In this visual-based activity, students review photos from the Civil Rights Era of an NAACP protest outside of Woolworth’s department store. Students answer a series of questions and learn about the civil rights movement and Minnesota’s role in it.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Minnesota | Unit 11: Post-Cold War and Minnesota" which enables students to describe economic and social changes that took place in Minnesota during and after the Cold War era. Students also learn about some concerns of modern-day Minnesota.
184.108.40.206.2: Describe civil rights and conservation movements in Post-World War II Minnesota, including the role of Minnesota leaders.
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show images to the class
- Image: NAACP members picketing outside Woolworth's for integrated lunch counters, St. Paul, MN, April 2, 1960 (#1) [Photo: St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press; Source: Minnesota Historical Society, Identifier J7.5 p5.]
- Image: NAACP members picketing outside Woolworth's for integrated lunch counters, St. Paul, MN, April 2, 1960 (#2) [Photo: St. Paul Dispatch-Pioneer Press; Source: Minnesota Historical Society, Identifier J7.5 p4.]
Ask students what they know about the civil rights movement and the protests and marches that marked it. Show them the image, NAACP at Woolworth's #1, to get the conversation going. Ask students: Who was participating in the movement? What were they fighting for?
Show students the image, NAACP at Woolworth's #2, for another view of the protest.
Ask students to describe what else they see in the photos.
Explain the following information to students:
The NAACP is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Woolworth’s, an old department store, as well as many other places at the time, refused to serve black people. All across the country, black men and women were organizing protests and “sit-ins,” where a group of protesters would peacefully sit at “whites-only” places such as lunch counters and refuse to leave.
The two photos were taken on April 2, 1960, by the St. Paul Dispatch–Pioneer Press.
At Minnesota’s own University of Minnesota, black students were treated so poorly they staged a sit-in Morrill Hall until the school’s advisory board addressed their requests for better treatment and rules of respect.
Ask students: What do you think the signs mean?
Explain the role that this protest, and others like it throughout Minnesota, began as a grassroots movement. Reverend Denzil A. Carty, Fredrick L. McGhee, Nellie Stone Johnson, and Harry Davis were leaders of African American communities in Minnesota. These leaders, along with ministers throughout the state, worked to bring their issues to the courts. They worked with publishers of black newspapers to get their message of desegregation and anti-discrimination to the people. Minnesota politician Hubert Humphrey, who later went on to become vice president of the United States, was an early supporter of the civil rights movement.
Explain that Minnesota was not alone in the battle for equal rights. The Minnesota chapters of the NAACP were only part of the countrywide fight for equality. The movement spread through nonviolent sit-ins and demonstrations, and groups used judicial, political, and economic means to bring equal rights to African Americans. Eventually, their efforts led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
1. Answers will vary. Protesters and activists who were fighting for equal rights. The end of more racism: equal rights for black people
2. A group of black men and women protesting, with signs that read:
- “Jim Crow must GO”
- “End Southern Lunch Counter Segregation”
- “One Nation Indivisible Coffee without Discrimination”
- “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Eat”
- “NAACP Aims to Integrate Woolworth Don’t Buy Here”
- “NAACP Supports Southern Sit-Ins”
5. The signs voiced the protesters’ concerns on the issues of civil rights