The Hidden Civil Rights Movement: An Exploration of Black Activism and Public Policy Outside the American South

Ms. Burks

PS/MS 46



Usually, the study of the Civil Rights movement highlights the struggle of Southern Blacks and the efforts of leaders and groups to address these social problems. However, evidence suggests the ethnic prejudice experienced by African Americans was not restricted to the South.  In this WebQuest you will create a final product that explores the racism experienced by African Americans in regions other than the South during the Civil Rights movement. Additionally, you will discuss the efforts of individuals and groups to address these issues and whether it resulted in social and political change.



Objective: Students will be able to summarize the social and political conditions that influenced African American participation in the Civil Rights Movement in various locations throughout the United States.

Learning Target: I can explore political and social conditions leading to African American activism during the Civil Rights era in cities across the United States by gathering information from Internet sources and summarizing those details in a PowerPoint presentation. 

Student Product: Students will organize and exhibit their findings in a PowerPoint presentation.

Doable Timeframe: Students will have three class periods (at 50 minutes each) to conduct their research and produce a final presentation.

Vocabulary: Social Conditions  Political Conditions



Students at PS/MS 46 have been exploring the concept of race; either through the lens of remote history (the colonial era) or more recent times (The Great Migration and Harlem Renaissance).  This activity will further explore the evolution of this idea through the scope of the Civil Rights era.  Students will work either individually or in groups to examine the enduring conditions that contributed to African American activism in previously unheard or minimally mentioned communities.  To critically investigate this topic, students will implement the American History Public Policy Analyst process to further understand how this social problem led to change in public policy.  This activity should take three class periods with a PowerPoint presentation as their final product.

Begin by exploring the websites below to learn more about conditions African Americans faced that contributed to their motivation for wanting equal opportunities and resources in their communities. After reviewing the articles, you will be assigned a city based on whether you are working individually or with a group.  You will read both Black Freedom Struggle of the North and the article for your assigned city listed below. You must also find one additional article that explains the contributing factor you chose for slide three.

(All) The Black Freedom Struggle of the North - AAIHS

(New York) How New York changes the story of the Civil Rights Movement By Martha Biondi

(Chicago)Chicago Freedom Movement (1965–1967) •

(Denver) Community Control: Civil Rights Resistance in the Mile High City

(Los Angeles) CORE and the Early Civil Rights Movement in Los Angeles - AAIHS

(Little Rock) The history of the sit-in movement in Little Rock - Arkansas Times

(Detroit) The Rise of Detroit's Black Power Movement | Medium

The American History Public Policy Analyst (AHPPA) approach has four steps:  

  1. Define the Problem
  2. Gather the Evidence
  3. Identify the Causes
  4. Evaluate the Policy


1.  Define the Problem (Slide One)

Your first slide should describe the social and political conditions of the city you selected and how they contributed to racial prejudice against Black Americans.  Be sure to review the links in the vocabulary section to define each term and explain the unique or similar characteristics that reinforce the racial inequalities of that era.  This is where you describe your theory as to the gaps between the goals of America (according to the Bill of Rights) and the issues this group faced during the Civil Rights Era.  Use the link and graphic organizer below to help you analyze specific components of the Bill of Rights that describe the ideal society and compare it to the reality described in your chosen articles.  Item one will be the key factor contributing to the racial inequality of that area while Item two is the Bill of Rights article(s) representing the goals being unmet.  In the similarity column you will explain what you believe Blacks and Founding Fathers both saw as the best possible circumstances to create a model America.

The Bill of Rights

Compare and Contrast Chart Graphic Organizer

You will summarize those similarities and differences and compose a statement that contains an overall explanation of the problem.

2.  Gather the Evidence (Slide Two)

Students will use the graphic organizer below to jot down details to support their assumptions concerning racism and the social and political environment in your chosen city which created this problem during the Civil Rights era.. In this slide you will highlight the resources that assisted you with drawing your conclusions and summarize some of key details from the information you gathered.


3.   Identify the Causes (Slide Three)

Now that you have some general knowledge of the social and political conditions, you will explore the causes related to the lack of national focus on the racial inequalities in other parts of the United States.  List the factors contributing to your selected cause(s) using the graphic organizer below.

Examples of contributing factors include:

    Individual prejudice

    Institutional racism

    Racial discrimination

    Lower quality schools

    Lack of job opportunities


4.  Evaluate the Policy (Slide Four)

In this slide you will take your analysis one step further by explaining the public policies that resulted from activists working to improve racial inequality in the United States. Use the graphic organizer below to list the facts to further explain your chosen policy. On the line which says “Topic” you will write the policy (ex. Civil Rights Act of 1964).  Use each of the articles below to discuss your policy.

Flow Chart

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom The Segregation Era (1900–1939)

8 Key Laws That Advanced Civil Rights | HISTORY

U.S. Senate: Landmark Legislation: The Civil Rights Act of 1964

On the slide you will summarize your findings and delve into how this policy will benefit or threaten your chosen community.  How will it address your contributing factor? Will activism need to continue, or should African Americans change their focus to other conditions (such as economic inequality) that plague that community?



Evaluation rubric for PowerPoint Presentation:



After submitting their presentations, students will complete the form below to reflect on their learning experience.



(Social Studies) 8.9 DOMESTIC POLITICS AND REFORM: The civil rights movement and the Great Society were attempts by people and the government to address major social, legal, economic, and environmental problems. Subsequent economic recession called for a new economic program. (Standards 1, 4, 5).

(English/Language Arts) STANDARD 9: Analyze and evaluate texts using knowledge of literary forms, elements, and devices through a variety of lenses and perspectives.