Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky
 THE MOVEMENT | Biographies | Timeline | Image Gallery  
 THE PROJECT | About the Documentary | Interview Videos  
 RESOURCES | For Teachers | Bibliography | Oral History How-To 
Lesson Plan: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky

Suggested Grade Level

11th grade U.S. history

This lesson could be taught within a unit on race relations.

Academic Expectations

2.14 Students understand the democratic principles of justice, equality, responsibility, and freedom and apply them to real-life situations.
2.16   Students observe, analyze, and interpret human behaviors, social groupings, and institutions to better understand people and the relationships among individuals and among groups.

Program of Studies

  • Examine rights and responsibilities of individuals in American society and the development of democratic principles (e.g., liberty, justice, equality, individual human dignity, the rule of law).
  • Examine ways in which cooperation, conflict, and competition occur as cultures emerge.
  • Examine the social transformations reflected in the struggles for racial and gender equity and the extension of civil liberties.

Core Content

  • SS-H-1.13
  • SS-H-1.31
  • SS-H-2.2.1
  • SS-H-2.4.1

Objectives of Lesson

Guiding questions: How are current race relations in your city or town now compared to before 1960? Specifically, what were race relations like after major events such as school desegregation or the Montgomery bus boycott?


Using the questions on race relations provided below, students will conduct three interviews with individuals familiar with race relations in their city, both past and present. The students should choose individuals with varying backgrounds and occupations, such as teachers, civic leaders, ministers, etc. Upon completing the interviews, the students should use the information from their research to write an essay that explores race relations past and present. The paper should include specific information concerning people, places, and events that give insight into race relations in their city.

Suggested Scoring Criteria

The essays should be evaluated according to Kentucky’s holistic scoring guide.

Materials Needed for Lesson

  • Video:
    Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky
  • Interview questions:
    “Race Relations in Your Town, County, or City” (see below)

Additional Materials

  • Web site:
    Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky (
  • Publications:
    Kentucky’s Black Heritage. Published by the Commonwealth of Kentucky: Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, Frankfort; © 1971.
    A History of Blacks in Kentucky: In Pursuit of Equality, 1890-1980 by George C. Wright, Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort; © 1992.
    Racial Violence in Kentucky, 1865-1910 by George C. Wright, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, © 1996

Description of Lesson

As a part of a lesson on civil rights:

  1. Explain to the students that the class will be doing research on race relations in their city. Instruct them to find three individuals from varying backgrounds to ask the questions provided. The video can be used as an example of how to conduct an interview or of what information can be gained from interviews.
  2. After the students have completed their interviews, explain to them how to turn their research into an essay that compares race relations past and present.
  3. The students should evaluate their research and give their opinion of whether or not progress has been made among the races.
  4. Finally, the students will present the information they acquired through the interviews as a part of a class discussion on race relations. This discussion should focus on the major people, places, and events, as well as other indicators of progress—or lack of progress—in race relations in their city.

Other Suggested Activities

  • panel discussion using the interviewees as distinguished guests
  • guest speakers to highlight specific people, places, and events
  • photographic history of the civil rights movement in your town, county, city, or state

Questions About Race Relations in Your Town, County, or City

  • Describe the history of race relations in your town before 1960.
  • Were neighborhoods segregated?
  • What kinds of jobs were open to African Americans in your town before 1960?
  • Describe education and the schools for African Americans. Were they segregated? What was good about the schools? What was not so good?
  • Did many young black men leave to serve in the military? Did they return? If so, describe how they saw your community as a place to live and work on their return.
  • Did young women leave the community after school? Where did they go? Why did they leave? Did they return? Why?
  • Describe any history of racial violence that you are aware of in the community.
  • Describe recreational facilities, restaurants, and stores that were open to African Americans in your community before integration.
  • Was there a chapter of the NAACP? What was its agenda? Was there a youth chapter? Did you or your friends belong?
  • Were there other organizations in your town that worked to improve race relations there?
  • Describe the involvement of black churches in the civil rights struggle in your town.
  • Describe what happened when schools were integrated. How long after the 1954 Brown decision was it before your schools were integrated? Was it a gradual process? Did blacks play athletics or engage in other school activities after integration? What happened to black teachers?
  • Were there sit-ins, demonstrations, protests, and economic boycotts in your town to open up public accommodations? If so, can you describe them? Who was involved?
  • How did town officials respond to civil rights advocacy?
  • Were there any white people who were sympathetic to the cause? How did they show their support?
  • Did black nationalism or Black Power affect your community? How?
  • Are there records or artifacts in your town of the struggle for civil rights? (Examples might include literature, news stories, armbands, buttons, KKK or White Citizens Council items, etc.) Where are these located?

Teacher Contact

Yvette Ray Thompson, counselor, Bryan Station High School, Fayette County

Living the Story > For Teachers > Race Relations Lesson Plan