From Heroism and Exceptionalism to Complexity and Community: A Revised Narrative of the Civil Rights Movement and the Power of People

Elizabeth Haynes, Social Studies, South Mecklenburg High

Curriculum Unit (PDF)


This unit will teach students about the Civil Right Movement from the perspective of individuals whose lives and activism exemplify intersectionality and community organization. This unit aims to root the Civil Rights unit in this intersectionality and community organizing. This unit should not glorify these individuals but use the story of their lives of activism to guide an understanding of social change and activism itself. In contrast to the focus on individualism and exceptionalism, antiracism is concern with disruptive collective action, structural change, and urgency and this unit is as well. Students will be introduced to the lives of Ella Baker, John Lewis, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr., and Angela Davis.