Introduction: A Moment in Time

  1. At the very beginning of class, show the "Signs of Segregation" without providing an introduction (and asking students to hold their questions).
  2. After you finish showing the slides, ask your students:
    • How did it feel/what did you think when you looked at these photographs?
    • Why do you think you reacted this way?
    (Give as many students as possible a chance to respond.)
  3. Ask your students, "Where and when in American history might we have found these signs of segregation?" (Possible responses might include: Southern states in the early to mid-20th century; in restaurants, buses, trains, bus and train stations.) If your students need prompting, remind them that in the early to mid 20th century in the South lunch counters, buses, drinking fountains, and other public places were set up like this with separate areas for African Americans and whites. The photographs in the slide show are all from the 1930s and 1940s, but formal public segregation persisted into the 1960s -- well after the Supreme Court had ruled that separate schools were not equal. (If students want to know more about how segregation laws changed, refer to the lesson on the 1961 Freedom Rides.)
  4. Have your students imagine they are living in the South in the mid-20th century, and ask them:
    What do you think you would have done if you walked into a segregated bus station, into a segregated restaurant…?
    (Be sure to allow for a wide range of responses. Invite students of as many different backgrounds, races, and ethnicities as possible to respond, without putting anyone on the spot.)
  5. Explain:
    While we tend to think of the Civil Rights Movement in terms of large, organized events like boycotts, marches, and sit-ins, before and during the Civil Rights Movement there were many moments of personal resistance when one person, on her own, tried to effect change in a small way. We're going to meet some of those people today and explore what they did, why they did it, and what difference it made.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Introduction: A Moment in Time." (Viewed on September 28, 2021) <>.


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