Living the Legacy


Civil Disobedience: Freedom Rides

Unit 2 , Lesson 3

Jewish Women's Archive - Living the Legacy

Civil Disobedience: Freedom Rides

Lesson plan:
  1. Introduction: Civil Disobedience

    1. Write the words "Civil Disobedience" on the chalk board, white board, or a piece of chart paper.
    2. Distribute copies of the Scenario Worksheet to your students. Have a couple of students read the scenarios out loud. When all three scenarios have been shared, ask your students:
      • Which of these scenarios is an example of civil disobedience?
    3. Once the correct scenario has been chosen, ask your students: Based on this example, how would you define civil disobedience? Write the responses on the chalk board, white board, or a piece of chart paper under the words "Civil Disobedience." After as many students have had a chance to respond as possible, add anything to the class definition that you feel may be missing.
    4. Explain that civil disobedience, as a philosophy, was first described and used by Henry David Thoreau in America in 1849. Since then it has been used by those fighting for their rights and national independence throughout the world. A few examples include: Mahatma Gandhi's fight for Indian independence from Great Britain and the fight to end Apartheid in South Africa. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a proponent of civil disobedience, and it was used throughout the American Civil Rights Movement. Emphasize that non-violence was a central component of civil disobedience and a challenging one for civil rights activists, who were often brutally attacked and beaten.
    5. Have your students turn over their Scenario Worksheet and review together Gandhi's Rules for Civil Disobedience. Explain that Gandhi developed certain rules of civil disobedience during his fight for Indian independence. Civil disobedience as practiced by King and his followers followed similar rules.
    6. Ask your students:
      • What are some examples of civil disobedience from the Civil Rights Movement?
        (Possible responses might include: sit-ins at lunch counters, refusing to move from a seat in the white section/black section of a bus, a peaceful march, a bus boycott, etc.) You may want to write your students' responses on the chalk board, white board, or chart paper.
      • How do you think you might respond if you were participating in an act of civil disobedience and someone taunted or cursed you?
      • How do you think you might respond if you were participating in an act of civil disobedience and someone attacked you physically?
      • What issues would you be willing to engage in civil disobedience for?
    7. Explain that responding to violence with non-violence required a lot of training and self-discipline.
  2. Document Study: Judith Frieze, Freedom Rider

    1. Tell your students:
      Today we're going to learn about a young woman, just a few years older than you, who took part in the civil disobedience of the Civil Rights Movement by volunteering for a project called the Freedom Rides.
    2. Distribute copies of the Document StudyDocument StudyDocument StudyDocument StudyDocument Study to your students. Have a student read the introductory paragraph about Judith Frieze and the Freedom Rides. You may also want to review some of the information from the introductory essay with your students, so that they understand the context for Frieze's stories. Be sure to define any terms your students may not be familiar with.
    3. Break your class into small groups and have them read the excerpts from The Boston Globe on Document Study #1 out loud. Each group should choose one of Frieze's statements that stands out to them as being the most significant part of her experience.
    4. Have your students come back together as a class and share the statements they chose.
    5. Using the questions on the Document Study, discuss The Boston Globe articles with your students.
    6. While you're discussing the articles, you may want to project the "mug shot" taken of Judith Frieze when she was arrested during the Freedom Ride, which appears at the beginning of this lesson.
    7. Let your students know that Judith Frieze – now Judith Frieze Wright – told JWA in a 2010 conversation about the Boston Globe articles that she was not happy with the articles when they came out – she felt they were too "fluffy," highlighting details like conditions in the prison rather than the important civil rights issues at stake. Frieze later returned South to work for a year as a civil rights activist.
    8. Optional: Play the video clip of Judith Frieze Wright. Introduce the video by explaining: The Jewish Women's Archive (the creators of this lesson) invited Judith Frieze Wright to be interviewed at their 2010 Institute for Educators. We're going to watch a portion of that interview in which she reflects back on her experience as a Freedom Rider, from the perspective of 49 years later.
    9. After watching the video as a class, ask students to turn to the person next to them to talk about what they thought of Wright’s reflections, using the provided discussion questions as a guide.
  3. Civil Disobedience Training Video

    1. This activity is designed as an in-class video project. If you do not have access to video equipment, the activity may also be done as a series of skits presented at the end of class.
    2. Remind your students that in The Boston Globe articles, Judith Frieze talks about certain things the volunteers were told in preparation for their Freedom Ride; this included what to do if they were met by an angry mob, what would happen if they were arrested, and how to carry out civil disobedience. Other activists have described similar "training" before an event, which often included a review of civil disobedience philosophy and rules as well as practical advice, such as "I don't want to be killed because you decided to throw a brick."
    3. Explain that in the 1960s, civil rights "training" was informal and done in person. In our modern, tech-savvy world, such "training" might involve a "training video" prepared by professional civil disobedience instructors. Today, our class is going to make such a "training video."
    4. In order to make the "video," take your students through the following steps:
      1. As a class, choose a type of civil disobedience action (you may want to refer to the list of examples from the beginning of class).
      2. Break your class into small groups. Each group will be responsible for developing and acting out a section of the video. Sections might include: Titles (responsible for checking with the different groups and developing appropriate title signs); The reason for our action (choose the cause you're fighting for. It could be something in your local news. You could make a list as a class and then vote on a cause. Your cause may also become obvious as you choose a type of civil disobedience action); Civil Disobedience rules and philosophy; What to expect at the action; What to expect if you're arrested (the arrest experience and time in prison); Reflections by activists from previous events. (Depending on your class size and time, you may want to add sections, delete sections, or combine sections.)
      3. Instruct your students to use the information gathered from the Introduction and Text Study to develop their section of the video. Provide time for the groups to develop their ideas and practice their part of the "training video."
      4. If you have access to video equipment, film each group individually, and show the whole video at the end of class or at the beginning of the next class. OR If you do not have access to video equipment, have all the groups perform their "skits" for the rest of the class.
  4. Optional Assignment: Personal Sacrifice

    1. This assignment can be done in the classroom or as a homework assignment.
    2. Have your students write a 1-2 page essay describing ideals in their world that they feel are so important they would be willing to make the kinds of sacrifices that Judith Frieze and other Freedom Riders made (i.e. getting arrested, temporary loss of freedom to come and go as they please, or doing with less food, money, luxuries.)
    3. When the essays are done, you may want to have a few students read theirs out loud or post some on a bulletin board in your classroom or a school corridor.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Living the Legacy - Lesson: Civil Disobedience: Freedom Rides." (Viewed on April 16, 2014) <>.