Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching

Editors & Advisors | Funders & Donors | Endorsements | Handouts | Table of Contents

This website, a project of Teaching for Change, provides lessons, handouts, news, and resources for teaching about the role of everyday people in the Civil Rights Movement. On the site, you can find handouts and more information about many of the lessons in our book, Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching.

The Civil Rights Movement is celebrated in our national narrative as a people’s struggle for social justice. However, the powerful stories of everyday people organizing and working together for social change are lost in the teaching of a few major heroes and dates. The effect is disempowering for our current and future generations that hope to make the world a better place. Students learn to believe the way that change happens is by following the next “big leader,” instead of an accurate history that emphasizes immense contributions from all people working together to make a difference.

Published by Teaching for Change and PRRAC for pre-K-12 educators, Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching is a teaching resource book that emphasizes the power of people through a diversity of stories, perspectives, essays, photographs, graphics, interviews, and interactive and interdisciplinary lessons. The book includes sections on education, labor, citizenship, culture, and reflections on teaching about the Civil Rights Movement. The rationale and purpose of the book are outlined in the Introduction.

Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching is being used in school districts and with community groups across the country. We are proud that the book is one of the featured titles at the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC).

In a collaborative effort to bring this history to the classroom, Teaching for Change is an active partner in the Freedom Movement Educational Initiative. Other collaborators are the SNCC Legacy Project, Civil Rights Movement Veterans (CRMvet.org), Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies, Mississippi NAACP/One Voice, and the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. The goal of this collaboration is: 

To develop, promote, and disseminate educational curricula that will preserve and share the history of the struggle for human rights from the point of the view of the people who made the history. This will be done through the lens of the Black Freedom Struggle, which provides a model for how to achieve social change in a democracy—a model that is relevant to the issues faced by people around the world today.

The key sources of history for the collaborative projects are the SNCC Digital Gateway and CRMvet.org. The most recent projects were a 2017 Mississippi teacher institute at Tougaloo College and a 2018 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Teacher Institute at Duke University. 

In addition, Teaching for Change partners with Rethinking Schools on the Zinn Education Project. The Zinn Education Project provides access to free downloadable lessons on the people's history of the United States from the pre-colonial era to today. These include many lessons and additional resources on the long history of the Civil Rights Movement and related struggles.


“Breathtaking in its array of interdisciplinary lessons, readings, photographs, primary source documents, and interviews, this fertile resource helps students move beyond the “heroes approach” toward a more critical analysis of the civil rights movement.”

Social Studies School Service

“Everyone should learn the story of the Civil Rights Movement. The struggle is depicted here vividly and profoundly by a distinguished roster of authors. Their accounts and analysis should inspire teachers as well as students. This book is as academically rigorous as it is innovative—it is an excellent resource.”

Frank H. Wu
Professor, Howard University Law School and
Author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White


“This strong and moving book helps introduce, inform, and illuminate for a new generation the powerful lessons of the civil rights movement for our work today. It will help teachers ‘serve as midwives’ for a more just and caring society.”

Linda Darling-Hammond
Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education
Stanford University

Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching gets to the roots of the Movement. It takes the reader beyond the famous leaders, displaying the depth of history, drawing international connections and showing how the pieces of the Movement actually fit together.”

Bill Fletcher Jr.
President, TransAfrica Forum


“Civil rights teaching should lift up extraordinary leaders whose personal courage and sacrifice transformed our nation and our history. But it should also recognize the thousands of other acts of resistance and civil disobedience—by neighbors, grandmothers, youth, and everyday heroes—that created an unstoppable tidal wave of ethical conscience and human progress. Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching is a unique collection of urgent voices who remind us that true and lasting movements for social, economic, and racial justice begin with you and me.”

Wendy D. Puriefoy
President, Public Education Network

Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching helps teachers and students understand the complexities of the change process in society, making the study of history immediately relevant. In this teaching guide, the Civil Rights Movement claims its rightful place as the inspiration for broader movements for democratic change. This book might just help re-inspire a whole new generation of teachers and students to a life of activism and movement building, not to mention help teachers impart a real understanding of history.”

Mark Simon
Director, MCEA (NEA)
Johns Hopkins University Center For Teacher Leadership


“This is a wonderful resource and will appeal to teachers who want their students to understand that they themselves can play a role in re-making the world.”

Nancy Murray
Director, Bill of Rights Education Project
ACLU of Massachusetts

“This is a much-needed resource for classrooms, and I think it does succeed in putting the Movement back into civil rights teaching!”

Enid Lee
Co-editor, Beyond Heroes and Holidays


“It seems to me that the primary strength of this project is its breadth. The book covers a wide range of topics and concerns, including a variety of historical events, several Movement participants, and an array of pedagogical tools and strategies. The combination of lesson plans, historical information, and theoretical analysis makes this a compelling volume. I anticipate that it will be a valuable aid to teachers both in their teaching and in their own understanding of the Movement.”

Stephen Ward
Assistant Professor, Afro-American and African Studies
University of Michigan

Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching is one of the only curricula to connect the Civil Rights Movement to the struggles of Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and women. It’s an incredible tool not just for teaching history, but also for teaching students to take up the legacy these movements helped to create.”

Ariana Quinones
Deputy Vice President for Education
National Council of La Raza


Deborah Menkart

Jenice View, Alana Murray, and Deborah Menkart

Jenice View, Alana Murray, and Deborah Menkart

Deborah Menkart is the executive director of Teaching for Change, a non-profit organization working for social and economic justice by promoting equity-related teaching materials, offering professional development, and increasing parent power in schools. Menkart is also the co-editor of Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practical Guide to K–12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development and co-director of the Zinn Education Project.

Menkart’s activism began in junior high school when she joined protests of D.C.’s “taxation without representation” and the “dresses-only” dress code for girls. During the 1970s she lived in San Diego, California, where she worked as a shipyard electrician and was involved in the antiwar, women’s, international solidarity, and labor movements. Menkart received a B.A. in Human Services and a master’s in curriculum and instruction from George Washington University.


Alana D. Murray

Alana D. Murray is an educator-activist who has taught world history on both the middle- and high-school levels and currently serves as a middle school principal in Montgomery County, Maryland public schools. She has created pilot lessons on African-American history, conducted youth leadership training workshops for several organizations (including the National Youth Leadership Forum), and has provided professional development to educators at conferences across the country. She is the author of The Development of the Alternative Black Curriculum, 1890-1940: Countering the Master Narrative.

Murray received a B.A. in government and politics from the University of Maryland, a M.A.T. from Brown University, and her PhD from the University of Maryland. Her work on this project stems from both professional and personal experience. She is the granddaughter of Donald Gaines Murray, whose landmark lawsuit against the University of Maryland Law School successfully desegregated the university. Her grandparents dedicated their careers to an equal education for all children and her parents instilled the critical roles of research and community organizing.


Jenice L. View

Jenice L. View is an associate professor in the Transformative Teaching program at George Mason University. For more than 25 years, View has worked with a variety of educational and nongovernmental organizations, including a D.C. public charter school, the Just Transition Alliance, Rural Coalition, the Association for Community Based Education, and LISTEN, Inc. to create space for the voices that are often excluded from public policy considerations: women, people of color, poor urban and rural community residents, and especially youth. She has a B.A. from Syracuse University, an MPA-URP from Princeton, and a Ph.D. from the Union Institute and University.

View, a native of one of the last U.S. colonies (Washington, DC), is the proud mother of two daughters, Ava and Leah. She hopes to pass on her inheritance of being a politically aware and socially active woman that she received from many including her paternal grandparents (among the first organizers in the Nation of Islam in the 1940s), and her parents (who have helped form and sustain many local D.C. community institutions).


These are the advisors for both the first (2004) edition and the 2018 edition of the book.

Bill Bigelow  2004 and 2018

Bill Bigelow
2004 and 2018

Clayborne Carson   2004

Clayborne Carson


James Forman   2004

James Forman


Suheir Hammad   2004

Suheir Hammad


Mark Levy  2018

Mark Levy

Renee Poussaint   2004 and 2018

Renee Poussaint

2004 and 2018

Stephen Ward   2004 and 2018

Stephen Ward

2004 and 2018

Toni Blackman   2004 and 2018

Toni Blackman

2004 and 2018

Charles Cobb Jr.   2004 and 2018

Charles Cobb Jr.

2004 and 2018

Danny Glover   2004

Danny Glover


Mia Henry  2018

Mia Henry

Elizabeth (Betita) Martinez   2004

Elizabeth (Betita) Martinez


Sonia Sanchez   2004

Sonia Sanchez


Debbie Wei   2004

Debbie Wei


Elsa Barkley Brown   2004 and 2018

Elsa Barkley Brown

2004 and 2018

Emilye Crosby  2018

Emilye Crosby

Juan Gonzalez   2004

Juan Gonzalez


Sylvia Hill   2004 and 2018

Sylvia Hill

2004 and 2018

Nancy Murray   2004

Nancy Murray


Robyn Spencer  2018

Robyn Spencer

Yohuru R. Williams   2004 and 2018

Yohuru R. Williams

2004 and 2018

Elise Bryant   2004

Elise Bryant


Bill Fletcher Jr.   2004 and 2018

Bill Fletcher Jr.

2004 and 2018

Lawrence Guyot   2004

Lawrence Guyot


Hasan Kwame Jeffries  2018

Hasan Kwame Jeffries

Charles Payne   2004 and 2018

Charles Payne

2004 and 2018

Lynda Tredway   2004 and 2018

Lynda Tredway

2004 and 2018

Howard Zinn   2004

Howard Zinn


The funders for the 2004 edition of the book and website included Akonadi Foundation, Susan A. and Donald P. Babson Charitable Foundation, CLMER, Fannie Mae Foundation, George Gund Foundation, Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., and LEARN, a federally-funded Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology (PT3) Project.

We are seeking support for the 2018 edition of Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching. To date, we have received donations from individuals and from the Rights and Opportunities Foundation