Today’s snow day here in Omaha gives me the opportunity to share another lesson idea. I have used this lesson idea a few times as part of a unit on the civil rights movement, which also corresponds with African American History Month. This lesson idea goes along with the latter part of our unit on the civil rights movement. By this time, we have already studied events that spurred the civil rights movement as well as many of the early gains made by activists in this era. The purpose of this activity is to illustrate the different thinking that contributes to the splintering of the civil rights movement in the mid to late 1960s.
I begin this lesson by asking students to analyze the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC) Statement of Purpose from 1960 and to compare this to an excerpt from a speech by Stokely Carmichael (Chairman of SNCC) in 1966.
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Founding Statement, April, 1960
We affirm the philosophical or religious ideal of nonviolence as the foundation of our purpose, the presupposition of our belief, and the manner of our action.
Nonviolence, as it grows from the Judeo-Christian tradition, seeks a social order of justice permeated by love. Integration of human endeavor represents the crucial first step towards such a society.
Through nonviolence, courage displaces fear. Love transcends hate. Acceptance dissipates prejudice; hope ends despair. Faith reconciles doubt. Peace dominates war. Mutual regards cancel enmity. Justice for all overthrows injustice. The redemptive community supersedes immoral social systems.
By appealing to conscience and standing on the moral nature of human existence, nonviolence nurtures the atmosphere in which reconciliation and justice become actual possibilities.
Although each local group in this movement must diligently work out the clear meaning of this statement of purpose, each act or phase of our corporate effort must reflect a genuine spirit of love and good-will.
Taken from http://www.crmvet.org/docs/sncc1.htm
Black Power Address by Stokely Carmichael (SNCC Chairman), Oct. 1966
Now we are now engaged in a psychological struggle in this country, and that is whether or not black people will have the right to use the words they want to use without white people giving their sanction to it; and that we maintain, whether they like it or not, we gonna use the word "Black Power" -- and let them address themselves to that; but that we are not going to wait for white people to sanction Black Power. We’re tired waiting; every time black people move in this country, they’re forced to defend their position before they move. It’s time that the people who are supposed to be defending their position do that. That's white people. They ought to start defending themselves as to why they have oppressed and exploited us.
And then, therefore, in a larger sense there's the question of black people. We are on the move for our liberation. We have been tired of trying to prove things to white people. We are tired of trying to explain to white people that we’re not going to hurt them. We are concerned with getting the things we want, the things that we have to have to be able to function. The question is, Can white people allow for that in this country? The question is, Will white people overcome their racism and allow for that to happen in this country? If that does not happen, brothers and sisters, we have no choice but to say very clearly, "Move over, or we’re going to move on over you."
This opening activity allows for practice analyzing primary source documents while also introducing the growing debate among activists over the best method to achieve their goals. After walking students through their analysis of these documents and leading a discussion about different views on civil rights, students are prompted to predict possible reasons that some civil rights activists began shifting away from nonviolence as a means of achieving change.
This discussion of the merits of nonviolence vs. the appeal of violent resistance leads us toward the two people most associated with these divergent views on civil rights; Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. To further understand the beliefs of these two leaders, students will analyze primary and secondary sources and develop a fictional dialogue between the two men.
Each student is assigned to play the role of either Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr. Students will analyze a secondary source to gain background knowledge about the figure they were assigned (I have used http://www.biography.com/ as a source for background information -- Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X). Each student will also analyze a primary source to further explain each man’s opinion of the best way to advance civil rights for African Americans. Students assigned to Martin Luther King Jr. will read The Power of Nonviolence and those assigned to Malcolm X will read A Summing Up: Louis Lomax Interviews Malcolm X. When I have done this activity with my AP U.S. History class I leave the documents as they are, but for my honors 9th grade U.S. History class I have edited the readings to allow for improved comprehension. These readings could take a while to complete, so depending on the amount of class time available, they could be assigned as homework. It may also be beneficial to utilize think-pair-share or another strategy to allow students to discuss their readings with other students who had the same person in order to clarify key concepts.
Next I pair each student with one of their classmates who had the opposite person. This pair of students is instructed to develop a fictional dialogue between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. This dialogue must include a discussion of the goals of each man, their views as to the best way to achieve their goals, and the conversation must include at least four differences between the two leaders.
When students finish their dialogue and I can see that they understand the different points of view concerning civil rights, then they are instructed to create an animated video that illustrates these differences. Xtranormal is a great source for this, it allows students to easily create animated videos in a short amount of time (GoAnimate offers a similar service as Xtranormal). Students will need to set up a free account (or the teacher could set up accounts ahead of time). Students may then choose a scene and characters (the free account limits these options somewhat, but there are still a number of choices). Xtranormal does have a Martin Luther King Jr. character, but there is no Malcolm X, so I suggest that students either choose different characters to represent these two men or that they shift their dialogue so that it is not Malcolm X and Martin Luther King talking, but rather different people discussing the views of these two. Students can then type their dialogue into Xtranormal and it will turn the text into speech. Students also have some limited options as to actions of their characters. I have found that many students get very interested in this lesson in part because they enjoy the opportunity to create animated videos on Xtranormal.
Through this lesson idea, students gain a better understanding of the differing views of civil rights as personified by Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, they practice the skill of analyzing primary source documents, and student interest is piqued through the creation of an animated video that demonstrates the divergent views on civil rights.