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Civil Rights Movement: Respond and Relate | Activity

Benedict J. Fernandez, Memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., Central Park, New York, April 1968

Benedict J. Fernandez, Memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., Central Park, New York, April 1968, gelatin silver print, Corcoran Collection (Gift of Michael S. Engl), 2016.22.112

Danny Lyon, John Lewis and Colleagues, Prayer Demonstration at a Segregated Swimming Pool, Cairo, Illinois, 1962, printed 1969

Danny Lyon, John Lewis and Colleagues, Prayer Demonstration at a Segregated Swimming Pool, Cairo, Illinois, 1962, printed 1969, gelatin silver print, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase), 2015.19.4466

Invite students to explore the artwork from the image set in pairs or small groups, recording their observations on sticky notes. As part of this exercise, you may wish to gather images from contemporary news to correspond with the artwork from the civil rights movement. For example, juxtapose a photograph from a Black Lives Matter protest with an image from a 1960s prayer demonstration.

As they explore, encourage students to write down how each image makes them feel, what it makes them think about, and any questions it prompts. Once students have examined all the images, debrief as a group by discussing the following questions:

  • What stood out to you or surprised you about the artwork?
  • What has changed since the civil rights movement? What has not changed?
  • What does it mean to fight for civil rights today? What does it mean to be an activist?
  • What are some social or political issues that you care about? What matters to you?

As a follow-up, ask students to create a poster about an issue that they care about.