Students learn about nonviolent resistance movements that have taken place around the world and, using video segments from the PBS program Women, War & Peace:“Pray the Devil Back to Hell” explore how women’s nonviolent protests helped bring about the end of a bloody civil war in Liberia in 2003. In the Introductory Activity, students learn about nonviolent resistance, conduct research about nonviolent protest leaders in different countries and time periods, discuss the goals and impact of their actions, and place them on a timeline. In Learning Activity 1,students learn about actions that Leymah Gbowee and the women of Liberia took to protest the civil war in their country. In Learning Activity 2, students explore different methods of nonviolent action and read and discuss the letter Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from jail in Birmingham, Alabama, as well as the statement from Alabama clergymen which prompted him to write the letter. In the Culminating Activity, students examine nonviolent protest movements throughout history and discuss the goals and impact of those efforts. The lesson concludes with students writing and discussing reflection essays about the use of nonviolent resistance, citing examples studied in this lesson.
Students will be able to:
- Define “nonviolent resistance” and “civil disobedience;”
- Discuss who Leymah Gbowee is and what her role was in ending Liberia’s Civil War in 2003;
- Describe nonviolent actions the women of Liberia took to protest the war;
- Name at least three leaders of nonviolent protests around the world and discuss the goals and impact of their actions;
- Describe the role women have played in nonviolent protest movements in at least three countries;
- Explain the points raised by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his letter from the Birmingham jail and apply them to Leymah Gbowee’s situation;
- Discuss at least one major nonviolent resistance movement in the United States or another country, the nonviolent actions its leaders took, and the impact of the movement;
- Discuss how nonviolent strategies have been used to achieve various goals in different regions of the world, citing at least three specific examples.
(3-4) 45-minute class periods
For each student:
- 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action
- Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail
- Public Statement by Eight Alabama Clergymen
- Nonviolent Resistance Student Organizer
For use in student research during the Introductory Activity:
- Biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964 award)
- Award ceremony speech for Betty Williams and Miread Corrigan (1976)
For use in Learning Activity 2:
For use in student research during the Culminating Activity:
Part I: Introductory Activity
- Askstudents to think about different ways people have voiced objections to warand/or unfair laws and policies. (Protests,marches, hunger strikes, writings, etc.)
- Explainthat today’s lesson will highlight efforts of nonviolent resistance that havetaken place throughout history, with special focus on efforts by women inLiberia in 2003 to bring about an end to civil war in that country.
- Askstudents to define the terms “nonviolent resistance”/ “nonviolent action” and“civil disobedience.” (“Nonviolentresistance” or “nonviolent action” involves using symbolic protests, civildisobedience and other non-violent acts in order to achieve specific goals.“Civil disobedience” involves the refusal to obey certain laws or requirementsof a government and is considered to be a form of nonviolent resistance.)
- Ask students to list examples of nonviolent protests with which they are familiar. (Mohandas Ghandi’s Salt March, MartinLuther King’s civil rights efforts, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, etc.)
- Divide students into groups of 2-3 students each. Assign each group one of the following people/groups:
- Berthavon Suttner
- Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan
- Cesar Chavez
- Emily Greene Balch
- Henry David Thoreau
- Inez Milholland Boissevain
- Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. (Jibreel Khazan) and David Richmond
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
- Rosa Parks
- Srdja Popovic
- Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman
- At least one major nonviolent action/event with which they were associated.
- Thegoal(s) of their nonviolent protest(s).
- Where and when they lived.
- The impact of their actions (on others and on themselves).
- Other additional information about their actions.
- The name(s) of the individual(s).
- The name of one major event for which theirselected individual or group is known.
- The year the event took place.
- Optional:A photograph of theindividual(s) and/or the featured event.
Possible events and datesto include:
- Henry David Thoreau: Wrote “CivilDisobedience," also known as “Resistance to Civil Government” (1849).
- Bertha von Suttner: Author of Lay Down Your Arms (1889); Formed the Austrian Peace Society (1891).
- Inez Hilholland Boissevain: Suffrage Parade (March 3, 1913).
- Emily Greene Balch: Co-founder and honorary president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (founded in 1915 as the “Women’s Committee for Permanent Peace”). Secretary of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (1919-22; 1934-35).
- Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi: Non-cooperation movement, British India (September 1920- February 1922); Salt March (March 12-April 5, 1930).
- Alva Myrdal: Represented Sweden at Geneva disarmament conference (1962); Promoted disarmament as a member of Swedish Parliament (beginning in 1962) and as a member of the Swedish Cabinet (beginning in 1967).
- Rosa Parks: Refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama (December 1, 1955); Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956).
- Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. (Jibreel Khazan) and David Richmond: Known as the Greensboro Four, they conducted a sit-in at the Woolworth’s counter in Greensboro, NC (February 1, 1960). Sit-ins by the Greensboro Four and others continued in Greensboro through July 25, 1960.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.: Montgomery Bus Boycott (December, 1955-December, 1956); Project C/Protests in Birmingham,Alabama (April, 1963); March on Washington (August 28, 1963).
- Cesar Chavez: Strike and march by California grape pickers (March, 1966); 25-day spiritual fast (1968); Boycott to protest use of pesticides on grapes (1980s).
- Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman: Mexico City Olympic Games Black Power Salute (1968).
- Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan: Co-founded the Northern Ireland Peace Movement (1976), also known as the Communityof Peace People.
- Srdja Popovic: One of the leaders of Otpor, the nonviolent protest movement that helped end the dictatorship ofSlobodan Milosovic in Serbia (2000)
Part II: Learning Activity 1
- Explainthat you will now be showing a video from the PBS program Women,War & Peace:“Pray the Devil Back to Hell” a program whichdocuments the role women played in bringing about an end to war in Liberia. Explain that the video introduces Leymah Gbowee and describes actions she took to mobilize women in Liberia to speak out against the war.
- Asstudents view the video, ask them to write down some of the actions that LeymahGbowee took to mobilize the women of Liberia.
- Play War and the Rise of Women's Resistance in Liberia. After showing thevideo, ask students to discuss steps that Gbowee and others took to mobilizethe women of Liberia. (She reached out towomen in churches. Muslim women, inspired by Gbowee’s example, reached out towomen in Mosques. They encouraged men to lay down their weapons and talked toreligious leaders in churches and mosques to pressure the men to stopfighting.)
- Explainthat the next video highlights actions Leymah Gbowee and her supporters tookto protest the war and advocate for peace. As they watch the next video, askstudents to write down three actions the women took to protest the war andadvocate for peace.
- Play Peaceful Protests in Liberia. After showing the video, ask students todiscuss steps Leymah Gbowee and her supports took to protest the war andadvocate for peace. (They decided toconduct a public protest. They dressed in white and sat at the fish marketevery day. It was the first time that Liberian Muslim and Christian womenjoined together. They created a banner that said “The women of Liberia wantpeace now.” They created signs protesting the war and advocating peace and hadover 2,500 women join the protest. They sang “We want peace, no more war.” Theyconducted a sex strike by denying sex to their men.)
- On awhite board, easel pad, etc. write the title “Nonviolent Actions Conducted bythe Women of Liberia” and, based on what has been featured in the first twovideos, ask students to list the nonviolent actions the Liberian womenconducted. (Note: Students will be addingmore items to this list in Step 11 of this Learning Activity.)
- Askstudents why the women selected the fish market as the site for their protest.(It was a visible spot where CharlesTaylor would see them.)
- Discusssome of the obstacles they faced while conducting their protest. (Bad weather conditions; potential danger tothemselves; the president did not support their cause.)
- Introducethe next video by letting students know it highlights additional actionsthe women of Liberia took to achieve peace. As students view the video, askthem to write down the actions that the women took.
- Play Steps Toward Peace. Aftershowing the video, ask students to describe actions the women took to furthertheir quest for peace. (They wrote aposition statement to convince the Liberian government to engage in peacetalks. The women decided they didn’t want to be seen as politicians and did notwant to discuss politics or the practices of the government. They, instead,decided to focus, specifically, on peace. They presented their statement to parliamentand decided to sit outside until they heard from President Charles Taylor.April 23, 2003 they met with Charles Taylor and handed their statement to thepro-tem of the senate- a woman- to give to Taylor. They sent women to Ghana tomobilize refugee women living there. In Ghana, they sat outside, holding signsand singing. They talked to delegates behind the scenes at the peace talks toget them to think about possible compromises they could make. They went fromdelegate to delegate to try to influence them. They continued to protest at thefish market every day, fasted and prayed.)
- Addthe women’s actions to the list you and your students created of “NonviolentActions Conducted by the Women of Liberia.”
- Explain that the peace talks in Liberiawere originally only supposed to last two weeks, but they ended up going on formore than six weeks. Ask students to describe additional steps the women couldtake to get the different sides to come to an agreement and sign the peaceagreement.
- Explain that the next video shows whatactions the women took to get the men to focus on the peace talks and arrive ata compromise. As students watch the video, ask them to write down the actionsthe women took.
- Play Achieving Peace. Aftershowing the video, discuss actions the women took to get the men to focus onthe peace talks and arrive at a compromise. (Theyincreased their presence in Ghana and sat by the doors inside the building withlooped arms, blocking the peace talk delegates from exiting. They wore whitetee shirts. When the security guards told Leymah Gbowee she was obstructingjustice, she removed her hair tie and started removing clothing. Gbowee metwith General Abubakar, the Ghanaian Ambassador and others. They asked her torelease her women and she refused. She then agreed to let the women go, butgave the men two weeks to come to an agreement. She told them, if needed, shewould return to protest again in two weeks with more women. After the sit-in,the mood of the peace talk became more serious and the delegates signed a peaceagreement two weeks later. They returned to Liberia after the agreement wassigned.)
- Askstudents how people reacted to their sit-in. Ask: What were the actions of thesecurity guards? General Abubakar? The delegates? (The security guards first accused Gbowee of obstructing justice, butthen told her she should move some women over to the windows to stop delegatesfrom escaping. Joe Wylie, one of the warlords from LURD (the opposition party)tried to break through the group of women. General Abubakar, the mediator,defended the women and told the man to go back into the room where the peacetalks were taking place. The General told him that if he were a real man hewouldn’t be killing his people. He told the men not to leave the hall until Abubakarnegotiated with the women.)
- Add the steps from Achieving Peace to the list of actions that the women of Liberia took.
- Reviewand lead a discussion about all of the nonviolent actions the women took intheir efforts to protest the war. For each method of resistance demonstrated bythe women, discuss the following:
- Theimpact of that action.
- Thechallenges and potential dangers faced by the women.
- Whatwould you have chosen to do similarly or differently if you had been in chargeof the movement?
- Ifyou were in charge of a similar type of nonviolent protest movement today andhad access to the latest state of the art technologies (social media tools,cell phones, iPads, etc.), what are some additional actions you could take topromote your cause? (Facebook posts, tweets, blogs, etc.)
Part III: Learning Activity 2
- Distribute the 198 Methods of NonviolentAction list from the Albert Einstein Institution. Divide students into groupsof 2-3 students each. Ask each group to check off each of the actions that LeymahGbowee and the women of Liberia used in their quest for peace.
- Discuss how each of the actions helpedfurther the women’s cause.
- Distribute the Public Statement by EightAlabama Clergymen and Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail.Ask students to read the letter from the Eight Alabama Clergymen and then toread Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s response. Ask students to identify the mainpoints made in each document. As students read King’s letter, ask them to findout what he says are the basic steps to a nonviolent movement, as well as whathis views are on following rules.
- After students have read each letter, askthem to describe the main points made by the clergymen in writing their letterand the main points raised by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his response.
- Ask students to discuss what King listsas the four basic steps to a nonviolent campaign. (Collection of facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation;self purification and direct action.) Discuss how these steps apply to theactions taken by Leymah Gbowee and the women of Liberia.
- Discuss what King says about followingrules. (“One has not only a legal but amoral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moralresponsibility to disobey unjust laws.” “We should never forget that everythingAdolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedomfighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.' It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort aJew in Hitler’s Germany.”)
- Compare King’s sentiments about rules toLeymah Gbowee’s reaction to the security guards when they told her she was“obstructing justice.”
- Optional:This optional activityinvolves watching and discussing the segment In Pursuit of Democracy, whichdescribes efforts the women in Liberia conducted after the war ended.
- Letstudents know that the women of Liberia continued to work together after thewar. As students watch the video, ask them to identify the objectives of thewomen and to describe the actions they took to achieve those goals.
- PlayIn Pursuit of Democracy. After showing the video, ask studentsto describe the objectives of the women after the war. (To build peace and promote democracy.)
- Askstudents to discuss the steps the women took to achieve those goals. (They decided to forgive the combatants andnot blame them for actions they committed during the war. The women worked withand got to know some of the children who fought in the war and realized thatthese soldiers were also victims of the war. The women believed there would notbe true peace in Liberia until there was a democratically-elected president.They decided to work on the election, by campaigning for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,who won the 2005 presidential election and was sworn in as President of Liberiaon January 16, 2006. They also wore clothing that said “Peace Forever.” Afterworking together for 2 ½ years, the women officially ended their mass actioncampaign, with the promise of regrouping if the situation in Liberia gotworse.)
Part IV: Culminating Activity
- Ask each student to select a nonviolentprotest movement to research. Here are some possibilities:
- TheFisher Body Plant Sit-down strike, Flint, Michigan (December 30, 1936-February11, 1937)
- Madresof the Plaza de Mayo (also known as “The Mothers of the Disappeared”)Demonstrations, Buenos Aires, Argentina (beginning in 1977)
- March1st Movement; Samil Movement, Korea (March 1, 1919)
- MondayDemonstrations, East Germany (1989-90)
- Non-cooperationmovement, British India (September 1920- February 1922)
- Nonviolentprotests by women, children and men inthe Palestinian village of Budrus in the West Bank (2003)
- Nonviolentprotests by women in Ivory Coast (2011)
- OrangeAlternative Movement, Poland (1980s)
- PeaceTorch Marathon (August 27, 1967- October 21, 1967)
- PeoplePower Revolution, the Philippines (1986)
- Reactionto menorah hate crime, Billings, MT (December 2, 1993)
- SingingRevolution, The Baltic States (1987-90)
- TiananmenSquare Protests (April 15- June 4, 1989)
- Trinidadand Tobago nonviolent protests (1834)
- VelvetRevolution, Czechoslovakia (1989)
For additional options, students cansearch the “Nonviolent Conflict Summaries” in the “Movements and Campaigns”section on the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict’s website.
- Distribute the Nonviolent Resistance Student Organizer. Ask students to explore the following about their selectedmovements and to record their findings on their student organizers:
- The name of the movement and date(s) the movement occurred.
- Names of the principal leaders/organizers of the movement.
- Details about the participants, including the approximate number of people involved in the movement.
- Details about the movement, including how it started, the goals of the movement and the nonviolent methods used to achieve those goals.
- The impact of the movement (on the participants and others).
- Marchesand public demonstrations