Q112: What movement tried to end racial discrimination?

A. The civil rights movement
B. The equality-for-all movement
C. The Libertarian movement
D. The Emancipation Proclamation

Q113: Which of the following was not something Martin Luther King Jr did?

A. Lead violent protests against the U.S. government. 
B. Work to ensure that people would “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”
C. Fight for civil rights 
D. He did all of these

Question Background Information


Although the 14th Amendment guaranteed the equal protection of the laws for all and the 15th Amendment guaranteed the right of non-white American citizens to vote, these amendments soon ceased to be enforced in protecting the rights of black Americans. The most important consequence of this failure to implement the Constitution was the development of the Jim Crow regime of racial segregation and discrimination in the South, starting in the 1880s, although other forms of racial discrimination existed throughout other parts of the country as well. Civil rights activists built a movement seeking to guarantee these constitutional rights and legal equality, and though the movement’s influence grew slowly, by the 1950s the Civil Rights Movement was achieving important progress in its effort to end racial discrimination. 

Arguably the most significant moment was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) in which a unanimous Supreme Court held that the 14th Amendment prohibited a state from segregating public schools. (The Brown decision collected similar challenges from different states, most notably South Carolina, from which came the Briggs v. Elliot case. South Carolina’s Governor James Byrnes,  who had served as US Supreme Court Justice and had been assigned by the president to organize domestic politics during World War II, had already worked to reinforce segregation and had hired former presidential nominee John Davis to defend it before the Supreme Court.) While some southern states grudgingly accepted Brown, others engaged in massive resistance to the Supreme Court’s ruling, closing public schools and even, in the case of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, using the national guard to try to block school integration. 

The most important civil rights activist was Martin Luther King, Jr., a Christian minister who fought for civil rights and equality via speeches, writings, non-violent protests, and civil disobedience in the 1950s and 1960s. Most famously, in his “I Have a Dream” speech delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, King argued that denying civil rights to non-white Americans violated both the Christian values of most of his American listeners as well as both the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. He argued the Declaration and Constitution had given a “promissory note” to black Americans to participate in freedom and equality, and looked forward to the day that people would “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” King’s activism helped achieve the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to finally enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments and protect the rights of Americans of all races. He was later assassinated for his efforts and beliefs by James Earl Ray in 1968.

But King was not the only important figure in the civil rights movement. For instance, future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall had long organized the legal strategy that eventually culminated in the Brown decision, which he argued. Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white rider and was arrested for it. Marchers, including future Congressman John Lewis, protested the refusal of Alabama officials to let them vote by walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where they were assaulted by local police. 

Additional Content

Offline Activity


I Have A Dream is arguably the most famous of all of Martin Luther King, Jr’s, speeches.  In it, he outlines his hopes for the future – specifically, a world where children are judged by their character and not their color.  In this activity, the students will read and respond to the speech.  



  • Divide the class into groups of 3-4 based on the students’ individual levels. Group A is the group that needs some extra support. Group B is the core group that has the core knowledge to complete the activity. Group C is the enrichment group who have mastered the material and are prepared to extend their knowledge. Each group should have at least one student from Group A, one from Group B, and one from Group C. 
    • If students are in pairs rather than groups, divide them based on ability as well, pairing those who need support (Group A) with those who have core knowledge and/or have mastered the material (Groups B and C). 
  • Provide each group/pair with a copy of King’s I Have a Dream speech (either the entire document or the specific article or section that you wish to focus on). 
    • King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail is also included.  You may wish to use this with advanced placement or older students, or you may wish to use excerpts for class activities as you see fit.  
  • Explain that they are to read the speech and each group member should annotate their copy. 
    • Tell students to write at least three questions and three comments/observations. The notes should be written in the margins of the document provided. 
      • Examples of questions: 
        • “What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?” 
        • “Was this before or after the Civil Rights Act?” 
      • Examples of comments: 
        • “I can’t believe that people actually did this!” 
        • “I like that he quoted the Constitution.”  
    • Emphasize that there is no “wrong” question or observation, and encourage them to write down any question or observation that comes to mind, even if they go over the required total. 
  • Provide the groups/pairs with time to annotate and discuss, 15-20 minutes depending on the class and the amount of content to annotate. 
    • Circulate and talk briefly with each group. If they are having trouble coming up with questions or observations, ask questions to stimulate their conversation. 
  • At the end of the activity, facilitate a class discussion, allowing the students to lead with the questions and comments/observations that they wrote in the margins. 

Discussion Prompts


Martin Luther King, Jr., was the leader of the Civil Rights Movement, fighting for the equality and the rights of all Americans.  Though he supported nonviolent protest methods, his arguments and actions were often met with violence.  His methods to persuade Americans to follow through on their political promises worked, though, and the Civil Rights Movement was supported by millions across the nation.  

Prompt 1 

Martin Luther King, Jr., was a leader in the 1950s and 1960s, inspiring millions and paving the way for significant change in the United States. What movement was he a part of? What did Dr. King do? What methods did he use? 

Prompt 2 

Dr. King was committed to nonviolent protest, believing that it was far more useful than violence.  Why is nonviolent protest effective? What is necessary to make this type of protest successful? Do you believe that nonviolent protest can be effective today?  Why or why not?  Use current and past events to support your answer.