Tracy Rains
Reading Informational Text
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
9, 10, 11, 12
  • Activist
  • Civil Rights
  • Malcom X
  • Martin Luther King Jr
  • Protest
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs, Interactive, Text/HTML, Video

    “We Shall Overcome” Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.

    “We Shall Overcome”  Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.


    The Civil Rights Movement for African American equality is one of the defining social movements of the 1950s and 60s.  Ordinary people took to the streets to demand equality.  This lesson will explore the various forms of protest that defined the movement.  Two of the most notable leaders of the movement were Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.  While both men shared the common goal of equality, their approaches were very different.  Martin Luther King preached nonviolent civil disobedience, while Malcolm X demanded equality “by any means necessary.” You will examine famous speeches and articles written by both men to form your own opinion of which approach is more effective to have your demands met.




    Read or watch the resources to learn about this concept, then do the practice activity.




    Read Khan Academy’s Introduction to the Civil Rights Movement.  If you would like a more detailed look at some of the key aspects of the movement, use the navigation menu on the left side of the screen.  Take notes as you read through the material, then check your understanding by taking the brief quiz.

    The video, History of the Civil Rights Movement examines the efforts by African- Americans to gain equal status with their white counterparts.  Pay attention to the differing demeanors and messages of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.  For additional information on the lives of both men, you can watch these brief biographies: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King

    Explore the Google Arts & Culture Virtual Exhibit titled, The Fight for Civil Rights.  Use the arrow on the right side of the screen to advance pages.



    Discuss your ideas / opinions / understandings


    In 1964, Sam Cooke, a popular soul musician, released the song “A Change is Gonna Come.”  Listen to the song while looking at the images and the lyrics.  

    • Did a change come?  How impactful was that change?  What changes still need to be addressed today?  


    Now it is time to self-check how much you have learned about the this topic.  If you do not know as much as you thought, go back to the “Explore” section of this seminar and reread, rewatch, or redo the activities listed.  See your facilitator if you have questions.

    Click here to take the quiz online. You do not have to log into the quiz site in order to take this quiz. If a window pops up asking you to sign up for the quiz site, just close the sign-up window and start your quiz.


    This is a task or project where you can show what you know.

    There is typically more than one way to solve any problem you encounter.  During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were two of the most prominent activists.  While both men had a common goal, their rhetoric and approach greatly differed.  For this project, you will use primary resources to gain a better understanding of the methods and beliefs of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

    Martin Luther King Jr.

    Malcolm X

    • In April 1964, Malcolm X delivered one of his most famous speeches.  Read the excerpt of "Ballot or the Bullet" or listen to the speech here.

    You may create a slideshow, video/audio recording, or a typed document.  Answer the following questions in your presentation:


    Martin Luther King: “Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom”

    • Choose three (3) phrases that you think are the most powerful in this text.  Explain why each phrase is important or powerful.

    • What does MLK say the nonviolent movement is offering?

    • How does MLK explain that violence will not achieve the goals of the Civil Rights Movement?

    • How does MLK propose that we “put an end to the chain of violence”?

    Malcolm X: “Ballot or the Bullet”

    • Why does Malcolm X call Uncle Sam a hypocrite?

    • What does Malcolm X mean when he says, “Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on the plate.”?

    • Why does Malcolm X say that he does not consider himself American?

    • Choose three (3) phrases that you think are the most powerful in this speech.  Explain why each phrase is important or powerful.

    Which leader’s methods and message do you find to be the most convincing?  Use textual evidence to support your answer and refute the arguments made by the other leader.


    Complete this wrap-up activity where you reflect on your learning.  

    Why do you think this lesson is important?  How do you plan to use this content to make a difference in your life?