Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Forgotten Figures

The Civil Rights Movement

Daniel Schwarz | Published: July 12th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course Oklahoma History, U.S. History
  • Time Frame Time Frame 180 minutes
  • Duration More 3-4 class periods


This lesson will introduce students to some of the lesser-known individuals whose actions paved the way for the civil rights movement. Individuals discussed in this lesson include Elizabeth Jennings, Samuel W. Tucker, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, George McLaurin, and Clara Luper. Using primary and secondary sources, students will learn about the contributions of these individuals and prepare presentations that summarize their findings. Students will also attempt to determine why the contributions of these individuals have been forgotten by so many.

Essential Question(s)

Who are some of the lesser-known contributors to the civil rights movement? Why have we forgotten about these people?



Students discuss as a class what they know about the civil rights movement and describe the contributions of famous people associated with it. Students begin work on a Tip of the Iceberg analysis and engage in a True or False exercise to expose some of the myths about the civil rights movement.


Students engage in a Think-Pair-Share activity to arrive at an understanding of the concept of "collective memory."


Students work in groups to ascertain the accomplishments of five individuals who contributed to civil rights, determine why their contributions have largely been forgotten, and present their findings to the class.


Each group analyzes whether its forgotten figure should be included in a history textbook and selects one group member to present the group's findings in an Elevator Speech. Students optionally investigate other forgotten figures.


Students return to the Tip of the Iceberg activity and summarize what they have learned.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Pens and pencils

  • Paper

  • Student devices with Internet access

  • T-Chart handouts (attached, one per student)

  • Tip of the Iceberg handouts (attached, one per student)

  • Forgotten figure document packets (attached, one packet per student)

  • Document Packet Teacher's Guide (attached)

  • Presentation Rubric (attached, one per student)


Use the attached Lesson Slides to follow along with the lesson. Go to slide 3. Provide students with the attached Tip of the Iceberg handout. As a class, discuss what students know about the civil rights movement and the contributions of famous people associated with it. Have students take a moment to fill in some points from the discussion in the "tip" of the Tip of the Iceberg handout.

Engage students in a True or False exercise using the four statements found on slides 4-11. Answers are presented after each corresponding statement.


Take a few minutes to go over the Guiding Questions found on slide 12 and the Objectives displayed on slide 13.

Go to slide 14. Proceed with a Think-Pair-Share activity using the prompt "What is collective memory?"

  1. Give students a few minutes to think individually about the prompt.

  2. Have students pair up to develop their definitions further.

  3. Reconvene as a class and have pairs share their definitions.

Afterward, present the definition found on slide 15.


Break students into groups of four and provide each group with copies of the attached T-Chart handout and one of the following attached Forgotten Figures document packets: Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Document Packet, Elizabeth Jennings Document Packet, Clara Luper Document Packet, George McLaurin Document Packet, or Samuel W. Tucker Document Packet. Each packet contains one secondary source, one or two primary sources, and one or two photos that relate to the experiences of one of the forgotten figures.

Review the instructions on slide 16. Using evidence from the sources in their packet, students should summarize the accomplishments of their assigned individual and determine why that person's contributions have largely been forgotten. They will record their findings on their T-Chart handouts. Groups will then prepare a slide show presentation to share their findings with the class. They can use PowerPoint, Google Slides, or another digital tool to create their presentations.

Go to slide 17. Review the list of questions provided on this slide. Students should use these questions as a guide to help them organize their research and presentations.

Pass out copies of the attached Presentation Rubric handout. Familiarize students with the rubric and tell them that you will be using the rubric to evaluate their presentations.


Go to slide 18. Each group will now work together to determine whether their forgotten figure should be included in a history textbook. Have each student prepare an Elevator Speech in which they explain in 30 seconds or less why their figure should or should not be included in a textbook. Each group should choose one spokesperson who will share the speech with the class.


Go to slide 20. Have students return to the Tip of the Iceberg handout and summarize beneath the surface of the water the new information they have acquired about these five individuals and about the omission of important events from collective memory.