Civil Rights Movement Web Quest

Civil Rights Movement Web Quest

In 1954, the Supreme Court made a historic decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.  In ruling in favor of Linda Brown, a third grade African American student, the Supreme Court made a critical first step in beginning to overturn their previous ruling of “separate but equal” handed down in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.  Brown v. Board activated a broader movement to fight for the end of segregation in the United States: The Civil Rights Movement.  In this Web Quest you will look at several key events as well as some of the people who shaped the movement itself.  Ultimately, the Civil Rights Movement came to an end in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the legal end of segregation, but our country continues to fight for equality for all today.

Event 1: The Montgomery Bus Boycott

On December 1st, 1955 Rosa Parks made history when she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus.  On the day of Ms. Parks’ trial (December 5th) thousands of riders banned together against the segregated bus system and began a 381 day boycott.

Use the following link to find out more about Rosa Parks’ life.


1. Describe the circumstances that led to Rosa Parks’ arrest.



2. How did the city of Montgomery claim the buses were “separate but equal”?



3. Explain the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and their role in the boycott.



4. How did segregationists and the City of Montgomery fight back against the boycott?


5.  Led by Parks’ lawyer Fred Gray, a case was opened against the city.  What was the argument of the protestors?  How did the Supreme Court rule when they heard the case?




6. After 381 days why did the boycott end?  What happened to the bus system in Montgomery?




7. Contrary to popular belief, Rosa Parks was not an ordinary citizen uninvolved with the Civil Rights Movement when she was arrested.  Describe her background in the Civil Rights Movement.




8-13. Why was the Montgomery Bus Boycott successful?  Use the sources on the following site to find out more about what factors contributed to its success.

Source Name


According to this source, why was the Montgomery Boycott successful?

Robinson Letter








Rustin Diary








Highlander Letter








Event 2: Greensboro Four and the Sit In Movement

On February 1, 1960, a new tactic was added to the peaceful activists' strategy. Four African American college students walked up to a whites-only lunch counter at the local Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, North Carolina, and asked for coffee. When service was refused, the students sat patiently. Despite threats and intimidation, the students sat quietly and waited to be served.

The civil rights sit-in was born.  Use the following site to read more about the Greensboro Four:


14. Why was the famous Greensboro Sit In not spontaneous?



15. What happened on February 1, 1960?  Describe the actions of the Greensboro Four.



16. Describe the growth of the Woolworth’s sit in over the next week.



17. What progress resulted from the sit in?



18-20. Now watch the following video about the Greensboro Four and the famous Woolworth’s lunch counter:  Take notes in the space below as you watch.




The sit in movement expanded far beyond Greensboro, North Carolina.  Use the following link for information about the broader Sit in Movement:

21. What typically happens during a sit in?



22. How far did the sit in movement spread in 1960 and 1961?



23. What role did CORE and SCLC play in the movement?



24. How was the behavior of the protestors key to the movement’s success?



25.  How did the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) affect the Civil Rights movement?



26. Summarize the legacy of the Sit In Movement.




Event 3: Freedom Rides

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), founded in 1942, became one of the leading activist organizations in the early years of the American civil rights movement. In the early 1960s, CORE, working with other civil rights groups, launched a series of initiatives such as the Freedom Rides. 

Use the following link to read about the Freedom Rides:


27. Describe the beginning of the Freedom Rider’s journey.  What was their purpose?




28.  What type of hostility did the Freedom Riders meet during their journey?




29.  Why did the Freedom Rides not end when faced with this hospitality?




30.  What was the result of the Freedom Rides?  What action did the Interstate Commerce Commission take?



Event 4: March on Washington

The March on Washington was a demonstration held in Washington, D.C., in 1963 by civil rights leaders to protest racial discrimination and to show support for major civil rights legislation that was pending in Congress.  Use the following link to read more about the march:


31. Who was A. Philip Randolph?  What role did he play in the March on Washington?



32. What was the purpose of the march according to Randolph and Rustin?



33. Why was President Kennedy concerned about the march?



34. What famous memorial was the backdrop for the march?  How many people participated?



35. Other than Dr. Martin Luther King, who else appeared before the crowd?



36-38. In the space below list 3 facts about Dr, Martin Luther King’s speech:




Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream…” speech is often regarded as one of the most famous moments of the Civil Rights Movement and a turning point in ushering in the legal end to segregation in the United States.  Following the link below to read the text of King’s speech OR watch his speech at the link below to answer the questions that follow:





39. The speech begins (and ends) by emphasizing freedom: what does King mean by freedom, and in what sense does he regard African Americans as “still not free”? Use examples from the text.





40. The speech then moves to speak about justice: can you say what he means by “justice”—equality of rights, equality before the law, equality of opportunity, equality of economic and social condition, or something else? Use examples from the text and your knowledge of the era to defend your answer.





41. What do you think Dr. King means when he says that African Americans have been given a check marked “insufficient funds”? What does this metaphor reveal about inequality in 1963?




42. Dr. King references a “sacred obligation” in his speech. What do you think this obligation is, in his view? How do you think that obligation could be achieved?




43. Why do you think Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is remembered as one of the most significant speeches in U.S. history?



44-45. Choose TWO quotes from Dr. King’s speech you personally feel are the most powerful.  Explain why you chose each one.



Event 5: Civil Rights Act of 1964

In a nationally televised address on June 6, 1963, President John F. Kennedy urged the nation to take action toward guaranteeing equal treatment of every American regardless of race. Soon after, Kennedy proposed that Congress consider civil rights legislation that would address voting rights, public accommodations, school desegregation, nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, and more.

Read Kennedy’s speech to Congress on the following site and answer the questions below:


46. What was the purpose of Kennedy’s speech?



47. Who is Kennedy addressing, Congress or all Americans?  Why?



48. Does it sound like he’s addressing Americans of all races or only people of a particular race?  Why?



49. Why does he keep saying this is “moral” issue?



50. What does he want Congress to do?


51. Do you think this was an effective speech?  Why or why not?



When President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, Congress had not acted on his request.  However, his proposal culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the following year.  Use the link below to find out more about the act:

52. How long was the Act debated in the House of Representatives?  The Senate?



53. Which President signed the Act into law?  Who else was present at its signing?



54.  What did the Civil Rights Act of 1964 do?

After the Civil Rights Act of 1964

When President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965, he took the Civil Rights Act of 1964 several steps further. The new law banned all voter literacy tests and provided federal examiners in certain voting jurisdictions.

The civil rights movement had tragic consequences for two of its leaders in the late 1960s. On February 21, 1965, Organization of Afro-American Unity founder Malcolm X was assassinated at a rally. On April 4, 1968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on his hotel room’s balcony. Emotionally-charged looting and riots followed, putting even more pressure on the Johnson administration to push through additional civil rights laws.

The Fair Housing Act became law on April 11, 1968, just days after King’s assassination. It prevented housing discrimination based on race, sex, national origin and religion. It was also the last legislation enacted during the civil rights era.

The civil rights movement was an empowering yet precarious time for blacks in America. The efforts of civil rights activists and countless protestors of all races brought about legislation to end segregation, black voter suppression and discriminatory employment and housing practices.