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HUMAN RIGHTS AND CIVIL RIGHTS
CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES


Grades 9-12
Introduction:
From an early age, Ralph Bunche was very concerned about civil rights for African Americans. That concern developed into a broader interest in human rights in the United States and around the world. Bunche was closely involved in the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and lobbied to make sure the document was taken seriously. He expressed his views on human rights in landmark writings, particularly A World View of Race. He also worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and other American civil rights leaders.

Students have learned about the Civil Rights Movement, and they’ve most likely heard about human rights issues in different parts of the world. This lesson takes the concept of rights a step further by having students discuss the relationship between rights and responsibilities, the different types of rights (e.g. political, economic, and cultural), and the ways in which human rights leaders, including Bunche, believe human rights violations should be addressed.

If it’s been a while since students studied the American Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century, it might be helpful to review this topic before beginning the lesson. The following Web sites will be helpful:

Objectives:
Students will:

  • Discuss the concepts of rights and responsibilities.
  • Review and answer questions about the Bill of Rights.
  • Read and answer questions about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Discuss their knowledge of the United States Civil Rights Movement.
  • Provide definitions and examples of human rights.
  • List categories of rights and provide examples from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • View and take notes on parts of the Bunche documentary.
  • Research and answer questions about the beliefs and tactics of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X.
  • Research a present-day human rights campaign and write interviews in which Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Bunche express their opinions about how the campaign should be conducted.


Materials:

  • Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey videotape
  • VCR and TV
  • Computer with Internet connection (ideal, but not mandatory)

Estimated Time
5-6 class periods

Relevant National Standards:

United States History Standards (from McREL: http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks)

  • Standard 29: Understands the struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties

Civics Standards (from McREL: http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks)

  • Standard 1: Understands ideas about civic life, politics, and government
  • Standard 11: Understands the role of diversity in American life and the importance of shared values, political beliefs, and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society
  • Standard 14: Understands issues concerning the disparities between ideals and reality in American political and social life
  • Standard 25: Understands issues regarding personal, political, and economic rights
  • Standard 26: Understands issues regarding the proper scope and limits of rights and the relationships among personal, political, and economic rights


Teaching Strategy:

  1. Introduce the lesson by writing the words "Rights" and "Responsibilities" on the board. Ask students what they think the relationship is between these two words. Have them list examples of the rights that they have as students in your class or at school. Then have them list their responsibilities. Are they required to meet the responsibilities in order to receive the benefits of the rights? If their rights were denied them, would they have a responsibility to defend those rights?

  2. Have students review the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights Ask them to answer the following questions in a class discussion:
    • How important are these rights to United States citizens?
    • Are these rights granted in all other countries?
    • Do these rights come with any responsibilities? What responsibilities do we as United States citizens have in order to "deserve" these rights?
    • What responsibilities does the United States government have to its citizens?
  1. Introduce students to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by explaining that Eleanor Roosevelt presented the Declaration to the General Assembly meeting in Paris in 1948 and that all the member states signed on to the covenant. Bunche and Mrs. Roosevelt both lobbied for this covenant, and Bunche worked very hard to make sure that it was given serious weight by the U.S. and the other major powers. Have students read through the Declaration and answer these questions in a class discussion:
    • What are the main differences between these rights and the rights listed in the Bill of Rights?
    • How important are these rights to United States citizens? Does the United States government grant all of these rights to all citizens?
    • Are these rights granted in all other countries?
    • Do U.S. citizens have a responsibility to uphold and defend these rights for themselves? For other U.S. citizens? For citizens of other countries?
    • Do these rights come with any responsibilities? What responsibilities do we as United States citizens have in order to "deserve" these rights?
    • Does the U.S. government have a responsibility to guarantee these rights to its citizens? Why or why not?
  1. Ask students to explain in a brief class discussion what the people involved in the United States Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century were fighting for. Who were the leaders of this movement, and what were their goals? What rights were they fighting for? What did the civil rights leaders feel were their responsibilities to United States citizens? What did they feel were the responsibilities of the United States government?

  2. Pose to the class the question "What are human rights?" Have them attempt to define this term, and list their ideas on the board. What types of rights do they think should be included under this term? Besides the civil rights being fought for during the Civil Rights Movement, are they familiar with issues of children's rights, the rights of the disabled, minorities, and women, and the right to health care, literacy, and education? Do students think all of these rights can be considered human rights? Why or why not?

  3. Have students read the six categories of rights, and have them list these rights in section 1 of the student handout.
    Then have them look again at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ask them to write one example of a right from the Declaration next to each category on their list. Then discuss their examples, and ask them to consider which of these rights are guaranteed in the United States, which are not, and why they think certain types of rights are de-emphasized in the U.S.

  4. Show students the following segments from the video, and have them read information on the Bunche Web site. Ask them to take notes to answer the questions "What parallels did Bunche notice between civil rights in the United States and human rights abroad, including in Africa?" and "What tactics did Bunche advocate in working toward civil and human rights?"


4:25-5:18

The United Nations honors Dr. Ralph Bunche

14:22-14:58

UCLA speech about a segregated swimming pool

15:55-17:15

UCLA graduation speech

17:39-18:24

letter to W.E.B. DuBois

20:57-22:16

early civil rights ideas and involvement

23:13-23:50

involvement with NNC and collaboration with white progressives

32:07-36:03

A World View of Race, the beginning of World War II and the implications for African Americans

1:46:53-1:55:09

Bunche’s involvement in U.S. Civil Rights Movement


  1. Inform students that, as they may already be realizing, there are differing opinions as to which rights should be guaranteed in the United States and other countries and what people and governments should do to gain and protect these rights. Write the following names on the board, and ask students to contribute words and phrases to describe their current knowledge of these civil and human rights leaders: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X.

  2. Ask students to use the following Web sites and additional Internet and print resources to research the beliefs and tactics of each of these three leaders. As they conduct their research, they should take notes to address the following questions (these questions appear in the table in section 2 of the student handout for each of the three leaders plus Bunche):

Web sites:

Questions to address:

    • What rights did this person fight for? Provide examples.
    • What responsibilities did this person believe citizens have in fighting for their own rights?
    • What responsibilities did this person believe citizens have in fighting for and defending the rights of other citizens?
    • What responsibilities did this person believe the government has in helping people earn and maintain these rights?
    • What might Bunche have thought about this person’s ideas and tactics? Would he have agreed or disagreed? Why or why not?
  1. Have students use the Internet and/or print resources to find out about a present-day human rights campaign that’s underway. They might look at Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International.
    Ask them to pretend that Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Ralph Bunche are all alive to provide their comments and opinions as to how this human rights campaign should be undertaken. Have students pretend to be journalists who have the opportunity to interview each of these people about their views. They should write approximately one paragraph for each person’s interview responses, addressing the following questions for each:
    • What are the most important rights that are being defended or fought for in this campaign?
    • What responsibilities does the government of the country or countries involved have in guaranteeing and protecting these rights?
    • What responsibilities do other citizens of the country or countries involved have in fighting for the rights of the people who are being oppressed?
    • What tactics should be used in this campaign, and why do you recommend those tactics?


Assessment Recommendations:

Since every class is different, every teacher will assess students in slightly different ways. However, areas of consideration should include the following:

  • Participating in class discussions.
  • Carefully following all directions.
  • Taking clear and accurate notes on the information they read and view in the video.
  • Accurately listing the categories of rights in section 1 of the student handout.
  • Providing accurate examples of rights for each category in section 1 of the student handout.
  • Taking clear and accurate notes to fill in the entire table in section 2 of the handout.
  • Writing interview responses that reflect an understanding of each leader’s views.


Extensions/Adaptations:

  • Hold a class discussion asking students to answer some or all of the following questions, or have students write paragraphs providing their answers:
    • Do you agree or disagree with Bunche that civil rights in the U.S. are related to human rights issues abroad? Why or why not?
    • Do you think a government should be responsible for guaranteeing all of the rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? If so, why? If not, why not? What might be some challenges to upholding these rights?
    • Do you think citizens of a country are responsible for fighting for and defending the rights of other citizens? Why or why not?
    • Do you think citizens of the United States have a responsibility to fight for and defend the rights of oppressed people in other countries? Why or why not?
    • With which of the four civil rights leaders you’ve studied do you most agree with? Why?
    • With which of the four civil rights leaders you’ve studied do you least agree with? Why?
    • Do you think you would ever become actively involved in working on a human rights issue? Why or why not? Would you be more likely to work on an issue concerning people in the United States or in another country? Why?
  • Have students research two human or civil rights campaigns: one in the United States and one in another country. Have them write reports explaining the types of rights that each campaign is fighting for and comparing the methods of addressing the situations. They should be sure to discuss the relationship between the national governments (the United States and another country) and the human rights issue. What is the government’s role in making this human rights issue a problem in the first place? Is the government helping or hindering the campaign’s efforts? What is the difference between the involvement of the U.S. government and that of the other country?
  • Have students use online news sources or newspapers to find articles that provide examples of different types of rights and how those rights are regarded in the United States and other countries. For example, they might find an article discussing an affirmative action program or the welfare system. Have students write paragraphs summarizing the issue discussed in the article, explaining which right(s) are addressed, describing the different sides of the argument, and presenting their own opinions on this issue.
  • Hold a class discussion on the ways in which different political or economic systems (e.g. the United States and the former Soviet Union) regard different types of rights. For example, the former Soviet Union promoted economic rights but not civil, political, or cultural rights. Ask students to make charts that compare and contrast the United States governmental system with a communist government in terms of the rights each government protects. They should provide specific examples, such as "the United States allows people to express their views freely in the newspaper, but the Chinese government does not."



Student Handouts

Click here to download these Documents as a PDF file (24K)
           

Section 1

Read the six categories of rights, and list these rights in the left-hand column of the table below. Then look again at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and write one example of a right from the Declaration next to each category on your list.

Categories of rights

Examples of rights from the Declaration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Section 2

Use the following Web sites and other Internet and print resources to research the beliefs and tactics that each of the leaders listed in the table below promoted in his fight for rights. As you conduct your research, take notes in the table to address the questions in the left-hand column.

Web sites:

 

 

Mahatma Gandhi

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Malcolm X

Ralph Bunche

What rights did this person fight for? Provide examples.

 

 

 

       

What responsibilities did this person believe citizens have in fighting for their own rights?

 

       

What responsibilities did this person believe citizens have in fighting for and defending the rights of other citizens?

       

What responsibilities did this person believe the government has in helping people earn and maintain these rights?

       

What might Bunche have thought about this person’s ideas and tactics? Would he have agreed or disagreed? Why or why not?

       

 

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