups have a designated peer leader whose job is to lead the group and report to the teacher with any questions or help.
  • Students will be given a rubric to follow, including specific questions to answer when exploring their designated Civil Rights activist.