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In the Classroom > Picturing America Lessons

Voter Rights

Lesson created by: Susan Pelis

Grade Level: 2 ELA


19-B James Karales, Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965, 1965

Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights

James Karales (19302002), Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965, 1965. Photographic print. Located in the James Karales Collection, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University. Photograph © Estate of James Karales.


  • Students will understand that a group of people often come together to serve a common cause.
  • Students will understand that a group of people banded together with a particular purpose is more powerful than the individuals are alone.

Focusing Statement

Today we are going to study a photograph about a group of people who had to do something brave to get the freedom it deserved. The photograph we will study is by James Karales of a group of people in the 1960s in a place called Alabama.

Background Information

In the southern part of our country in the 1950s there were unfair laws that had to do with the color of a person's skin. When I tell you what some of these laws were, they may sound silly to you. For example, if a white person went to a movie theater, he/she sat down in the comfortable main seating area. If an African-American went to the theater, he/she sat up in the balcony where it was hotter and less comfortable. People with different colored skin couldn't sit together.

Similarly, at breakfast, lunch and dinner counters in restaurants, African-Americans couldn't eat there. Instead, they had to go around to the back of the restaurant and enter through the kitchen where they were given a to-go bag of food. (Some African Americans may have been served out back.) Also, public bathrooms at this time for white people were more plentiful, cleaner and more comfortable. African-American people could be jailed for using white-only facilities. Do you remember reading about Rosa Parks? She was the African American woman from Georgia who, in the 1950s, refused to ride in the back of the bus. At this time, African-Americans could only sit in the back of the bus, and if it got crowded, by law, they had to give up their seats to white people. There were laws, and mean-spirited people that made it difficult for African-American people to vote in order to change these laws. It was dangerous for them to even try to register or sign up to vote. People who acted alone lost their jobs and were threatened. Some people even had their houses damaged, got beaten up, and some were even killed. But this photograph, "Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965", by James Karales, shows people who thought these laws were unfair. To show the world they were serious about getting their voting rights, they decided to get together in a big group and march fifty-four miles from one town, Selma, to another, Montgomery, in the state of Alabama.

Examining Expressive Content

  • What do you notice in this photograph?
  • Do you know what a march is?
  • How many people are in this march?
  • Who do you think is leading the march?
  • How many flags do you notice? Why do you think they are carrying the flags?
  • What is the weather like? (What kind of weather comes from the clouds?)
  • Why does the photographer stand back?
  • When do you think it is a good idea to be in a group?
  • Why do you think these people wanted to be in a group?

Teaching Plan

After discussing with the students the questions in the "Examining Expressive Content" section, read aloud the background information.

Putting It All Together

Take another look at James Karales' photograph.

Re-read the introduction (focusing statement) and revisit student observations. Ask: "What do you notice now?"


Common Core Standards

Grade 2 Speaking & Listening (SL), Comprehension and Collaboration

  • Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
    1. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussion (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
    2. Build on others' talk in conversations by linking their comments to the remarks of others.
    3. Ask for clarification and further explanation as needed about the topics and texts under discussion.
  • Recount or describe key ideas and details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.
  • Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to clarify comprehension, gather additional information, or deepen understanding of a topic or issue.

Massachusetts History & Social Science Curriculum Framework

Grade 2 Learning Standards

  • 2.10 After reading or listening to a variety of true stories about individuals recognized for their achievements describe and compare different ways people have achieved great distinction. (e.g.: artistic)

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