J. Paul Getty Museum
Secondary Teachers’ Institute Lesson Plan
Documentary Photography: Civil Rights Through Image and Text
Grades: High School (9–12)
Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts, History–Social Science
Time Required: 3–5-Part Lesson
Two to three class periods
Author: Deborah Monroe, High School Teacher
Santee High School, Los Angeles Unified School District
Students will learn about the juxtaposition of image and text to define the social and psychological mood of the civil rights movement in the United States.
Students will be able to:
discuss depictions of the civil rights movement.
analyze the effectiveness of juxtaposing image and text.
create an image that addresses a social, economic, or political problem in their community.
write accompanying text to an image that addresses a social, economic, or political problem in their community.
Featured Getty Artwork
Birmingham, Alabama by Bob Adelman
Reproduction of Birmingham, Alabama by Bob Adelman
“Dream Deferred,” poem by Langston Hughes
History of the Harlem Renaissance on the biography.com website
PowerPoint® presentation about the civil rights movement on the Glencoe Online website
More presentations about African-American history are available on the Glencoe Online website http://www.glencoe.com/sec/socialstudies/btt/aahm/.
Timeline of the civil rights movement on the Cable News Network website http://www.cnn.com/EVENTS/1997/mlk/links.html or the Timelines, Inc., website http://timelines.com/topics/civil-rights-movement
Disposable cameras or cell phone cameras
Before class begins, display the reproduction of Birmingham, Alabama by Bob Adelman in the classroom (if possible, project on a screen in darkened room). Stand outside the classroom and ask students to enter silently, take their seats, and look at the photograph without speaking.
Pass out pencils and paper.
Ask students to write about the image. Prompt students with the following questions:
What do you think is happening in the photograph?
Do you think this photograph effectively conveys a message?
What message do you think the photograph is trying to communicate?
How does this photograph make you feel?
Write the following text on the board:
Where: United States
What: Civil rights movement
How: Non-violent protest, marches, sit-ins
Why: Read “Dream Deferred”
Read the poem “Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes with the class.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
and then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Either discuss or remind students of the influence and/or impact of the Harlem Renaissance on Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech of 1963. (Read about the Harlem Renaissance on the biography.com website and download a PowerPoint® presentation about the civil rights movement from the Glencoe Online website.) Inform students that the Harlem poets of the 1920s—especially the most recognized poet Langston Hughes—foreshadowed the eventual race riots and freedom marches of the 1960s.
Have a class discussion about how the immediate transmission of video images and photography made media both the conveyor and creator of current events, evoking strong emotions and a sense of community among viewers during this period. Inform students about how legions of protestors were inspired and recruited into the civil rights movement through the power of images.
Pass out printouts of a civil rights movement timeline from either one of these sources:
Cable News Network: http://www.cnn.com/EVENTS/1997/mlk/links.html
Timelines, Inc.: http://timelines.com/topics/civil-rights-movement
Have a class discussion about key events in the movement and the images or types of images that played a role in the civil rights movement.
Return to the photograph Birmingham, Alabama. Have a class discussion on what students think is the focus of the work. Discuss the emotions that the image evokes, both for the people in the photograph and for today’s viewer. Discuss how this may have been the same and/or different for viewers in the 1960s when this photograph was taken.
Have students return to their writing and compose answers to the following questions:
How do the poem and the artwork work together to reflect the emotions and conflicts of the civil rights movement?
Can change be peaceful?
Finally, instruct students to use a disposable or cell phone camera to take photographs in their community of a social, economic, or political problem that they would like to address.
Form groups of four. Have each group of students brainstorm ideas as to how the community or the students themselves can begin to address the problem.
Ask each student to pick his or her most effective photograph and write a caption or poem that addresses the problem depicted.
Have students present their photographs and captions, including an explanation of the problem represented in their photo, why they chose that problem, and how the community can begin to address the problem.
Students will be assessed on:
discussion of depictions of the civil rights movement.
analyses of the effectiveness of juxtaposing image and text.
taking a photograph that addresses a social, economic, or political problem in their community.
text written to accompany the photograph.
Ask students to choose a contemporary poem that addresses a social issue, and then create a drawing that has the same or similar message.
Common Core Standards for English Language Arts
Text Types and Purposes
1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
SPEAKING AND LISTENING
Comprehension and Collaboration
1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools
Grades 9–12 (Proficient)
2.0 Creative Expression
2.6 Create a two or three-dimensional work of art that addresses a social issue.
4.0 Aesthetic Valuing
4.1 Articulate how personal beliefs, cultural traditions, and current social, economic, and political contexts influence the interpretation of the meaning or message in a work of art.
4.2 Compare the ways in which the meaning of a specific work of art has been affected over time because of changes in interpretation and context.
Grades 9–12 (Advanced)
4.0 Aesthetic Valuing
4.3 Analyze and articulate how society influences the interpretation and message of a work of art.
English–Language Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools
Listening and Speaking
1.0 Listening and Speaking Strategies
1.1 Recognize strategies used by the media to inform, persuade, entertain, and transmit culture (e.g., advertisements; perpetuation of stereotypes; use of visual representations, special effects, language).
1.3 Interpret and evaluate the various ways in which events are presented and information is communicated by visual image makers (e.g., graphic artists, documentary filmmakers, illustrators, news photographers).
History–Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools
11.10 Students analyze the development of federal civil rights and voting rights.
5. Discuss the diffusion of the civil rights movement of African Americans from the churches of the rural South and the urban North, including the resistance to racial desegregation in Little Rock and Birmingham, and how the advances influenced the agendas, strategies, and effectiveness of the quests of American Indians, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans for civil rights and equal opportunities.
12.8 Students evaluate and take and defend positions on the influence of the media on American political life.
3. Explain how public officials use the media to communicate with the citizenry and to shape public opinion.
© 2011 J. Paul Getty Trust