1. Before class, watch the American Experience documentary on the murder of Emmett Till. It can be found here:
Decide how much of it you want to show your class, keeping in mind the disturbing nature of some of the footage (they show what Till looked like after his body was recovered). Use the video to set the stage for class. Talk about the entrenchment of segregation in the south, the use of violence to enforce Jim Crow laws, and the fact that segregation was legal until the Brown decision in 1954. The true significance of the Till lynching was that it helped motivate African-Americans like never before to work for equality.
2. Review the concept of delegated powers and federalism. Explain that government power is divided up between different levels (federal, state, and local), and that the federal government did not have the standing in many cases in the 1950's to interfere in what were legally either state or local issues.
3. Show students the Herblock cartoon from the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which can be found here:
Talk about the economic power of the boycott, the MIA's efficient use of the national media, the Supreme Court case, and the emergence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr..
4. Finish class with this short clip about Representative John Lewis:
Explain that Lewis was in Washington DC (in 1963) as a leader in SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee). Other large civil rights groups at the time included the NAACP, the SCLC, and the National Urban League. These groups raised funds and organized the efforts that would define the end of the 1950's and the beginning of the 1960's. Without them, large-scale protest would have been impossible.
Students can view a timeline of the Civil Rights Movement here.