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    SNIPPET LESSON PLAN FOR:

    The Nashville Sit-Ins
    Using a Film Clip from A Force More Powerful

    Subject:     U.S. History and Culture - Diversity
                            -- Civil Rights Movement & 1945 - 1991


    Ages:        12+; Middle and High School Levels

    Length:      Film Clip: 30 minutes; Lesson: Two 45-55 minute class periods; can be reduced to one class period by eliminating most of the class discussion and the comprehension test.

    Learner Outcomes/Objectives:     Students will learn the history of the Nashville sit-ins of 1960, from the training the students received, through the sit-ins themselves, to the negotiations that led to the integration of restaurants in downtown Nashville. Students will also become acquainted with the concept of non-violent mass action through the example of the sit-ins. Students will retain strong mental images of the early Civil Rights Movement by watching it unfold on film.

    Rationale:     An understanding of modern history requires knowledge of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the important role students played in the quest for equal rights, and the signifigance of nonviolent mass action as a force for political and social change. The Nashville sit-ins of 1960 were a pivotal event in the U.S. Civil Rights movement.

    Description of the Film Clip:     This is the first segment of the documentary, A Force More Powerful. The film describes six occasions in which nonviolent mass action changed governments or promoted social reform.
 





SNIPPET MENU
Learner Outcomes/Objectives
Rationale
Description of the Snippet
Using the Snippet in Class:
      Preparation
      Step by Step
      Supplemental Materials
          -- James Lawson
          -- Audiences the Demonstrators
          Were Trying to Reach
      Discussion Questions
      Concluding Activity/Assessment

An assault on Big Saturday, February 27, 1960 -- One of the students' tactical goals was to remove business support for segregation by making it costly and controversial.


    USING THE FILM CLIP IN THE CLASSROOM    

    Preparation


    1.   Review the film clip and to make sure it is suitable for the class.

    2.   Review this Guide and decide how much of the Supplemental Materials to provide to the class. Also determine which discussion questions to use. Decide whether to present the Supplemental Materials through direct instruction or to give students the Handout Relating to the Nashville Sit-ins to read. Decide whether to give students the comprehension test. Modify the handout and the comprehension test, if necessary, for the particular needs of the class.

    3.   Cue the DVD to the beginning of the film clip and assemble all printed materials to be handed out to the class.

    Step by Step


    1.  Tell students that the class will cover the Nashville sit-ins of 1960. Place the events in Nashville in the context with other historical events that the students have been studying or which were occurring in the early 1960s.

    2.  Play the movie A Force More Powerful from the beginning to the end of the segment entitled "We Were Warriors - Nashville, 1960". This will take about 30 minutes.

    3.  After the film clip, present the Supplemental Materials through direct instruction or have the class read the
    Handout Relating to the Nashville Sit-ins.

    4.   Select the discussion questions to review. See Discussion Questions below.

    5. Give the comprehension test. The test consists of the discussion questions slightly modified in some cases. The test is designed to be a learning experience itself. Allow 30 minutes for the test.

    Supplemental Materials    

    James Lawson and
    His Contributions to the United States

    James Lawson was a leading figure in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. He was born into a family of Methodist ministers in 1928 and started preaching in his own right in 1947 when he graduated from high school. As a young man, Mr. Lawson became a committed pacifist. During the Korean War (1950-1953) he was eligible for both a student and a ministerial deferment. Mr. Lawson declined to apply for either of them, refusing to cooperate with a system that made war. As a result he served thirteen months in federal prison for refusing to cooperate with the draft law. Upon his release, Mr. Lawson served as a missionary, campus minister, and coach at Hislop College in Nagpur, India. There he studied Satyagraha, the principles of nonviolent civil disobedience developed by Mohandas Gandhi. Mr. Lawson returned to the United States in 1955 at which time he met Dr. Martin Luther King, who urged him to come south and get involved in the Civil Rights Movement. "Come now!" Dr. King said, "We don't have anyone like you down there."

    Moving to Nashville, Tennessee, Mr. Lawson enrolled at the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University and soon began conducting workshops in nonviolence for the organization led by Dr. King, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). While in Nashville and throughout his career, Mr. Lawson trained many future leaders of the Civil Rights Movement in the principles and tactics of nonviolent protest. Jesse Jackson and many others have called him the "teacher" of the movement.

    In 1959, student activists trained by Mr. Lawson launched a series of sit-ins that resulted in the integration of lunch counters, restaurants, and other public facilities in Nashville, Tennessee. (For an interview with Mr. Lawson, see Interview: Rev. James Lawson from NPR.) Dr. King called Mr. Lawson the foremost theorist of nonviolence in the world and cited the Nashville sit-ins as a model for a successful campaign of nonviolent mass action.

    Mr. Lawson served with distinction in key roles in many of the most important efforts of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1960, he was one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He served as coordinator of the Freedom Rides in 1961. In 1962, Mr. Lawson became minister of the Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1968, when black sanitation workers in Memphis went on strike for higher wages and union recognition, Mr. Lawson served as chairman of the strategy committee. James Lawson issued the fateful invitation to his friend, Dr. King, requesting his presence in Memphis to support the garbage workers' strike. Dr. King was assassinated while he was in Memphis.

    Mr. Lawson moved to Los Angeles in 1974 to become pastor of the Holman United Methodist church. He is now retired but continues to be active in political and social causes.

    People in authority have often been unhappy with James Lawson's activities. In addition to incurring the ire of the federal government for resisting the draft, he was expelled from Vanderbilt University for his Civil Rights work. He has been jailed in nonviolent civil disobedience activities in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, California and Washington, D.C. He has objected to U.S. military involvement abroad, particularly to the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the wars in Iraq. He has opposed U.S. policy toward Cuba and U.S. policy in Central America. He has supported the rights of Palestinians, the demands of workers for increased wages and union representation, and the requests of gays and lesbians for equal treatment.

    The Audiences Which the Demonstrators
    Were Trying to Reach

    The sit-ins, the marches, and the boycott were designed to address many audiences. The following describes seven of these audiences and the reasons they were targeted by the protesters.

      (1) the segregationists, because nonviolent mass action always seeks to change the minds of the opponents;

      (2) the public officials of Nashville, because they held the power of arrest and controlled the government;

      (3) the Nashville business community, because these people had a lot of influence with the public officials; this group was particularly vulnerable to the sit-ins because the controversy disrupted business;

      (4) the people of Nashville, because nonviolent mass action always appeals to the sense of justice of the community which can pressure those in power to change the policy, especially in a democracy;

      (5) the citizens of the nation, for the same reasons as the people of Nashville; the sit-ins were a major factor in getting Congress to pass a public accommodations law that prohibited racial segregation in restaurants, including lunch counters;

      (6) politicians outside of Memphis, particularly at the national level, for the purpose of convincing them to pass laws banning discrimination; and

      (7) the people of the world, because Americans and U.S. public officials would be embarrassed by the failure of the U.S. to live up to the principles of the Declaration of Independence.

    Discussion Questions With Suggested Answers

    Points that will be covered in a thorough class discussion are set out in the Suggested Response section. The questions on the comprehension test are identical in most cases to the discussion questions. Not all discussion questions are included in the test. The Suggested Responses are examples of excellent answers to the appropriate test questions.
    1.  Segregation can be defined as the separation of black and white Americans in social, political and economic spheres of life. Describe: (a) the ways in which blacks were harmed by segregation, (b) the ways in which segregation harmed whites, and (c) the way in which the failure to give equal rights to black Americans harmed the nation. Suggested Response:

      (a) Segregation, particularly in education and employment, denied black Americans the opportunity to realize their full potential, to be paid as they deserved for their work, and to live the American Dream. Segregation sent a message to blacks that they were inferior to other Americans; it was a mark of inferiority that was devastating to the self-esteem of many. It was a constant and irritating reminder that blacks were considered second class citizens by their white compatriots.

      (b) As to whites, segregation betrayed the political and cultural ideals of the Declaration of Independence. Relegating people to second-class citizenship because of their race undercut basic ethical lessons taught at home and in the churches and temples that whites attended. It is harmful to live in a way that takes unfair advantage of others. This harm may be more subtle than the harm from segregation suffered by a black person but it is nonetheless real.

      (c) For the United States as a community, segregation betrayed the principles of the Declaration of Independence. By denying African Americans an equal opportunity to better themselves and contribute to society, segregation the denied country the full benefits of their talent.

    2.  What characteristics of population and tradition made Nashville a good place in which to mount a challenge to the segregation of department store lunch counters? Suggested Response: Nashville was generally thought to be an enlightened community with several colleges, black and white. Blacks had already been elected to the City Council and the School Board. There was a strong professional and middle class component to the black community in Nashville. It was called the "Athens of the South" for its colleges and its reputation as being an enlightened community. There were many students from the black colleges to serve as volunteers. James Lawson, an expert in Gandhian nonviolence, was in Nashville and available to aid the students.

    3.  Explain the symbolic value of the lunch counters of downtown department stores targeted by the sit-in demonstrators. Suggested Response: Lunch counters were central and easy for the media to cover. It was particularly unjust for the department stores to sell merchandise to black people but not to allow them to eat at a lunch counter located in the store. The segregated lunch counters were a symbol that access to a place to eat, a basic human need, was being denied to the black community. The prospect of blacks eating next to whites would infuriate racists but also stress the humanity of the demonstrators and of all black people.

    4.  What happened on February 27, 1960, the day the students labelled "Big Saturday"? Did it work to the advantage of the students or that of the segregationists? Explain the reasons for your answer. Suggested Response: Agitators attacked sit-in demonstrators on February 27, 1960. Then the police arrested 81 demonstrators for disturbing the peace despite the fact that they had done nothing illegal and had been passive during the entire incident. No agitators were arrested. James Lawson, a leader of the demonstrations, named February 27, 1960, as "Big Saturday." It led to outrage nationwide and helped the protesters prevail.

    5.  What would have probably happened had the demonstrators fought back when they were attacked? Suggested Response: Fighting back would have sacrificed the students' moral authority as nonviolent protesters. It would have made the goal of mobilizing public opinion for desegregation more difficult by changing the focus of the controversy. The story in the press would been about the fight, rather than about the protesters' complaints, their demands for change, and the viciousness of the segregationists. In addition, fighting back would have given the segregationists an excuse to hurt the demonstrators and would have given the police a justification for arresting them.

    6.  What strategic advantage did the demonstrators gain by deciding to remain in jail rather than posting the $50 bail? Suggested Response: Their purpose was to clog the court system and the jails, thereby increasing the pressure on the government.

    7.  Mr. Lawson instructed the demonstrators to look their attackers in the eye. What was his purpose in giving this instruction? Suggested Response: It brought home to the attackers that they were hurting human beings.

    8.  The sit-ins, the marches and the boycott were designed to address many audiences. Describe some of the audiences and explain the demonstrators' reasons for targeting them. Suggested Response: Seven of the audiences and the reasons for targeting them were: (1) the segregationists, because nonviolent mass action always seeks to change the minds of the opponents; (2) the public officials of Nashville, because they held the power of arrest and controlled the government; (3) the Nashville business community, because these people had a lot of influence with the public officials; this group was particularly vulnerable to the sit-ins because the controversy disrupted business; (4) the people of Nashville, because nonviolent mass action always appeals to the sense of justice of the community which can pressure those in power to change the policy, especially in a democracy; (5) the citizens of the nation, for the same reasons as the people of Nashville; the sit-ins were a major factor in getting Congress to pass a public accommodations law that prohibited racial segregation in restaurants, including lunch counters; (6) politicians outside of Memphis, particularly at the national level, for the purpose of convincing them to pass laws banning discrimination; and (7) the people of the world, because Americans and U.S. public officials would be embarrassed by the failure of the U.S. to live up to the principles of the Declaration of Independence.

    9.  The students considered the mass arrests to be a victory. What was their reasoning? Suggested Response: It meant that the government officials didn't know how to deal with the protests. Arrests and imprisonment of many clean cut, well dressed college students angered the larger community and demonstrated that something was going on in Nashville that people should pay attention to.

    10.  When he was a young man, Mr. Lawson went to jail rather than cooperate in any way with the United States military. People have very different opinions about whether this was a patriotic act. However, looking at the accomplishments of Mr. Lawson over his long career, do you think he was a patriotic American? Suggested Response: This is an opinion question for which there is no single correct answer. A good answer will mention most of the following facts: Mr. Lawson knew what he thought was right and what he believed was best for the country; he acted on those beliefs. Even when he went to jail for resisting the draft, he didn't try to run away and he didn't try to take the easy way out. He stood up for his principles and took the punishment that society required of him. It is clear that he always had the best interests of the country at heart. Standing up for your principles is a very patriotic thing to do. Mr. Lawson's work in the Civil Rights Movement was definitely a benefit to the country.



    Questions 4 & 6 have been adapted from Question #3 in the Discussion Questions suggested in the web site from the filmmakers. The answers have been supplied by TWM.


    For curriculum standards relating to the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, Click here.


    Links to the Internet -- Nashville

  • The Daring of Nonviolence Common Dreams News Center;
  • Interview with John R. Lewis.





  • The white power structure in Nashville was fractured by the sit-ins. The business community needed relief from the boycott and began to look for a way to satisfy the students' demands.



    Bernard Lafayette arrested. The arrests of the students dramatized their grievances.


      Photos by Vic Cooley / Nashville Banner archives.



 







Possible Problems for this Snippet:     None.





Location on DVD: Start at the begriming of the film and run it to the end of the section on the Nashville sit-ins.







Teach students about Mahatma Gandhi, the development of nonviolent mass action, and the Indian independence movement. See Snippet Guide to Defying the Crown -- India 1930 From A Force More Powerful.







Click here to Set-Up-the-Sub for this lesson.







Why not show the whole movie? TWM strongly recommends this film, especially the sections on the Nashville sit-ins, Gandhi and the Indian independence movement, the resistance to apartheid in South Africa, and the emergence of Solidarity in Poland. See Learning Guide to A Force More Powerful.







This Snippet Lesson Plan consists of sections of the Learning Guide to A Force More Powerful.







Building Vocabulary: holistic, experiment, overt, humiliating, segregation, desegregation, apartheid, KKK (Ku Klux Klan), Gandhian, discipline, anticipating, sit-in, dramatize, grievances, boycott, backfire, strategic opportunity, controversial, equivalent, contingency, a story of national significance, historic moment, on principal, indignation, mobilized, momentum, retailer.







Give us your feedback! Was the Guide helpful? If so, which sections were most helpful? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Email us!



Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.













Reminder: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing this snippet.









Click here for a web site from the filmmakers.







PHOTOGRAPHS, DIAGRAMS AND OTHER VISUALS:   Photographs of Signs Enforcing Racial Discrimination: Documentation by Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Photographers from the Library of Congress and Photographs -- Civil Rights Collection.







"The best-kept secret (about the Nashville sit-ins) was the training we received. Reverend Lawson was older, and he gave us confidence. I was a young, wild student.... Those movements that were successful had leadership training." Rev. Bernard Lafayette, one of the students trained for the Nashville sit-ins, quoted in "Nonviolence still key, civil rights leaders say" from Tennessean.com.







For an example of how American women, lead by Alice Paul, developed the principles of Gandhian nonviolent mass action, apparently independently, and used them to secure the vote for women in the United States, see Learning Guide to "Iron Jawed Angels".







"Unfortunately the concept of nonviolence for many people is that you get hit on one cheek you, turn the other cheek. You don't do anything. But nonviolence means fighting back. But you are fighting back with another purpose and with other weapons." -- Bernard Lafayette








Singing "We Shall Overcome" -- The boycott allowed the whole community to participate.









James Lawson in a strategy meeting



There can be no change without enlisting the support of the majority.








John Lewis (later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives) talking to police.

"Arrange and number one, your fight is to win that person over. And that is a fight. That is a struggle. That's much more challenging than fisticuffs." -- Bernard Lafayette






 
 

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