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Resource Guide

Civil Rights Lesson

This lesson relates to the following topics from the California History-Social Science Framework for high school:

  • Civil Rights Movement
  • Constitutional Rights
  • Sociology: Social Issues--discrimination, poverty and crime
  • The Courts and Government process


Students will be able to:

  • Understand lesbian and gay activism within a historical context.
  • Compare the Lesbian and Gay Freedom movement to the Civil Rights movement.


  1. As a group, have the class make a list of past or current legislation aimed at limiting full participation in society of a specific group of people. Refer to Timeline for specific legislation. Discuss how these laws affect the lives of certain people and the economic development of their communities.
  2. Discuss civil rights and human rights. What are the similarities and differences? Ask for the names of some courageous people who are famous for their help in advancing the cause of civil and/or human rights.
  3. Cue The Castro to the part just after gays are being asked not to return to the Oak Room at the St. Francis, and after "City officials soon turned to less subtle measures...gave the task to the head of his Sex Crimes Squad, who described the scene." (WITH NO PICTURE. DON'T TELL STUDENTS WHO IS TALKING.) Cover the TV screen and begin the clip (SOUND ONLY) when Lieutenant Bearden of the Sex Crimes Squad of the SF Police Department says: "Homosexuals have flocked to the city from all parts of the United States. They were everywhere. They filled the bars in the city's cheap Tenderloin District. They thronged together in the city's parks and squares."
  4. Have students create a profile of the speaker. Ask about subtleties of language, intonation, voice. What are their reactions? How do they feel?
  5. Show (with sound) the rest of the clip of Lt. Bearden through the part after the arrests at the New Year's Eve party to "...and public opinion turned at that point and said, 'The police are going too far. This is enough.'"
  6. Ask students when they felt they were being discriminated against as a group. What about not being able to congregate in certain places? What about curfews? What measures do the students take to ask for their rights?
  7. Ask about the homeless. Are they discriminated against as a group? How? What, if any, rights are denied to them?


  1. Cue video to the very beginning, play and stop after the title appears. Ask how the gay and lesbian people in the video felt about always being afraid of getting caught, having to pretend all the time, constantly being threat-ened and harassed.
  2. Show the segment about Harvey Milk, his assassination and the aftermath. What measures did the gays and les-bians take to bring attention to their cause? Did they resort to violence?
  3. Ask students to name historic events when the struggle for civil rights turned to confrontation and/or violence. (The American Revolution, The Civil War, labor strikes, protests and marches for integration, pro-choice/pro-life actions, and the people who fought for such causes: Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson, Cesar Chavez, Wilma Mankiller, Ellen Ochoa, etc.)
  4. Have the students read the section about Harvey Milk and ask how he contributed to the Civil Rights movement. Did he have any special tactics? What were his greatest strengths? What makes him a hero?
  5. Ask students who their heroes are. Ask them to think also of a member of their student community whom they regard with high esteem. Have them interview him/her. What are the qualities that make this person stand out? Do they help to effect change? How?
  6. Have students use this as a starting point to research heroic people and actions that have contributed to the civil rights we have today.