Teaching the Montgomery Bus Boycott

 

Quiz | Lessons | Books | Primary Documents and Articles | Films

Students learn from pre-school through high school that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in Montgomery, the buses were desegregated, and the Civil Rights Movement was launched. The disconnect between Rosa Parks’ arrest and the 381-day boycott creates the illusion that it was a spontaneous response to Rosa Parks’ civil disobedience. This, however, discounts the strategic brilliance and courage of the African American community in Montgomery.

It is critical for students to learn that 50,000 citizens had to sacrifice everyday for over a year to sustain the boycott and change the course of our history. Recognizing the citizens of Montgomery does not diminish the actions of the politically astute Rosa Parks, but rather puts her in context of a greater social struggle for justice.

As Herbert Kohl explains in the classic article, The Politics of Children’s Literature,

When the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott is told merely as a tale of a single heroic person, it leaves children hanging. The idea that only special people can create change is useful if you want to prevent mass movements and keep change from happening.

Here are resources for teaching the more complete story.

Quiz

Mythbusters Quiz on the Montgomery Bus Boycott
This “learn-as-you-go” quiz, created by Teaching for Change, is designed for grades 6-12 and for professional development.

mythbusters-boycott

Lessons

Role Play: Montgomery Bus Boycott Organizing Strategies and Challenges (PDF) and Handouts (PDF)
A five part lesson for grades 7-12 helps students understand the challenges faced by the Montgomery Improvement Association as they worked to organize and sustain the boycott for 381 days. From Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching.

Dramatization of the Bus Boycott for First and Second Grade (PDF)
How to introduce the story of the boycott to young children. By Maggie Donovan. From Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching.

 

Books

9780312376024 9780064420259 claudettecolvin freedomw
1532.cover_ 9780807846612 9780553352320 9780870495274
9781878554185 rebelliouslifeofmrsparks 9780807871010 atthedarkendofthestreet
BusRide9781588382863 Household978-080701450-9 9780141301204

 

Primary Documents and Articles

politics-children-lit

The Politics of Children’s Literature: What’s Wrong with the Rosa Parks Myth

A critical analysis by Herb Kohl (originally published by Rethinking Schools) that challenges the myths in children’s books about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

MBB ParksNotes

Civil Rights Movement Veterans Website

The CRMvet.org website offers a detailed, highly engaging narrative history of the Montgomery Bus Boycott within a historical context. The narrative includes first person testimonies and links to primary documents

national-archives

National Archives and Records Administration

The National Archives includes the arrest records of Rosa Parks in their teaching with documents collection.

alabama-archives

Freedom’s Main Line

Learn how activists in Louisville, Kentucky successfully campaigned against segregated streetcars in 1870-71 in this article from the Teaching Tolerance booklet, “A Place at the Table.”

nashville_map_with_union_streetcar_routes_cropped

Widespread Boycotts at the Turn of the Century

Read about dozens of boycotts by African Americans in “The Boycott Movement Against Jim Crow Streetcars in the South, 1900-1906” by August Meier from the Journal of American History.

rosa-parks-material

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress houses an extensive collection on Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

 

Film and Audio-Visual

teaching-bus-boycott

Teaching About the Montgomery Bus Boycott

In this short film, Teaching About the Montgomery Bus Boycott, first grade teacher Maggie Donovan (SNCC veteran) introduces her students to the fight to desegregate the buses, placing Rosa Parks in the context of the larger community efforts. This film by Teaching for Change is ideal for professional development workshops. 2006. 15 min.

boycott-screenshot

Montgomery Bus Boycott: They Changed the World

The website Montgomery Bus Boycott: They Changed the World offers video clips of activists about the events surroundings the boycott, voices of the boycott, news articles, and more.

eyes-prize

Eyes on the Prize: American Civil Rights Movement 1954-1985

Eyes on the Prize, the award-winning 14-hour television series, produced by Blackside and narrated by Julian Bond, includes a segment on the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

boycott

Boycott


A made-for-TV movie that dramatizes the events of the Montgomery bus
boycott, weaving vintage newsreel footage with scenes depicting the
grassroots organizing and leadership challenges. It is an older film,
 however it does a good job of challenging the traditional narrative.
 Actors include Carmen Ejogo and Terrence Howard. 2001.120 minutes.

Ida_B._Wells

Women and the Civil Rights Movement

Professor Elsa Barkley Brown produced a PowerPoint presentation on women in the Civil Rights Movement with a focus on the long history of resistance to segregation on public transportation. Posted here with permission of the author.


Please email us if you have corrections and/or any resources we can add for teaching about the Montgomery Bus Boycott.


Location: Alabama
Type: Lesson
Grade Level: 10-12
Time Period: 1950 -1974