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Activity Overview

Although the fight for the civil rights of African Americans began a long time ago, one of the most important and well known timeframes is known as the Civil Rights Movement, and took place largely during the 1950s and 1960s. In order to truly understand the struggle that Black people have endured throughout history, it is important for students to know about the events that have taken place over time.

For this activity, students will research the specific time period of the Civil Rights Movement, and create a timeline poster depicting important events. Teachers may choose to allow as many events on the timeline as students want to include, or set a limit, as there are several.

Before learning about the events that took place during the Civil Rights Movement, students should know about the Jim Crow Laws. Established in the 1860s, the Jim Crow Laws were state and local laws that legalized racial segregation. Although slavery was abolished, these laws restricted African Americans from many of the freedoms that white people were granted.

Example Events

July 26, 1948

President Truman ends segregation in the US Military.

1954: Brown v. Board of Education

This Supreme Court case found that segregation of public schools is a violation of the 14th Amendment.

December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks

In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the public bus to a white man. She was arrested. This began the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a movement where people stopped riding the buses in protest of unfair treatment. The boycott lasted 381 days, and ended when the bus companies agreed to get rid of sectioned seating.

September, 1957: Little Rock Nine

Even though segregation of schools was ruled unconstitutional in 1954, many states were still segregated. In 1957, nine students were to attend Central High School, in Little Rock, Arkansas. When the students arrived, they were blocked by the Arkansas National Guard and were unable to enter. Later that month, President Eisenhower sent federal troops to escort the children into the school.

1960: Greensboro Sit-Ins

Sit-ins were nonviolent protests against segregated restaurants. They began in Greensboro, North Carolina when four Black men sat down at a white’s only lunch counter in the Woolworth’s store and were refused service. They refused to get up until the store closed, denying white people the ability to sit down and give their business. The sit-ins began happening in more and more places, and eventually restaurants had to change their rules so that they could stay in business.

November, 1960

Ruby Bridges becomes the first Black student at an elementary school in New Orleans, Louisiana at only six years old. She had to be escorted to and from school by Federal Marshals and was met by many angry protesters. Many white parents pulled their children from the school. Since classrooms were not yet segregated, Ruby was the only person in her 1st grade class.

1961: Freedom Riders

The Freedom Riders were Black and white people who rode interstate buses to the South to protest segregated bus terminals and bus lines.

August 28, 1963: March on Washington

THe March on Washington was led by Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and 4 others, known as “The Big Six”. The march was planned on this date purposefully, as it was the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and its purpose was to peacefully protest against segregation, Jim Crow Laws in the South, and the general unfair treatment of Black people. Between 200,000 and 300,000 people marched the streets of Washington D.C., and ended at the National Mall. Many delivered speeches, the most well known being MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

September 15, 1963: 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

The bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, killed 4 little girls and injured 22 other people. It was said to be done by three Klansmen, who were not found guilty of the crime until many years later.

1964:The Civil Rights Act of 1964

Before his assassination in late 1963, President Kennedy had called for a new law that gave everyone the same basic human rights, regardless of race. On July 2, 1964, President Johnson, who took over for President Kennedy following his death, signed the bill into law, outlawing discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or national origin.

1965: Voting Rights Act

Signed on August 6, 1965 by President Johnson, the Voting Rights Act outlawed the voting practices that were discriminatory in the southern states. For example, there was no longer a prerequisite of a literacy test in order to vote.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Due Date:

Objective: Create a timeline poster, or use the timeline layout for a storyboard, depicting important events in the history of civil rights.

Student Instructions:

  1. Click “Start Assignment”.
  2. Add dates for each event.
  3. Write the event and when it took place in each of the headings.
  4. Use correct scenes, characters, and items to illustrate the events in the cell below each heading.


Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 3-6

Difficulty Level 2 (Reinforcing / Developing)

Type of Assignment Individual

Type of Activity: Timelines

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/W/4/2] Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
  • [ELA-Literacy/RI/4/5] Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.

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