Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise Image Strip of Linda <i>Brown</i> walking to school, girl taking test at desk, Nettie Hunt and daughter with newspaper headline on steps of Supreme Court, present day children raising hands, children at computers
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One Person CAN Make a Difference
Download the full Lesson Plan including the Student Activity Sheets here (PDF) Background: When the African American students at Moton High School in Virginia took a stand and organized a peaceful protest to call attention to the poor conditions at their school and the inequities between schools for African Americans and Whites, they became a part of the group of cases that is now known as Brown v. Board of Education. The protest and subsequent lawsuit, organized solely by high school students in conjunction with help from the NAACP, illustrates how the actions of one person can make a difference. It also give students an example of how young people worked together to make a major change in the American educational system by being actively involved in the political and social issues that were affecting them.

Grade Levels: Grades 6-8
Subject Areas: Social Studies, Language Arts, Debate
Estimated Time: Approximately three to four 45-minute class periods (one period to complete Part 1and 2-3 periods to complete Part 2)
NOTE: Additional time may be required for all groups to share their projects with their classmates, depending on the amount of time the teacher allows for each group presentation.

Learning Objectives
Students will:
1. State their opinions in class discussion and presentations and support these opinions with reasons, facts, and examples.
2. Use notetaking skills to record data and factual information about the Moton High School student protest from a number of media and reference resources.
3. Participate in class discussion and brainstorming activities related to the Moton High School student protest as well as identifying school and community issues they could take a stand about and address.
4. Complete group projects and action plans for making changes in the school or community and follow specified group work guidelines and objectives while doing so.
5. Utilize thinking and problem solving skills to create group projects for presentation to classmates.
6. Work in small groups to create public awareness campaigns, action plans, and group presentations.
7. Make group presentations of their projects according to established presentation guidelines.
8. Evaluate the effectiveness of their projects in creating public awareness and establishing appropriate action plans for affecting change.

Relevant National Standards
This lesson correlates to the national McREL standards located online at

U.S. History
Standard 29: Understands the struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties

Standard 11: Understand the role of diversity in American life and the importanceof shared values, political beliefs, and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society
Standard 13: Understand the character of American political and social conflict and factors that tend to prevent or lower its intensity

Language Arts
Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes
Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
Listening and Speaking
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies to understand and interpret visual media
Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

Thinking and Reasoning
Standard 1: Understands and applies the basic principles of presenting an argument
Standard 5: Applies basic trouble-shooting and problem-solving techniques

Working with Others
Standard 1: Contributes to the overall effort of a group
Standard 4: Displays effective interpersonal communication skills

Materials Needed
  • Anticipation Guide (provided with plan - Download)
  • television and vcr for viewing the film
  • computers with Internet access or other library resource materials
  • Project Planning Guide (provided with plan - Download)
  • computers with word processing and desktop publishing capability (optional)
  • assorted art supplies such as poster board, paints, markers, stencils, glue, scissors

NOTE: To purchase "Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise" on video or DVD visit or call 1-800-343-5540 or write to:
Firelight Media
P.O. Box 1084
Harriman, NY 10926

1. Create student interest in the lesson by placing the Anticipation Guide face down on students' desks before they enter the classroom. Instruct them not to turn their papers over until directed.

2. When all students are seated, direct them to turn their papers over and review the directions for completing the guide. Give students approximately 5 minutes to complete the activity.

3. Once students are finished, facilitate a short discussion of each item on the Anticipation Guide. Encourage students to share as many ideas and opinions as possible as each item is discussed.

4. Close the discussion by explaining to students that they will be hearing the story of Barbara Jones and the other students of Moton High School and how their actions made a difference not only in their own school, but in all schools nationwide.

5. View the first 9:15 minutes of the film "Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise". Ask students to use the back of their anticipation guide to take notes about why the students were upset, specific things they did to try to improve the situation, and the overall result of their efforts by answering who, what, when, why, where, and how.
Other interesting information, thoughts, and ideas can be recorded in the "other" section.

6. When viewing is completed, discuss the facts of the Moton High School case using students' notes. In addition, refer to the various Moton web sites referenced in the Related Resources section to provide additional printed information, pictures, and details about the story. Use the following types of questions as you review the role of Moton students in the Brown case:
• What role did the students play in calling attention to conditions at the school?
• What actions did the students take to organize themselves into a unified group in order to fight for what they believed in?
• How did students manage to get the NAACP interested in their case?
• Which students were instrumental in the organization and development of the Moton High School case?
• What risks were these students willing to take in order to improve their educational facilities and opportunities?
• The students of Moton High School chose political activism and peaceful protest as the means for getting their point across and working for change. Why do you think the students chose not to use violent forms of protest to bring attention to their issues?
• What are some examples of various types of peaceful protest that can be used to call attention to a particular issue? Which of these techniques were used by the Moton High School students?
• What can/did you learn from the actions of the Moton High School students and what they ultimately achieved as a result of these actions?
• What responsibility does each person have when it comes to being politically active and involved?

7. Close the discussion by reminding students that because of the Moton High School students, among others, the idea of "separate but equal" was deemed unconstitutional, and as a result, American schools began the process of desegregation. Remind the class of the significance of the actions of the Moton High School students and how the case helped to change the American educational system.

Part 2:
8. Now that students have some background knowledge about the significance of activism, even by students, have them use a scratch paper to record the answers to the following questions:
• If I could make an impact or change one thing about my school it would be...
• If I could make an impact or change one thing about my community it would be...

9. When all students have had 1-2 minutes to respond, work as a class to brainstorm two lists. Call one "School Issues" and the other "Community Issues". Use the ideas recorded by students along with those generated by the brainstorming session to list as many items as possible for each category. Spend 5-10 minutes generating the lists.

10. Next, explain to students that as part of learning about the importance of activism and what it takes to create awareness and work together as a team, they will be assigned to groups that must work together to create a public awareness campaign and an action plan for calling attention to the problem and ways to correct the problem. Spend a few moments discussing:
• skills and techniques for working as a team
• appropriate ways to call attention to a problem/concern
• steps for creating an action plan to improve or correct the problem/concern
• appropriate ways to implement the action plan and cause change

11. Using the attached Project Planning Guide, have students work in groups of 4 to choose their issue, call attention to the problem, develop an action plan, and take the steps needed to implement the action plan.

12. Provide students with at least one class period to complete the Project Planning Guide.

13. To complete the lesson, have each group share its action plan and explain why they feel strongly about the issue. If time permits, allow debate and discussion of the issue between the group and the class. Post action plans and/or public awareness projects around the classroom or school for others to see and discuss.

14. As a final activity, have each student write a 1-2 paragraph response that addresses the following:
• By focusing on a school or community issue and working with my group to develop a public awareness campaign and action plan, I learned...

Evaluation Ideas
1. Students could receive participation grades for involvement in class discussion and on task work skills during group projects.
2. Groups could using self-evaluation checklists to describe the role of each group member in the group and evaluate the effectiveness of each person throughout the project. Criteria to be judged could include on task work time, completion of assigned portions of the project on time, quality of the work completed in relation to the rest of the project, speaking and presentation skills used during group presentation/discussion of the project.
3. Students could receive a completion grade for answering the open ended question from Part 2, Step 14.

Extension Activities
1. After all group presentations have been completed, have the class choose the best project and presentation related to a school issue and work to make changes in the school that pertain to that issue. Do this by inviting the principal and key decision makers into the classroom to see the presentation and field student questions and comments.

2. Using a medium such as the school newspaper or daily news program, invite the "press" into the classroom to interview students and present their ideas and points of view in special articles or stories in the newspaper or no the news broadcast.

Online Resources
Longwood University
Read the story "What Happened in Prince Edward County?" to learn the details of the Moton High School students' involvement in Brown v. Board of Education. Find this at:

In Pursuit of Freedom and Equity: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
Read an overview of the background and events that prompted the Moton High School students to protest and become a part of the Brown v. Board of Education lawsuit at

Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise
See pictures of the Moton High School students and school along with other photos related to the Brown v. Board of Education case at:
Learn the details of the protest and subsequent role of the Moton High School students in the Brown v. Board of Education case by seeing the Full History at:
See a comparison of "separate but equal" African American and white schools from the 1950's at:

About the Author:
Lisa Prososki is an independent educational consultant who taught middle school and high school English, social studies, reading, and technology courses for twelve years. Prososki has worked extensively with PBS authoring and editing many lesson plans for various PBS programs and Teacher - Source. In addition to conducting workshops for teachers at various state and national meetings, Prososki also works with many corporate clients creating training programs and materials, facilitating leadership and operations workshops, and providing instructional support for new program rollouts. Prososki has authored one book and also serves as an editor for other writers of instructional materials.

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