Lesson Plans: Teach About Civil Rights During Black History Month or Any Other Month

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Help students find relevance in Greek drama by introducing it with a study of the heroes of Civil Rights. This Black history month lesson plan can be used by itself, or as a lead in to the study of any literary work involving a conflict between conscience and law or with any historical figure who defied the law for reasons of conscience. I have found it an extremely successful introduction tool for Sophocles' Antigone.


  • Students will discuss Jim Crow and its ramifications on society.

  • Students will discuss the difficulties facing minorities in the United States during the 20th century.

  • Students will research major figures in the Civil Rights movement in the 20th century.

  • Students will write a brief synopsis for ten different figures who broke the law for reasons of conscience; that is, historical figures who broke the law in an effort to procure civil rights for all Americans. It must include the following: What law did he or she break? Why did he or she break it? What were the results?

  • Students will apply the writing process to write about an historical figure from the Civil Rights Movement.


  • Open with a discussion on “personal conscience” vs. “the law”. Discuss the concept of a higher law (Declaration of Independence, or the Bill of Rights, for example) inherent in the fabric of our nation.

  • Discuss that during the 20th century the laws of our nation regarding African-Americans conflicted with what was “right”.

  • Each student must research ten historical figures of the 20 century who broke the law because their conscience told them they needed to obey a higher law. I open this up to those individuals who went against social customs as well.

  • On the day the homework is due, each student must share at least one historical figure with his or her classmates.

  • Each student must pick one of these individuals and do a brief biographical paragraph discussing the significance of this person’s action.

  • Other options include making a poster, giving a speech, producing a short film, or scheduling a debate.


Be sure to differentiate between breaking the law for reasons of conscience and breaking the law to gain power or authority. Students often misunderstand the two and include infamous historical figures.

This post is part of the series: Great Lesson Plans

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