Rosa Parks stood up for her belief that all humans have equal rights, and her experience during the Civil Rights Movement is a powerful example of quiet courage and respect.
As you teach about Parks during Black History Month or during a unit on the Civil Rights Movement, students can feel inspired by her words and actions. And Studies Weekly’s resources can help.
Parks’ life and experiences can lead to powerful well-being discussions with your students. Parks’ actions can help students understand their own ability to stand up for something they believe in.
1. Background Information
Rosa Parks is heralded as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” and rightly so. Her act of resistance to the racism she regularly experienced in 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, kicked off the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott, and led to further successes in the fight for civil rights.
“What Rosa Parks did was significant because of who she was. When she was thrown in jail, then everybody said, `Well, if Rosa Parks can’t be treated right on a bus, nobody can be treated right on a bus,’ and she was the kind of person who had the total respect of the community, and they rallied around her and started a movement,” said Civil Rights leader and former United States Ambassador Andrew Young in an 1992 CBS interview.
Parks courage, and the bravery of “the nameless cooks and maids who walked endless miles for a year to bring about the breach in the walls of segregation,” rallied Civil Rights activists across the South. But, while leaders and activists preached and practiced peaceful protest, they were often met with violent reactions.
“Though the righteousness of [Parks’] actions may seem self-evident today, at the time, those who challenged segregation — like those who challenge racial injustice today — were often treated as unstable, unruly and potentially dangerous by many white people and some black people,” said Jeanne Theoharis in her 2015 Washington Post article.
As a result of her part in the boycott, Parks lost her job and was harassed and threatened. In 1957, she moved with her family to Detroit. She continued advocating for civil rights until her death in 2005.
Watch this video with your students.
You can find this video, plus additional articles and images, on our online platform, Studies Weekly Online. Just search for “Rosa Parks” in the Search Bar.
3. Discuss Rosa Parks
Lead a discussion on Parks’ actions. Possible leading questions:
1. What did Rosa Parks believe in?
2. How did Rosa Parks defend what she believed in?
3. How did Rosa Parks advocate for the rights of African Americans?
4. What did Rosa Parks do to promote treating others with respect?
5. How did the Civil Rights Movement help improve everyone’s civil rights?
4. Apply Rosa Parks’ Actions
Use the following questions to lead well-being discussions with your students:
1. What does it mean to defend what you believe in? How can you
respectfully defend your own beliefs today?
2. How can you advocate for the rights of all people, like Rosa Parks did?
3. What does it mean to show respect to others in your class?
4. What can you do to promote treating one another with respect?
5. How can you show respect for others who have different beliefs than you?
6. What have you done today that helped someone else feel valued?
7. Analyze your actions in the last month. Is there anything you have
said or done that could make someone feel less valued? How could you
change what you said or did?
8. What is something you would like to be remembered for?
The Power of Social Studies
At its very basic level, social studies teaches us about ourselves by teaching us about “the other.” Thus, through its stories, conflicts, compromises and resolutions, social studies teaches traits like empathy, strength, and courage with authenticity. You do not need to craft separate well-being lessons, because your students discover the true character of historical figures through questioning, pondering, and debating sources and views.