Author: Inder Khalsa
Grade Level: 5-8
Length of lesson:
1 period
Download Activity

Historical Context:

  • Theme: Change and continuity in American democracy: ideas, institutions, events, key figures, and controversies
  • Era: The development of modern America (19th and 20th centuries)

Essential Question

What factors and influences led to the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott?
How did the Montgomery Bus Boycott change the black community?)


This activity is planned for middle school – grade 6 or 7 as part of a Civil Rights unit. It assumes prior class work on Rosa Parks and the bus boycott (e.g., students working in pairs to construct a timeline of Rosa Park’s or Martin Luther King’s life, touching on influences from early life, education, previous civil rights activities such as voter registration, training in nonviolent protest at the Highlander Folk School, etc.). It would also be helpful for the teacher to work with the whole class to establish a simple time line for the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

This lesson uses two primary sources that directly address the conditions and lack of rights that led to the boycott, and the behaviors that helped the boycott succeed. The worksheet may be scored and/or simply used to spur further reflective discussion and writing on the subject of Civil Rights.


Suggested reading could include: A biography on Rosa Parks such as Rosa Parks, A Life by Douglas Brinkley, or Rosa Parks, My Story by Rosa Parks; a biography on Martin Luther King or The Everything Martin Luther King Book by Jessica McElrath.

Primary Source Materials

  1. Negroes Most Urgent Needs”, a document from “The Montgomery Negro Community” which was presented to the Montgomery City Council the week before the bus boycott started.
    (Typed transcript available with minor editing for ease of reading; see Document#1.doc provided in download.)
  2. Integrated Bus Suggestions,” which was issued by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. W.J. Powell for the Montgomery Improvement Association in 1956, the week segregation on buses was declared unconstitutional. (Typed transcript available in Document#2.doc, provided in download.)

Both these documents were also included in “Mighty Times, the Legacy of Rosa Parks,” Flow of History 2010 published in 2002 as part of the Teaching Tolerance project of Southern Poverty Law Center (

Lesson Plan:

  1. Make and distribute copies of the two primary sources listed above.
  2. Have students—working individually or in pairs—fill out Bus Boycott Worksheet (included in download). Part or all of the worksheet could also be assigned for homework.


If the worksheet is to be scored, I suggest using a Collins Writing Focus Correction Area approach such as the one below:
FCA #1 Accuracy and completeness of the content of each response (16 points per response)
FCA #2 Conventions of writing: capitals, complete sentences, punctuation, spelling (10 points)
FCA #3 Sufficient elaboration and attention to relevant historical detail (10 points)


6.3 Analyzing knowledge
6.6 Being a historian
6.11 Institutional Access
6.12 Human Rights
6.14 Forces of Unity and Disunity