- Opening Activity: Examining perspectives. Who supported the
boycott? What was the reaction of the Montgomery citizens? In this activity
students will participate in a speakers' panel. The panel includes eight
historically accurate citizens from Montgomery. You will also need a
student to play the role of facilitator. Students will read interviews
or letters authored by their citizen during 1955 and 1956. The questions
asked by the facilitator will be drawn from the content of the document.
Since some of the interviews and letters are longer than others, be
sure to read over the documents before assigning roles to students.
For example the letter from Mrs. IB Rutledge is fairly short but the
interview with Attorney Jack Crenshaw is long and contains legal vocabulary.
This role is perfect for your student interested in law. Within the
documents students will find the word "negro", "nigra"
and "colored". You may want to talk with students about the
historical background of these terms and decide on a language policy
for the speakers' panel activity. Encourage them to make a nametag and
to dress in character. The rest of the class will take notes during
the speakers' panel and prepare questions for the members of the panel.
Roles for the Speakers' Panel
Morgan: Montgomery Citizen
IB Rutledge: Montgomery Citizen
Bagley: Manager Montgomery City Lines
Beatrice Charles: Citizen of Montgomery
Sellers: Police Commissioner
Kinney: Business Owner
Edna King: Music Instructor
Crenshaw: Attorney for Montgomery City Lines
Discussion/Reflection Questions after the Speakers' Panel:
Recall Questions: What were the goals of the boycott? Why did
some citizens choose to support the boycott, while others did not?
How long were they willing to boycott? Did the citizens of Montgomery
see the issue as simply seating arrangements on a bus or something
larger? Why were citizens of Montgomery willing to walk for miles
each day, risk their jobs and personal safety to support the boycott?
Analysis Questions: Why is a boycott an effective strategy?
What obstacles stood in their way? What are some of the strategies
for transforming institutional racism? How can every day people organize
to transform a community?
Classroom Activity: Allow students to read the Alabama
Movement for Human Relations newsletter from December of 1955.
The AMHR newsletter describes the situation in Montgomery and the
boycott goals. Ask students to identify the goals and the obstacles
of the boycott using the T-Chart
Classroom Activity: Ask students to read the letter
to editors of TIME. Discuss with students the role the media plays
in influencing public opinion. You may also want to discuss how newspaper
accounts contribute to the historical narrative. As an extended activity,
ask students to choose a local or national event and follow the coverage
from multiple news sources. Ask students to compare and critique the
sources. Based on their research, students will write a letter to
the editor using the letter to TIME as an example.
- Classroom Activity: Discuss with students the definition of
institutional racism. You may want to use Jenice L. View's definition
from her article in "Putting the Movement Back in Civil Rights
Teaching." As View states, institutional racism is the concept
of white superiority that is "reinforced in schools, banks, churches,
the workplace, real estate agencies, law enforcement, the judicial system,
and other institutions that govern daily life, with the purpose of exploiting
other "races" and preserving privilege for "whites."
Have students read Anna
Holden's interview with the Police Commissioner Sellers and identify
examples of institutional racism. Encourage them to think beyond the
- Reflection Questions: What are the difficulties faced in transforming
institutional racism? Discuss Police Commissioner's explanation for
the resistance to change. How did individuals use institutions to maintain
segregation? Besides a boycott, what are strategies for transforming
institutional racism? How can everyday people organize to transform
a community? How can they create systematic change? Discuss King's quote,
"We are not wrong it what we are doing. If we are wrong, the Supreme
Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of
the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong."
Martin Luther King, Jr., December 5, 1955.