Lesson Plan

The Liberty Bell as a Symbol for Civil Rights, grades 9-12

Black and white photo from the 1960's showing a large crowd walking forward and holding signs about civil rights.
Civil rights protests included marches and sit-ins.

Library of Congress

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Grade Level:
Ninth Grade-Twelfth Grade
Civil Rights Movement, Community, History, Social Studies
Two to three class sessions
Group Size:
Up to 36
National/State Standards:
Reading Information Text RI 5.1, RI 5.2, RI 5.3, RI 5.7, Writing W 5.2, W 5.4, Reading History RH (6-8).1, RH (6-8).2, RH (6-8).7
Liberty Bell, Civil Rights, Freedom, Symbolism


Students will use the story of the student activists in the 1960's to understand how the Liberty Bell has been used as a symbol.


  • Students will be able to describe why student activists in the mid-1960s chose the Liberty Bell as the site of a controversial sit-in for which the purpose was to encourage federal intervention in events in Selma, Alabama.

  • Students will use a photograph of a March, 1965 sit-in at the Liberty Bell as a springboard for creating fictional characters through whom they will express their understanding of how the Liberty Bell has been used as a symbol by various groups, particularly by young activists during the Civil Rights era.




Use this rubric.

Park Connections

This lesson plan helps students understand the history of this international symbol of liberty.


Post Visit-Extension:

Cooperative Work:
In groups, students will present their writing by creating tableaux vivants for their peers. Each group will be expected to recreate the photo and to take turns enacting the characters they have developed. Depending on time constraints, students will either share an excerpt or the entire content of their written work.

Additional Extension:

Individual Work:
Have students read all or some of the reactions to the Liberty Bell sit-in. Half the class should read letters that support the superintendent's decision to let the sit-in occur; the other half will read letters opposed to his decision.

Whole Class Discussion:
1. Generate a "T-chart" showing reasons that people either supported or opposed the park superintendent's decision to allow the students to stage their sit-in. Once reasons have been shared, draw a horizontal line on the chalkboard and explain that line represents a continuum. On one end is the opinion that the superintendent did the right thing in allowing the Liberty Bell to be used as the site of a protest; on the other end, is the opinion that the superintendent should not have allowed a sit-in. Students should put their initials where their opinion lies.

2. Have students discuss their points of view, at first just quoting from and referring to the documents they have just read. Once words and ideas from numerous documents have been put forth, students can share their personal opinions without referring to the documents. At the conclusion of the lesson, give students the opportunity to move their initials on the continuum and to explain why they have changed their view.

3. If time allows, ask if sit-ins should be allowed at the Liberty Bell today and, if so, under what conditions.


Liberty Bell, discrimination, segregation, freedom, rights, sit in, march, NAACP, non-violent protests, freedom, liberty

Last updated: September 11, 2015