Civil Disobedience in America

“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”

Frederick Douglasss

Note: I am no longer in the classroom; however, I want to share this lesson with all of you. I am now supporting English teachers with their instruction 🙂

Every year, both my freshman and junior English classes read and discuss acts of civil disobedience. The only difference this year is that we will be looking at a more in depth analysis of how racism plays a vital role in our country. Despite the reservations that some teachers might have about having this conversation with their students, it’s not about being divisive, on the contrary, it’s about becoming active citizens in order to bring much needed change to our country.

We can no longer look the other way and expect things to change out of sheer hope. Hence, I have curated a list of acts of civil disobedience that will assist in having some much needed difficult discussions in our classrooms. Some of these acts are accompanied by essential *historical context that students must know in order to make deeper connections.

Hoping that many of us have the courage to teach the lasting impact of racism in our country as a way to eradicate it in all its manifestations both at the micro and macro levels.

Student Goals

  • Students will synthesize sources to learn how past acts of civil disobedience enacted or eradicated social change.
  • Students will synthesize sources to learn how current acts of civil disobedience enacts or eradicates social change.
  • Students will evaluate policies that create or hinder social change in our country.

Essential Questions

  1. What is civil disobedience? Is there a right or wrong way to protest? (time, place, destruction, defacing…)
  2. What is the exigence and occasion?
  3. Who is the speaker?
  4. Who is the primary and secondary audience?
  5. What is the purpose ?
  6. Who is supporting and opposing this act of civil disobedience? Why?
  7. Did we change or create policies that will help us move forward? If yes, which ones? If no, why not?
  8. Was this form of protest effective or ineffective? Why?

Civil Disobedience Defined

Civil Rights Protests

  • Mendez vs Westminster 1946*
  • Hernandez vs Texas 1954*
  • Brown vs Board of Education 1954*
  • Ole Miss Protest 1970
  • Protesters Expelled From College Get Apology 2018

Race Riots

  • St. Louis Riots 1917
  • The Red Summer of 1919
  • The Tulsa Massacre 1931
  • Zoot Suit Riots 1943

Police Brutality Protests


  • Forced Sterilization of Mexican Americans 1907*
  • Mexican-American Repatriation 1929*
  • CA Targeted Latinas for Sterilization 1942*
  • Stricter Laws For Immigration Protest 2006
  • Immigration Protesters Pressure Obama 2014
  • Families Belong Together Protest 2018
  • Bipartisanship With Immigration 2019

Gender Equality

  • Marsha and Sylvia Stonewall 1924
  • For LGBTQ People of Color Discrimination Compounds 2017*


  • North Dakota Pipeline Protest 2016
  • North Dakota Pipeline Protest Time 2016
  • North Dakota Pipeline Timeline NPR 2017
  • North Dakota Environmental Review NPR 2020

Women’s Rights

  • Women’s March 2019
  • Women Who Shaped History 2019*
  • Women’s Suffrage 2020*

Labor Protests

Policies and Bills

Published by Noemi Gonzalez

I'm an experienced high school English teacher sharing best practices to inform, to inspire and to reflect on my own craft. Love implementing new ideas and efficient systems that make teaching manageable. Teachers need a surmountable amount of support to help them survive, and every year comes with its own challenges. When I am not teaching or creating, I love hiking, running, anything outdoorsy! I am also a mother of two boys, one in college the other in his last year of middle school. Hope you can utilize what I create and share on this platform.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: