WHat can we learn from social change efforts from the past?


Activity: Eyes on the Prize: Then and Now

(60 minutes)


[The following activity was adapted from Facing History and Ourselves’ curricula on “Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement: 1954-1985” in collaboration with Adam Strom. Facing History’s full curricula is available at:]


In February 1960, the first major student-led mobilization sparked by the Civil Rights Movement and formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) unfolded in Nashville, Tennessee. While it had been six years since Brown vs. Board of Education (the Supreme Court case that desegregated schools), segregated businesses and social institutions persisted in Nashville and many other cities.


The documentary, Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement features footage from the Nashville movement and interviews with key activists in Ain't Scared of Your Jails (1960-61) (Part 3, Disc 2: Watch 2:00 - 22:50). The video shows how youth strategized, organized, prepared for, and carried out the lunch counter sit-ins, marches, and other acts of civil disobedience as they pushed for recognition of their civil rights from the city’s mayor and desegregation across the city.

Ask your student to watch the Eyes on the Prize, Part 3: Ain't Scared of Your Jails (1960-61) (Disc 2 of the DVD set) (Focus on the following excerpt: 2:00 - 22:50)  

While they watch, ask students to use the two-column note method to record the following:


                   Left column                                                            Right column

                   What choices did the activists make?                 What choices did others make in response?


In small groups or pairs, ask the students to discuss the following questions:

  1. What were the key choices made by the activists that led to their success - including the way they responded to pushback or resistance from non-supporters?  

  2. How might this story have played out differently in digital age? How could digital tools have been used to forward the goals of the campaign? What challenges may have come up?

  3. Despite the many differences between then (1960) and today, what choices and strategies still have relevance for taking action today?

© 2018 by the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics

Students explore their identities and communities, identify civic issues that matter to them, and consider how they might use digital media for civic participation.

Students work to understand and analyze civic information online, and consider what information they

can trust.

Students navigate diverse perspectives and exchange ideas about civic issues in our inter-connected world .

Students consider how, when and to what end they can create, remix and otherwise re-purpose content that they share with others in online spaces.

Students consider a broad range of tactics and strategies for acting on civic issues.