Reading History: “Eyes on the Prize: Ain’t Scared of Your Jail"
Grade level: 9 to 12
Activity type: Project
Period: Multiple class sessions
Related subjects: Government, U.S History
The Ten Questions are structured around thinking about the present and future, but they can also be used for looking for choices civic agents have made in the past. How were people in the past able to successfully effect change through civic and political participation? What can we learn from critical action taken by activists in throughout history? How can we use what we learn to shape to present choice-making? This unit focuses on a particular historical moment during the Civil Right Movement portrayed in Eyes on the Prize: Ain’t Scared of Your Jails.
- What is wrong about segregation? What did the change makers think at the time?
- What choices of action did young activists make to address the issues of segregation?
- How could their action pertain to participatory politics today?
- Understand how racial segregation is unjust and unconstitutional and why activists fought against it.
- Analyze various steps of how young activists made change, using the Ten Questions framework.
- Draw connections between participatory politics in the 1960s and the challenges and potential of civic action today.
Before playing a video clip explain students the social and political background to the early 1960s, particularly on issues of segregation following the Brown vs. Board decision.
- Have a conversation with students about what participatory politics means and how it is different from conventional politics.
- Hand out a graphic organizer (attached at the end of this Guide) and have them discuss the Ten Questions in relation to their views of participatory politics.
- Watch the segment from Eyes on the Prize, paying attention to how the civic action portrayed corresponds with the Ten Questions. The entire episode runs about 22 minutes but we recommend an 18 minute excerpt.
- After viewing, briefly refresh story lines and key events. Have student form small groups, discuss around the Ten Questions, and fill the graphic organizer.
- Coming back to a large group, have students share their thoughts on the questions, comparing how their thoughts are different from others. Encourage students to think further about why participation matters and how participatory politics can change over time.
- Have students write a reflection note that describes their understanding of participatory politics and discusses how today’s participatory politics is similar or different from the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s.