As Martin Luther King, Jr. Day approaches, students have the opportunity to explore not only the life and legacy of Dr. King, but also the work of the many civil rights leaders at the forefront of the freedom movements of the 20th century.
Images from the online collections of the Library of Congress can pique students’ interest in the leaders and other figures who appear in those photographs. A close analysis of these images can also inspire research questions about the movement and the many people who participated.
To get started, select a photograph or a set of photographs. You can search for specific people, such as Coretta Scott King, Bayard Rustin, James Farmer, or Andrew Young, or choose from one of the lists compiled by Library staff — several are included in the additional resources below.
Model how to analyze a photograph with the whole class, as needed. Assign or allow groups of students to choose one or more additional images to study and analyze. Print or use the online primary source analysis tool to record observations, reflections and questions about the picture.
Identify questions from the Teacher’s Guide: Analyzing Photographs & Prints to guide and deepen your students’ interaction with the image. Can they identify any of the people in the image? What does reading the caption add to their understanding? What questions do they have? Even students who are comfortable with analyzing photographs may need help developing questions for further investigation. Find suggestions for helping them develop questions in the blog post Primary Source Analysis Tool: What’s Next? Further Investigation.
Assign or allow students to choose a person from the photographs to research. They may share their results with the class in brief oral presentations, blog posts, posters, songs, or other written or performed products.
Leave a comment to let us know what they discover!
Additional resources and image lists:
- The NAACP: A Century in the Fight for Freedom primary source set
- The Civil Rights Era in the U.S. News & World Report Photographs Collection
- Images of 20th Century African American Activists: A Select List
- Analyzing Primary Sources: Photographs and Prints online professional development module