Subject Areas:

Secondary Civics, American History, Sociology, and Communication Arts

Assessment Suggestions
Extension Activities

National Standards

Student Handouts

Students will form an opinion, conduct research, and participate in a class debate/discussion about whether or not Ralph Bunche contributed all that he could to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

NOTE: Several alternate debate/discussion topics are provided on a list below. This will allow teachers to adapt the basic lesson plan to a topic they feel is most suitable. In addition, the teacher could develop his/her own topics and adapt the lesson plan as well. This may require altering the quotes used in step 1, the quotation analysis and writing response guidelines sheets that students are to use/complete.More relevant quotes could be found at:

Creative Quotations
Several quotes from Ralph Bunche

Alternate Debate/Discussion Topics:

Ralph Bunche said, "I have a deep-seated bias against hate and intolerance. I have a bias against racial and religious bigotry. I have a bias that leads me to believe in the essential goodness of my fellow man, which leads me to believe that no problem of human relations is ever insoluble." Depending on your view of human nature and relationships, you may agree or disagree with him. The question for debate: What role does education play in resolving problems in human relations?

TWO: There are many different ways that change comes about in a society. Ralph Bunche worked as a U.N. negotiator and along side Civil Rights activists such as Martin Luther King, Jr. to promote the idea that change could be made using peaceful means and peaceful protests. He demonstrated his commitment to these ideas through his actions. The question for debate: "Is violence ever morally justified in order to a make a change that can benefit society as a whole?" Use what you have learned about Ralph Bunche, his techniques, and his successful and not-so-successful undertakings to form your opinions and support you in your debate/discussion.

THREE: The U.S. Constitution states that "all men have certain unalienable rights" such as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". It goes on to say that "all men are created equal". Ralph Bunche was well aware that while these ideas were part of the Constitution, they were not the law of the land. While much has changed over the past 50 years, some say that Civil Rights are still being denied to many groups such as minorities, women, the aged, persons with disabilities, etc. The question for debate: "Does affirmative action ensure that Americans are treated equally?" Use what you have learned about the Civil Rights Movement and other historic movements geared toward gaining unalienable rights to form your opinion. Conduct research to support your ideas in the classroom debate/discussion.

FOUR: Many Americans made lasting contributions to the Civil Rights movement: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Ralph Bunche, among others. Using what you have learned from your research, debate the following question: Who made the most significant and lasting contributions to the Civil Rights Movement?

Students will need to view selected portions of "Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey". In addition they should visit the companion internet site and view the Timeline of Bunche's Life. Finally, students should conduct independent research using the Internet and library resources that are available. Below is a list of internet sites that include relevant information.

Nobel E-Museum
The Nobel Museum's biography of Bunche

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Biography of Bunche written for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation site

Howard University Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center
Biography from Howard University Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center

Encarta Online

Encarta Encyclopedia article on Bunche

Creative Quotations

Several quotes from Ralph Bunche

The Jewish Student Online Research Center (JSOURCE)
A letter for Bunche to the President of the Security Council-1949


1. The teacher should have the following quotations written on the board for students to see as they enter the classroom.

"We must fight as a race for everything that makes for a better country and a better world. We are dreaming idiots and trusting fools to do anything less."

"To make our way, we must have firm resolve, persistence, tenacity. We must gear ourselves to work hard all the way. We can never let up."

2. As the students enter the classroom, they should be given the quotation analysis sheet and assigned to seats where they can work in groups of four. Once students are seated, they should be instructed to read the quotes quietly to themselves.

3. Next, the teacher should take a volunteer to read each quote to the entire group.

4. Students should then be instructed to complete the quotation analysis sheet. This activity should be limited to no more than 5 minutes.

5. The teacher should then facilitate classroom discussion about the quotations, addressing the questions on the quotation analysis sheet. Students at the senior high school level may come up with a wide variety of people and ideas about what prompted the quotations. The teacher should do his/her best to direct students toward the Civil Rights Movement Era.

6. Once students have offered a variety of meanings, names, and circumstances surrounding the quote, the teacher should write/say the name Dr. Ralph J. Bunche. He/she should then ask students what they know about Dr. Bunche. Most will probably have little knowledge of his background. At this point, the teacher could add the following list of descriptors below Dr. Bunche's name:

- An American Odyssey
- Symbol of World Peace
- Educator
- Nobel Peace Prize Winner
- Father of the Year
- Political Activist
- Mediator
- Peacemaker
Civil Rights Activist

This should peak students interest sufficiently for the instructor to introduce students to the film "Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey".

7. Students would benefit most from viewing the film in its entirety, however, if time permits limited viewing, the following time cues should be used to cue the beginning and end of important sections. Be sure to distribute the viewing guide prior to starting the film. Go over the directions with students so they know they should be recording information as they watch.

Beginning of tape to 6:30: Overview of Ralph Bunche

9:28-17:00: Section on Childhood and Education

22:00-29:00: Section on segregation in U.S. and time at Howard University

55:00-1:02:00: Description of Middle East crisis

1:14:00-1:21:00: Story of how Bunche used two decorative plates to aid him in his negotiations with the Arabs and Israelis and Nobel Prize

1:47:00-end of tape: Civil Rights Movement and Wrap-up

NOTE: In order to allow students to record information, the instructor should pause at the intervals noted above to allow students time to write. In addition, the teacher could use this time to clarify questions students may have about the content they have seen.

8. Once viewing is complete, students should participate in small group discussions where they share the information they have recorded on the viewing guide with others in their group. Each member should share at least one idea they have recorded and how it illustrates one of the words/phrases from the list that describes Ralph Bunche. This should be an 8-10 minute activity.

9. Once groups have shared their ideas about Bunche, the teacher should pose the following debate topic to the entire class. They can choose to agree or disagree, but they must back their opinion using reasons, facts, examples, etc.

Ralph Bunche made lasting and significant contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in America.

10. Students should not discuss this question as a group. Instead, they should write their response on scratch paper, along with their name and give it to the teacher. Students must answer yes or no. They cannot "ride the fence".

11. Once the teacher has collected all of the responses, he/she should begin dividing them into 2 piles: Yes and No. Once this takes place, the teacher should begin by calling all of the No group and placing them in one part of the room. The remaining students should represent the yes group. The class is now divided and can proceed with preparing their debate.

12. The students must now use their time to complete three major activities.

A. Students must engage in a group discussion with the teacher about why they voted Yes or No. They should cite specific reasons, facts, and examples they saw in the film to support their ideas. This is also a time for the instructor to answer any questions students may have about the film's content.

B. Students must work to collect facts, details, and examples to support their point of view. They should use the companion website, particularly the Timeline and Civil and Human Rights sections to assist them. In addition, they can use the addresses listed earlier in the plan as well as any other Internet resources they can locate. Finally, students should be encouraged to use school library resources to help them build their case.

C. Students must share their ideas and information with others in their group. The job of the group is to convince people that they are right, so the more practice they have articulating what they have learned, the better prepared they will be for classroom debate/discussion.

13. Once students have had ample opportunity to prepare their respective arguments, a class debate/discussion should be conducted. The teacher will establish rules for speaking and conduct. This could take the form or an organized, formal debate or a more informal discussion with both sides presenting their ideas and questioning one another about details, reasons, facts, examples, etc.

14. To encourage all students to participate, teachers could hand out some sort of token or card. Each student could speak only and would have to surrender his/her token after speaking. Students would not get a second chance to speak until tokens had been collected from all students.

15. Once the debate/discussion is concluded, the instructor can choose to declare a "winning" team or can simply declare a "truce" between the two sides.

16. Upon completion of the discussion/debate, the teacher should link what has been learned about Ralph Bunche to other content in the course or have students complete additional activities that relate to the film.

Assessment Suggestions:

1. Students could complete a written response to their debating experience using the writing response guidelines.

2. Students could create a multimedia presentation featuring what they learned about Dr. Bunche. They could incorporate quotations, pictures, audio, video, and maps that illustrate Bunche's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, his accomplishments as a mediator, or other highlights from his career. Students could use software programs such as Power Point or HyperStudio to create the presentations. They should then share them by presenting them to their classmates.

Extension Activities:

1. Using research materials, the film "Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey", and Internet resources, students could gather a series of quotes that are representative of Ralph Bunche. These could be things he said, or things that were said about him. Students could then use these quotes to create an exhibit of events that they believe are most important from Bunche's life. When collecting the quotes, students should be encouraged to find items that are representative of the following areas: childhood, education, work at Howard University, affiliation with the NNC, work with the OSS, work on the founding of the United Nations, work in the decolonization of Africa, work in the Middle East, the Nobel Prize, the Civil Rights Movement, and other areas of student interest.

Once the quotes are collected, students could use art materials or computer software to generate their exhibit items. The exhibit pieces could be collages, posters, 3-dimensional representations, songs, poems, or other representative media. Information students could include in addition to the quote are: the date of the event the quote represents and a short description of the event being marked. If photos or artwork are available, students should include these to mark the event as well. Exhibit items should then be presented to the class and put on display for others to see.

National Standards:

Behavioral Studies Standards and Benchmarks
Standard 4: Understands conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among individuals, groups, and institutions

Level 4 (Grade 9-12)

2. Understands that social change, or the prospect of it, promotes conflict because social, economic, and political changes usually benefit some groups more than others (which is also true of the status quo)

Historical Understanding Standard and Benchmarks
Standard 2: Understands the historical perspective

Level 4 (Grade 9-12)

1. Analyzes the values held by specific people who influenced history and the role their values played in influencing history

United States History Standard and Benchmarks: Era 9 — Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970's)
Standard 29: Understands the struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties

Language Arts Standard and Benchmarks: Viewing
Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

Level 4 (Grade 9-12)

1. Uses a range of strategies to interpret visual media (e.g., draws conclusions, makes generalizations, synthesizes materials viewed, refers to images or information in visual media to support point of view deconstructs media to determine the main idea)

2. Uses a variety of criteria (e.g., clarity, accuracy, effectiveness, bias, relevance of facts) to evaluate informational media (e.g., web sites, documentaries, news programs)

Language Arts Standard and Benchmarks: Listening and Speaking
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

Level 4 (Grade 9-12)

2. Asks questions as a way to broaden and enrich classroom discussions

5. Makes formal presentations to the class (e.g., includes definitions for clarity; supports main ideas using anecdotes, examples, statistics, analogies, and other evidence; uses visual aids or technology, such as transparencies, slides, electronic media; cites information sources)

6. Makes multimedia presentations using text, images, and sound (e.g., selects the appropriate medium, such as television broadcast, videos, web pages, films, newspapers, magazines, CD-ROMS, Internet, computer-media-generated images; edits and monitors for quality; organizes, writes, and designs media

Language Arts Standard and Benchmarks: Writing
Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes

Level 4 (Grade 9-12)

2. Uses a variety of print and electronic sources to gather information for research topics (e.g., news sources such as magazines, radio, television, newspapers; government publications; microfiche; telephone information services; databases; field studies; speeches; technical documents; periodicals; Internet)

Student Handouts
Click here to download these Documents as a PDF file (20K)           


Debating the Issues: Quotation Analysis

Name:__________________________________     Date:_______________________

Directions: You have read and heard the two quotations below. Read each one again carefully and answer the questions that follow it to the best of your ability.

Quote 1: "We must fight as a race for everything that makes for a better country and

a better world. We are dreaming idiots and trusting fools to do anything less."

A. In your own words, describe what you think this quotation means.

B. Who do you think said these words?

C. What circumstances do you believe prompted the speaker to use this quotation?

Quote 2: "To make our way, we must have firm resolve, persistence, tenacity. We must

gear ourselves to work hard all the way. We can never let up."

A. In your own words, describe what you think this quotation means.





B. Who do you think said these words?

C. What circumstances do you believe prompted the speaker to use this quotation?

Debating the Issues Viewing Guide

Name:__________________________________     Date:______________________


The speaker responsible for the quotes was:____________________________________.

Some words to describe this person include:

An American Odyssey

Symbol of World Peace


Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Father of the Year

Political Activist



Civil Rights Activist

As you are viewing the tape, look for examples that illustrate the ideas mentioned above.

Record your ideas in the spaces below. Pay special attention to this person's involvement

in the Civil Rights Movement.

Debating the Issues: Writing Response Guidelines

Directions: Now that you have participated in the classroom debate/discussion, you will need to construct a 1-2 page paper that discusses and describes your experience. Follow the guidelines below when composing your written response. Be sure to address all the ideas that are listed.

A. After hearing your group and the arguments of the other group, was your opinion

about Dr. Bunche and his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement changed?

If yes, describe how and why.

If no, describe why you believe your arguments are correct.

B. Looking back over the list of words used to describe Dr. Bunche, are there any

you feel describe him more strongly than others?

Which words, if any, do you think should be removed from the list?

Finally, if you had to describe Dr. Bunche, what words would you add to the list and why

would you add them?

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