Educational Materials on the Civil Rights Era & Movement

These materials were compiled by the Cold Case Justice Initiative, with assistance from librarians Greg Ewing, Syracuse University College of Law Barclay Law Library; Angela A. Williams, Syracuse University Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in the Department of African American Studies; and Bonnie Ryan, Syracuse University Bird Library, as well as CCJI interns Callie Moncus and Susan Schneider.

The resources listed below include readings, films, lesson plans and websites for a range of ages, grade levels, subject matters, and for educators in primary and secondary education, higher education, and the public at large.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means and we hope visitors to this link will make suggestions for additional resources and share approaches and experiences with the materials they use to enhance learning, understanding and appreciation for the civil rights era and movement.  Please contact CCJI Administrative Assistant Colleen Denick at to suggest additional materials for this site.

We hope you will find these resources helpful and informative and we look forward to hearing from you.

Grades K-12

Kindergarten Through Fifth Grade


  • Celebrate African American Heritage and Culture with Penguin Young Readers Group 
    • Young readers are introduced to African American literature and are encouraged to share favorite books and stories through student-written book reviews, in-school newsletters and postings on school websites, and other activities. Suggested readings for Ages 3-8, Ages 8-12, Ages 10-up, and Ages 12-up.  Includes teaching suggestions.
  • Rosa Parks Changed the Rules (K-2) 
    • Students learn the story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott that began on December 1, 1955.  Suitable for Arts & Humanities – Language Arts, Literature, and Visual Arts; Social Studies – Civics, Economics, and History.  Lesson plan provided.
  • This is Rosa Parks (K-2) 
    • Students learn about unfair laws in the United States prior to the civil rights movement as shown through the story of Rosa Parks.  Students explore the idea that the actions of one person can change the life of many. Suitable for Language Arts, Library/Technology, Philanthropy and Social Studies.  Lesson plan provided.
  • MLK Mini-Unit (Created by April Larremore) 
    • Contains suggested reading list, art projects, and lesson plans for young students.

First Grade

Second Grade

  • American Civilization/Geography Overview 
  • The Civil Rights Movement (Kevin Supples)
  • Civil Rights: All Men (And Women!) Are Created Equal (Coleen Bever Lewis Palmer Charter Academy, Monument, Co and Linda Zellner, Core Knowledge Charter School, Parker, CO)

Third Grade

Fourth Grade

John Lewis is the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement, Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson, illustrated by Benny Andrews (Lee and Low Books,

Fifth Grade

Grades 6-8; Grades 9-12

The following curriculum resources are suitable for use for older students in secondary schools.  They introduce students to the civil rights era and its importance to US and world history, in addition to other specific subject areas, including geography, literature, art and culture, economics, government and politics, among others.  Through these materials and lessons, students examine United States history through analysis of the development of American culture, its diversity and multicultural context, and the ways people are unified by many values, practices, and traditions.

Current Curricula:

Common Core State Standards and English Language Arts (CCSS ELA) Lessons and Supplements:

Connecting to Current Events:

Not in Our Town: Class Actions & Not in Our Town: Light in the Darkness:

Class Actions features three stories of students and their communities standing together to stop hate and bullying. University of Mississippi students peacefully confront old divisions and the Ku Klux Klan by turning their backs on hate; hundreds gather on the Indiana University campus to light menorah candles after anti-Semitic attacks on campus; and a massive circle of southern California high school students break the silence about bullying at school with a loud and united chant, “Not In Our Town.”

Light in the Darkness is a one-hour documentary about a town coming together to take action after anti-immigrant violence devastates the community. In 2008, a series of attacks against Latino residents of Patchogue, New York culminate with the murder of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant who had lived in the Long Island village for 13 years.

Videos Available Online:

-PBS offers several invaluable resources on the main page cited above, including the video’s study guide, primary sources, and still images.  They also provide many grade appropriate activities and lessons on their website under the “For Teachers” tab.)

Freedom Riders:

Brown v. Board of Education

Lerone Bennett, Jr.

John Hope Franklin

Dorothy Height

B.B. King

Coretta Scott King

Rev. Joseph Lowery

James Meredith

Robert Moses:

Alvin Poussaint

Amelia Boynton Robinson

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth

Rev. C.T. Vivian

Rev. Wyatt Walker