American Civil Rights

American Civil Rights

American Civil Rights (ages 13-14)

This scheme of work looks at the development of the civil rights movement in America, from slavery and its role in the civil war to the fight for equality lead by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Along the journey students use notable aspects of the movement’s struggle to develop their drama skills, using split (President Lincoln’s assassination), thought tapping and improvisation (The Lynching), Essence Machines (Little Rock Nine) and symbolism (Strange Fruit). This scheme of work includes a video clip of ‘The Birth of a Nation’ and Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday.


This scheme of work contains 6 drama lesson plans.

  • Lesson 1: The American Civil War. The causes of the American Civil War are used to provide insight into life for black people of the time. The students use frozen pictures and spontaneous improvisation to dig deeper into this.
  • Lesson 2: Escaping Slavery and Lincoln’s Role. The lively group activity ‘The Underground Railway’ opens the lesson before an extract from the Gettysburg Address is read aloud. The need for the Civil Rights movement is understood through the a split scene depicting the assassination of President Lincoln and the abolition of slavery.
  • Lesson 3: Reconstruction and the Ku Klux Klan. The students are shown a clip from D.W.Giffith’s ‘Birth of a Nation’. Lingering racism is explored through the provocative class activity ‘The Lynching’, using mime, thought tapping and improvisation.
  • Lesson 4: Segregation and The Little Rock Nine. An essence machine is modelled by the class to represent segregation before the story of the Little Rock Nine is modelled by groups using various drama skills.
  • Lesson 5: Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Rosa Parks is introduced, and students read extracts of speeches from the two civil rights leaders. A spontaneous improvisation of the Washington Demonstration is performed by the whole class.
  • Lesson 6: Symbolism in Music. Themes and issues studied in the module are set to music, using the haunting piece ‘Strange Fruit’ by Billie Holiday.

Supporting materials include

  • The Causes of the American Civil War
  • The Little Rock Nine
  • The Montgomery Bus Incident
  • Martin Luther King – I have a dream (extracts)
  • Malcolm X Quotes
  • Video Clip from ‘Birth of a Nation’
  • Music File – Strange Fruit (Billie Holiday)

Additional resources are included in the appendices

  • End Of Unit Self-Assessment Form

The scheme of work is supplied as a ZIP file. It contains the scheme of work (PDF, readable on most computers) along with 1 music file (MP3 format) and 1 video file (MP4 format).


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