Viewing the film, Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey, in the classroom will not only stimulate student interest in the social studies, it offers many exciting possibilities for classroom instruction. The pre-viewing activities described below can be used to introduce the film to your class.

You will, of course, want to tailor the suggestions to the specific needs of your students and the objectives of your instructional program. Other sections of the teacher's guide -- the Film Summary, Biography, Glossary of People, Terms, and Events and Timeline provide details about Ralph Bunche’s life and the film's content that can be helpful in developing pre-viewing activities. A visit to other sections of this website would also be helpful.



Introduce the film Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey with a brainstorming session to see what the students know about the topics addressed in the film. This will help you to ascertain how much they know about the subject, and, more importantly, it will help the students "tune in" to the film by giving them the opportunity to relate their prior knowledge to the film's content.


1. Review the Film Summary presented elsewhere in the teacher's guide and select topics, such as the civil rights movement, non-violent protest in the United States, expanded rights for African Americans, the McCarthy era, the role and purpose of the UN, the UN and international peacekeeping, the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East, colonialism, the movement for independence in Africa, the peaceful resolution of conflict, human rights, and any others that might be appropriate.

2. List the topics you have chosen on a chalk board, posting paper or overhead.

3. Record student responses, being careful to accept all ideas without evaluation to maintain the flow of ideas.

4. After viewing the film return to the brainstorming list, evaluate the original brainstorming and add new information.



Because the film focuses on the story of Ralph Bunche and because most students will probably not be familiar with his life and work, you may want to introduce the man and his idias to the students as a way of arousing their interest before showing the film. It might be a good idea to present him as someone who was world-famous, who's work continues to exert and influence on their world, but who has been almost forgotten.


1. Download and copy the Biography of Ralph Bunche provided in the teacher's guide. Or ask students to find the biography on the internet. It is recommended that they also visit the companion website.

2. Ask students to read the Biography and provide an opportunity for them to talk about Bunche and what they discovered about him.



To familiarize students with the film's organization and help them focus on the main points you might present a summary of the film in a lecture/discussion session. Sometimes, direct instruction focused on information-giving is the most effective way to prepare students to engage with unfamiliar content.


1. Before showing the film to the class, prepare a presentation on the main points in the film. Use the film summary and the video reference guide to prepare a general outline of the film. Read the Film Summary, Biography, Glossary of People, Terms and Events and Timeline and visit the other sections of the Ralph Bunche website, selecting items and topics that will support your curriculum.

2. Download the Timeline, copy it, and distribute it to students. Or, if students have access to the internet, direct them to the Timeline on the web page. Either way, refer to the Timeline as you make your presentation.

3. Discuss your outline and the information that you have chosen with the class and draw out the students by asking them to share their knowledge.



To prepare students for viewing the film, you may want to use the Glossary of People, Terms and Events to develop a basic vocabulary list. Such an approach would give students the necessary background to comprehend the film and sort out the content of the fast-paced narrative that moves back and forth between events in the United States and the world.


1. Select a few items from the glossary that you consider the most important to further your curriculum objectives. Develop a one or two-page worksheet to hand out to students. Or, if time permits, distribute the Glossary in its entirety by downloading and copying it or directing students to the glossary on the internet.

2. Divide the class into groups and have each group discuss selected terms.

3. Move from group to group asking questions and helping students become familiar with the terms.



The film raises important issues in United States and world history. For classes that already have some background for understanding the film, directing the class with a few leading questions could provide the basis for a productive screening and an exciting follow-up discussion.


1. Go to the Film Summary and download or copy the four questions identified as fundamental to the film's message.

  A) How should history view Bunche as we look back on his life and work from the 21st century?

B) Did Bunche's appreciation of "politics as the art of the possible" weigh too heavily on his approach and lead him to fail in achieving real justice for all people? Was he an honest broker or a tool of the industrialized West?

C) Did Bunche, as the most honored and widely respected Black American of the day, fight as diligently as he should to advance equality and justice for African Americans?

D) How did Bunche's childhood and education shape his philosophy and worldview?

2. Distribute the questions to the class and ask students to see if they can find answers to these questions as they watch the film. Alternatively, you may want to let groups of students choose one question as the focus of their group's viewing.

3. Discuss students' findings and conclusions after the screening.

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