By: Molly Kirschman

Right on Time!

Grade Level: 4-5


1. Students will put events from a human rights activist's life in chronological order by creating a time line.

2. Students will write a newspaper article from the point of view of a human rights activist they choose.

Materials Needed:

Five copies of the eight human rights activists' biographies split into jigsaw sections.

Information found at:; and other civil rights activists websites. Information is also included at the end of this lesson plan.

Paper (for the time line, and the newspaper article).


1. Anticipatory set "Since we have been talking about Rosa Parks, can we make a time line of her life?" Have the class help you create a time line of Rosa Parks' life on the chalkboard. Have them come up and contribute to the time line using information that they have learned from previous lessons. This will help them get a feel for time lines, as they will be creating their own in this lesson.

Dec 1,1955 Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus

Dec 2, 1955 Rosa is arrested

Dec. 5 Boycott of buses

Dec 5 Martin Luther King, Jr. Speech

Nov. 3 1956 Supreme Court rules against segregation laws

2. Split class into 7-8 groups of four students each. Explain the directions before they split up into groups. Each group will be assigned a civil rights activist. They will get information about the person that they will jigsaw as a group and prepare a simple time line of their life, including significant events from their life. See example above from Rosa Parks' life. When the time lines are complete, each group will share with the class in a three to five minute presentation.

3. Assign each group a civil rights activist from the list below:

James Derham

Marian Anderson

Jackie Robinson

Mal Goode

Hattie McDaniel

Ralph Bunche

Ruby Bridges

Mary Anne Shadd

Information is included at the end of this lesson plan. Each group will be given information about their specified activist to be read and reviewed as a group and then the information will be organized in a time line format.

4. Give the groups time to discuss their activist, and prepare the time line. Time line should include five to seven significant events that happened in the activists life (the dates they happened and a short summary explaining what happened).

5. Gather the class back together for the presentations. Each group has five minutes to present their time line to the class. When each group is complete post the time lines around the room.

6. Hand each student a group evaluation to fill out from their experience together.

7. Each student will pick their favorite human rights activist from those presented in class, and write an editorial dealing with an issue from their life. The editorial should be written from the activist's point of view. (They can use the same person they studied earlier.) They will include detailed information about their person, how they affected the United States, and some interesting facts that led them to become activists.

8. Put the articles together in a class human rights newspaper.


1. The students will be assessed on how well the group completed the time line, by filling out a short group assessment, and I will observe them.

How much thought and preparation went into it?

Does it follow the life of the person with five to seven significant events included?

Did they work well together as a group?

Was the work distributed evenly?


2. The students will be assessed, individually, on their news article.

Does it stay true to the facts?

Is it well written according to my pre-written rubric?

Does the student understand the important role that the activist played in history?

Does the student understand the importance of human rights?


Information about all eight civil rights activists included below.

1. Dr. James Derham

The first black physician in America, not professionally trained in a medical school, was James Derham. Derham, born a slave in Philadelphia in 1757, was owned by three doctors. Dr. Robert Love, his third owner, encouraged Derham to practice medicine. Working as a medical assistant and apothecary, Derham saved enough money to buy his freedom in 1783 and opened a medical practice in New Orleans. By the age of 26, Derham's New Orleans' practice earned him over $3,000 annually. Derham met Dr. Benjamin Rush, the father of American medicine, during a visit to Philadelphia.

Rush was impressed with Derham and convinced him to relocate his practice to Philadelphia. Derham received respect and admiration from his colleagues, and became nationally renowned as a leading specialist in throat disorders and the relationship between climate and disease. Benjamin Rush said of Derham, "I have conversed with him upon most of the most acute and epidemic diseases of the country where he lives and was pleased to find him perfectly acquainted with the modern simple mode of practice on these diseases. I expected to have suggested some new medicines to him but he suggested many more to me."

Historians credit James McCune Smith as the individual who best exemplified the nineteenth century African-American physician-abolitionist. Smith has the distinction of being the first university-trained black physician. Smith attended the Free African School of New York. As a child, Smith showed flashes of brilliance. At the age of eleven, he was chosen to give the school's address when General Lafayette visited the school in 1824. At age 19, the Rev. Peter Williams, a Episcopalian priest, helped Smith enroll in the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

He completed study for the B.A. degree in 1835, his M.A. degree in 1836, and his M.D. degree in 1837. Part of Smith's education was sponsored by a British anti-slavery organization known as the Glasgow Emancipation Society.before leaving Scotland, a farewell dinner was given in Smith's honor. Unrestrained superlatives were given Smith for his stellar academic and private accomplishments during his stay in Scotland. In mid-summer 1837, Smith returned to America.

Though in much demand as a public speaker, Smith, operated quite a successful medical practice, and was the proprietor of two drug stores, but his contributions to the free black community came through his writings and public service activities. Smith was an ardent opponent of colonization and felt that blacks should seek to make their claim on citizenship in America. He was a staunch advocate of an independent black press.

He was instrumental in organizing the National Council of the Colored People, and worked to establish the Philomathean Society, and the Colored Orphan Asylum. During the Civil War, black physicians, like all blacks, were initially barred from serving the army.

2. Mary Ann Shadd

Mary Ann Shadd was born a free woman of African American ancestry on October 9, 1823. She was the oldest of thirteen children. While still a child, Mary came to realize that her father''s shoemaking shop was a stop for fugitive slaves traveling the Underground Railway. These slaves, who were fleeing for their lives from slave owners and bounty hunters, were often hidden in a portion of the shop.

At the time, the education of blacks was strictly forbidden in Delaware. Because they wanted Mary to have the best opportunities possible, her parents took her to Pennsylvania at the age of 10 and placed her in a Quaker boarding school.

In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed. This Act allowed free northern blacks and escaped southern slaves to be rounded up and sold into slavery. Canada became a refuge for blacks that wished to take advantage of their newly found freedom. Because of the Act, Mary and her brother, Isaac, fled to Canada in 1851. Their father followed, bringing the entire family. The Shadds were known to their white neighbors as a ""fine family of color.""

During this period slave owners did all they could to prevent slaves from crossing the border into Canada. Mary wrote a pamphlet called, ""Notes on Canada."" It consisted of forty-four pages and listed opportunities available to blacks north of the 49th Parallel.

After arriving in Canada, Mary earned her teacher''s certificate and took a teaching position. She became one of the foremost figures in the abolitionist movement.

Mary felt the time had come for her people to accept integration, though both blacks and whites were secure with the segregated and equal communities. Mary wasn''t to be stopped! She opened a private school for people of all races. It was her belief that every individual, regardless of ancestry, had equal potential and should be given the opportunity to obtain an education. She believed that opportunity could only be obtained by hard work and independence.

To Mary, integration meant being self-reliant and learning to live and work in harmony with people of other races. She realized that both blacks and whites had much to learn about the other''s cultural roots if segregation was to be successful.

The blacks that fled to Canada felt they would be safe because it was a British Colony. Unfortunately, there was prejudice and discrimination in Canada at the time. As Mary had feared, the Canadian government segregated blacks into communities on the edge of cities. Blacks who had safely crossed the border tended to stick together. They settled in small, segregated communities where they felt they could look to each other for help and protection from white communities.

The opening of Mary''s school in Windsor was strongly opposed by Henry Bibb, an established black leader of the day. He openly attacked Mary and her school in his newspaper, ""Voice of the Fugitive."" In retaliation, Mary founded her own weekly newspaper, ""The Provincial Freeman."" The newspaper was aimed at the black community and especially fugitive slaves.

""The Provincial Freeman"" became very popular. Mary traveled to the United States to gather information for her editorials. She felt it was necessary to keep blacks still living in the United States informed of what was happening in Canada. Anti-abolitionists had circulated rumors that Canada''s black community was starving in order to discourage more African Americans from crossing the border. Mary''s other goal was to allow white communities to become aware of noble deeds of the colored American.

Mary was a very outspoken person and soon began to make public appearances. She became known for her quick wit and was given the nickname ""The Rebel,"" for her abolitionist views.

With the founding of ""The Provincial Freeman,"" Mary became the first black woman to establish and edit a newspaper in North America. She believed that segregated communities, schools, churches and newspapers would greatly affect the freedom of her people. She used the ""Freeman"" to oppose segregation of any form.

In 1853, Mary met and married Thomas Cary of Toronto, Ontario. They had two children, though Thomas died before the second was born. Mary supported herself and her children by writing articles for newspapers and by providing printing services to the City of Chatham.

When President Lincoln called for recruitment of blacks to fight for the Union Army during the Civil War, Mary returned to the United States. On August 15, 1863, she was appointed as a recruiting officer. Her job was to enlist black volunteers from the State of Indiana.

After the Civil War Mary moved to Washington D.C. where she enrolled at Howard University. She specialized in law and graduated as a lawyer. She hung out her shingle at age 60. Mary was the second black woman to earn a law degree in the United States.

Mary left behind a great legacy in writing, publishing, education and law. She followed her dream to integrate black and white communities. Though her dream was never realized in her lifetime, Mary''s efforts and hard work encouraged other blacks to fight for integration and to follow their dreams. Her motto: ""Self reliance is the fine road to independence.""

Mary Ann Shad died on June 5, 1893. She is best remembered for her contribution in the black woman''s movement and the movement for emancipation.

3. Hattie McDaniel

Hattie was born on June 10, 1895 in Wichita, Kansas, the daughter of a Baptist minister and a spiritual singer. At the age of 15 she won a medal in dramatic art, but later started her career as a band vocalist. She worked as a singer with Professor George Morrison's Orchestra in 1915, touring the country. She became the first African American to sing on network radio in the United States. In 1931, she went to Hollywood to seek a film career and began as an extra before capturing larger roles. When work was not available, she hired herself out as a domestic, a cook, or a washerwoman.

"I had headlined on the Pantages and Orpheum circuits, but vaudeville was dead as last month's hit song. Milwaukee was really my springboard to Hollywood. I landed there broke. Somebody told me of a place as a maid in the ladies' room at Sam Pick's Suburban Inn. I rushed there and took the job. One night, after midnight, when all the entertainers has left, the manager called for volunteer talent from among the help. I asked the boys in the orchestra to strike up 'St. Louis Blues.' I started to sing 'I hate to see the evening sun go down'...I never had to go back to my maid's job. For two years I starred in the floor show." In 1932, Hi-hat Hattie (her nickname), made her movie debut in "The Golden West." She then appeared in a number of movies, including "Saratoga", where she sang with Clark Gable. Then she read Margaret Mitchell's novel and was fascinated by the role of Mammy: "I naturally felt I could create in it something distinctive and unique."

4. Jackie Robinson

Jack Roosevelt Robinson (1919-72), the first black man to "officially" play in the big leagues in the 20th century, possessed enormous physical talent and a fierce determination to succeed. In the course of a distinguished 10-year career beginning in 1947, Robinson led the Brooklyn Dodgers to six National League titles and one victorious World Series. Beyond his many and stellar baseball feats, Jackie Robinson went on to champion the cause of civil rights when he retired from the game.

The National Archives and Records Administration holds numerous records relating to Jackie Robinson, many of which pertain to his period of civil rights advocacy. Several belonging to that time have been reproduced here for educators teaching courses that involve civil rights events and issues, character education, and effective citizenship skills.

5. Ralph Johnson Bunche (August 7, 1904-1971)

Ralph Bunche was born in Detroit, Michigan. His father, Fred Bunche, was a barber in a shop having a clientele of whites only; his mother, Olive (Johnson) Bunche, was an amateur musician; his grandmother, Nana Johnson, who lived with the family, had been born into slavery. When Bunche was ten years old, the family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the hope that the poor health of his parents would improve in the dry climate. Both, however, died two years later. His grandmother, an indomitable woman who appeared Caucasian on the outside but was all black fervor inside took Ralph and his two sisters to live in Los Angeles. Here Ralph contributed to the family's hard-pressed finances by selling newspapers, serving as house boy for a movie actor, working for a carpet-laying firm, and doing what odd jobs he could find.

His intellectual brilliance appeared early. He won a prize in history and another in English upon completion of his elementary school work and was the valedictorian of his graduating class at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles, where he had been a debater and all-around athlete who competed in football, basketball, baseball, and track. At the University of California at Los Angeles he supported himself with an athletic scholarship, which paid for his collegiate expenses, and with a janitorial job, which paid for his personal expenses. He played varsity basketball on championship teams, was active in debate and campus journalism, and was graduated in 1927, a valedictorian of his class, with a major in international relations.

With a scholarship granted by Harvard University and a fund of a thousand dollars raised by the black community of Los Angeles, Bunche began his graduate studies in political science. He completed his master's degree in 1928 and for the next six years alternated between teaching at Howard University and working toward the doctorate at Harvard. The Rosenwald Fellowship, which he held in 1932-1933, enabled him to conduct research in Africa for a dissertation comparing French rule in Togoland and Dahomey. He completed his dissertation in 1934 with such distinction that he was awarded the Toppan Prize for outstanding research in social studies. From 1936 to 1938, on a Social Science Research Council fellowship, he did postdoctoral research in anthropology at Northwestern University, the London School of Economics, and Capetown University in South Africa.

Throughout his career, Bunche has maintained strong ties with education. He chaired the Department of Political Science at Howard University from 1928 until 1950; taught at Harvard University from 1950 to 1952; served as a member of the New York City Board of Education (1958-1964), as a member of the Board of Overseers of Harvard University (1960-1965), as a member of the Board of the Institute of International Education, and as a trustee of Oberlin College, Lincoln University, and New Lincoln School.

Bunche has always been active in the civil rights movement. At Howard University he was considered by some as a young radical intellectual who criticized both America's social system and the established Negro organizations, but generally he is thought of as a moderate. From his experience as co-director of the Institute of Race Relations at Swarthmore College in 1936, added to his firsthand research performed earlier, he wrote A World View of Race (1936). He participated in the Carnegie Corporation's well-known survey of the Negro in America, under the direction of the Swedish sociologist, Gunnar Myrdal, which resulted in the publication of Myrdal's An American Dilemma (1944). He was a member of the ´´Black Cabinetªª consulted on minority problems by Roosevelt's administration; declined President Truman's offer of the position of assistant secretary of state because of the segregated housing conditions in Washington, D. C.; helped to lead the civil rights march organized by Martin Luther King, Jr., in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965; supported the action programs of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and of the Urban League. Bunche has not himself formed organizations, nor has he aspired to positions of administrative leadership in existing civil rights organizations. Rather, he has exerted his influence personally in speeches and publications, especially during the twenty-year period from 1945 to 1965. His message has been clear: Racial prejudice is an unreasoned phenomenon without scientific basis in biology or anthropology; segregation and democracy are incompatible; blacks should maintain the struggle for equal rights while accepting the responsibilities that come with freedom; whites must demonstrate that democracy is colorblind

Ralph Bunche's enduring fame arises from his service to the U. S. government and to the UN. An adviser to the Department of State and to the military on Africa and colonial areas of strategic military importance during World War II, Bunche moved from his first position as an analyst in the Office of Strategic Services to the desk of acting chief of the Division of Dependent Area Affairs in the State Department. He also discharged various responsibilities in connection with international conferences of the Institute of Pacific Relations, the UN, the International Labor Organization, and the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission.

In 1946, UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie ´´borrowedªª Bunche from the State Department and placed him in charge of the Department of Trusteeship of the UN to handle problems of the world's peoples who had not yet attained self-government. He has been associated with the UN ever since.

From June of 1947 to August of 1949, Bunche worked on the most important assignment of his career - the confrontation between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. He was first appointed as assistant to the UN Special Committee on Palestine, then as principal secretary of the UN Palestine Commission, which was charged with carrying out the partition approved by the UN General Assembly. In early 1948 when this plan was dropped and fighting between Arabs and Israelis became especially severe, the UN appointed Count Folke Bernadotte as mediator and Ralph Bunche as his chief aide. Four months later, on September 17, 1948, Count Bernadotte was assassinated, and Bunche was named acting UN mediator on Palestine. After eleven months of virtually ceaseless negotiating, Bunche obtained signatures on armistice agreements between Israel and the Arab States.

Bunche returned home to a hero's welcome. New York gave him a ´´ticker tapeªª parade up Broadway; Los Angeles declared a ´´Ralph Bunche Day ªª. He was besieged with requests to lecture, was awarded the Spingarn Prize by the NAACP in 1949, was given over thirty honorary degrees in the next three years, and the Nobel Peace Prize for 1950.

Bunche still works for the UN. From 1955 to 1967, he served as undersecretary for Special Political Affairs and since 1968 has been undersecretary-general. During these years he has taken on many special assignments. When war erupted in the Congo in 1960, Dag Hammarskjˆˆld, then secretary-general of the UN, appointed him as his special representative to oversee the UN commitments there. He has shouldered analogous duties in Cyprus, Kashmir, and Yemen.

Replying to an interviewer on the UN's intervention in international crises, Bunche remarked that the United Nations has had the courage that the League of Nations lacked - to step in and tackle the buzz saw Ralph Bunche has supplied a part of that courage.

6. Marion Anderson

Contralto Marian Anderson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A variety of sources suggested February 17, 1902, as her birth date; however, Anderson's birth certificate, released after her death, listed the date as February 27, 1897. Her father was an ice and coal salesman, and her mother was a former teacher.

Although Anderson had early showed an interest in the violin, she eventually focused on singing. The Black community, recognizing her talent, gave her financial and moral support. She also gained the notice of tenor Roland Hayes, who provided guidance in her developing career.

Anderson faced overt racism for the first time when she tried to apply for admission to a local music school. She recalled her reaction to the admissions clerk's racial comments:

"I don't think I said a word. I just looked at this girl and was shocked that such words could come from one so young. If she had been old and sour-faced I might not have been startled. I cannot say why her youth shocked me as much as her words. On second thought, I could not conceive of a person surrounded as she was with the joy that is music without having some sense of its beauty and understanding rub off on her. I did not argue with her or ask to see her superior. It was as if a cold, horrifying hand had been laid on me. I turned and walked out." 2

She did, however, find a teacher who gave her lessons for free. Later, with donations from a local church, Anderson studied with tenor/coach Giuseppe Boghetti. She toured regionally, gaining knowledge and confidence with each performance. In 1924, she gave her first recital at New York's Town Hall. The concert revealed Anderson's discomfort with foreign languages and almost caused her to end her vocal career.

Boghetti convinced her to continue her studies, but when Anderson was unable to establish an active career in the United States, she went to London in 1925 to study. She visited Germany and Finland, where composer Jean Sibelius dedicated the song "Solitude" to her. During the next ten years, she performed extensively in Europe, including an appearance during a 1935 Mozart festival in Austria. She sang before the Archbishop of Salzburg and many of Europe's leading musicians. Her performance led the archbishop to request an encore of Schubert's "Ave Maria" and Arturo Toscanini to state "Yours is a voice one hears once in a hundred years."

Anderson returned to the United States in 1935 for a recital at Town Hall, which this time was a critical success.

Under the management of Sol Hurok, she became the country's third highest concert box office draw. Her successes, however, did not exempt her from racial discrimination. She was often refused accommodations at restaurants, hotels, and concert halls.

The most highly publicized racial instance involving Anderson occurred in 1939 when Hurok and officials from Howard University tried to arrange a concert for her in Constitution Hall, the largest and most appropriate indoor location in Washington, D.C. The hall's owners, the Daughters of the American Revolution, sparked national protests when they refused to allow her to sing there.

In answer to the protests, the United States Department of the Interior, with active encouragement from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, scheduled a concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939. The Easter Sunday program drew a crowd of 75,000 people and millions of radio listeners, and the entire episode caused the news media to focus greater attention on subsequent cases of discrimination involving Anderson and other African Americans.

In 1954, Metropolitan Opera general manager Rudolf Bing signed Anderson for the role of Ulrica in the Met's production of Un Ballo in Maschera, by Giuseppe Verdi. Her debut on January 7, 1955, marked the first time that an African American had sung on the Met stage. Although critics described her performance as beginning tentatively and her voice as showing the effects of her age--she was 57, author Rosalyn Story explained:

Obviously, Bing could have given the honor of "first black" to someone younger and musically stronger, like soprano Mattiwilda Dobbs, who had succeeded at La Scala and the Glyndebourne Festival in England, or baritone Robert McFerrin, who was engaged at the Met immediately after Anderson. But the point was clear; Anderson, whose career had quietly and continuously broken barriers, dissolved hostilities, and awakened the consciousness of an entire country, was the only singer whose presence could signify the real meaning of the event. The length and contour of her own journey, from poor prodigy to artist-ambassador in the span of half a century, mirrored the progress of an entire movement of people advancing toward artistic and social equality. Anderson's life, in simple terms, defined that movement.

The singer received numerous awards and honors during her life. She was given the NAACP's Spingarn Award by Roosevelt in 1938 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson in 1963. She received honorary doctorates from over two dozen universities. Anderson performed before heads of state, including the king and queen of England and at the presidential inaugurations of Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. From 1957-58, she served as a goodwill ambassador with the United States State Department.

7. Ruby Bridges

On the morning of her first day at William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Ruby Bridges' mother told her: "Now I want you to behave yourself today, Ruby, and don't be afraid." Ruby and her mother went to the school where so many people were outside, shouting and throwing things, that the little girl thought it must be Mardi Gras. She seemed to be remembering her mother's words as she entered the school without showing any fear at all, despite the fact that it was 1960, there were U.S. Marshals walking beside her, and she was the first black child to enter an all-white school in the history of the American South.

It was in 1960 that a federal court ordered the desegregation of schools in the south, and although Ruby Bridges' father thought she could get a perfectly good education at an all-black elementary school, Bridges' mother insisted that her daughter pave the way for other black children in the newly-integrated school system.

Charles Burks, one of the U.S. Marshals who escorted Bridges and her mother into the school building, remembers the little girl who became a hero.

"She showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn't whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier. And we're all very proud of her."

The first year, all the parents of Frantz Elementary pulled their children out of school to protest the integration. As a result, Ruby Bridges spent her first year in a class of one. The teacher, a woman from Boston, was one of the few white instructors who was willing to teach a black child. She and Bridges showed up for school every single day that year, and they held class as if there were no angry mob outside, no conflict over a little girl attending first grade.

Bridges family suffered from the bigotry of the times. Her father lost his job as a result of the controversy, and her grandparents lost their place as tenant farmers. The Bridges gathered together, and friends would come in the morning to help Ruby get ready for school, or to walk with her to her classroom.

By now nobody can deny the heroism of Ruby Bridges, whose bravery inspired the 1966 painting by Norman Rockwell entitled "The Problem We All Live With." It also inspired the children's book The Ruby Bridges Story by Robert Coles. She has demonstrated the value of education to countless others: Bridges, who is now 44 years old, has devoted herself to the education of the young. She raised her own four sons, her brother's four daughters, and started the Ruby Bridges Foundation "in the hopes of bringing parents back into the schools and taking a more active role in their children's education."

8. Mal Goode

Mal Goode broke the color barrier in network television news when he became the first African-American television reporter.

He received this position after baseball player Jackie Robinson, who was the first black player in the major leagues, complained to ABC executives about the lack of black reporters.

Mal worked for ABC for 11 years as a correspondent and covered United Nations meetings, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Cuban missile crisis.

Before joining ABC, he had established a successful radio career in Pittsburgh, PA as news director at WHOD. He also became the first black member of the National Association of Radio and TV News Directors.

Up until 1962, television news was strictly a white man's field. His precedent-setting act was a strong step in the fight for equal rights and opened the door for future black reporters on television. Many followed his example and found courage to follow their dreams. More importantly, he served as inspiration for the civil rights movement of the 60's.

White America's barrier between them and the black culture had begun to break.