Civil Disobedience in Words and Images

byJennifer Vermillion


"Why are we doing this?" This rhetorical question asked countless times throughout the year reflects the sense of disenfranchisement students feel in relation to the content provided in their classes. An intrinsic love of learning is increasingly rare among students who have a vast number of responsibilities, concerns and goals unrelated to obtaining a high school diploma. If future success in life is only 20% dependent upon IQ, but 80% resulting from emotional intelligence, is it not the responsibility of an educator to develop individuals skilled in multiple intelligences? The exploration of art engages students, increases self-awareness, utilizes multiple learning modalities, elicits empathy, and motivates them to participate while contributing to emotional intelligence. Additionally, the ability to translate visual literacy into appropriate oral expression and written evaluation promotes the synthesis skills inherent to the Common Core State Standards.

The term civil disobedience describes a deliberate decision by an individual, who is representative of a group, to refuse to obey a law that conflicts with his or her conscience or a higher law. This non-violent act of disobedience to the State also implies that the offender will submit to the consequences of their action because he or she understands that it is sometimes necessary to suffer for one's convictions. Our founding fathers built this country on many admirable principles, one of them expressed by Thomas Jefferson: "If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so." 1 Embodied in this quote is not only justification for the Declaration of Independence from the British Crown, but also an implied responsibility in members of a republic to be politically active. My goal is to use the theme of civil disobedience to engage students and explore the role of the individual in a democracy, while honoring a pluralistic approach to the content. I further seek to utilize the power of the image to engage students in an exploration of a variety of artworks and to understand how art functions as an expression of social consciousness. 2 Living in an increasingly visual society, my students are actually very savvy viewers, but they lack confidence in their opinions and the proper language to express their ideas. Providing students with not only a high-interest topic, but also transferrable skills that help them feel empowered and successful in their academic endeavors, will be invaluable in combating the hardships students endure in their day-to-day existences1}.


Oak Grove High School (OGHS) hosts 1,982 students as part of the East Side Union High School District. Declining enrollment has been the trend for my seven-year tenure at OGHS, resulting from alternate educational opportunities such as charter schools and internet options, as well as increasing rent prices. By far our largest ethnicity is Latino/Mexican students at 49%, followed by 21% Asian, 11% Caucasian, 8% African American, 5% Filipino and 1% Pacific Islander (4% claimed multiple ethnicities). Overall, there are 215 students designated as Special Education, 642 categorized as ELL (English Language Learners), and 1076 categorized as Socio-Economically Disadvantaged (53% of our students qualify for the free and reduced lunch program). In the 2011-2012 school year, our graduation rate was 72.28%. In 2013, OGHS achieved an API score of 717 (a 24 point gain), primarily owing to a marked increase by the English Language Arts scores. Regardless of our improvement, our overall target growth, AYP, was not achieved and we are still classified as a Program Improvement site. Despite our improvement, the struggle with literacy is also evident in the fact that 47% of my freshmen read at, or below, a sixth grade level.

Given these statistics, success is clearly a struggle for students at OGHS. Beyond all of this data, there are other considerations that make life challenging. The Bay Area has a notoriously high cost of living, which often necessitates every able-bodied person in a household to contribute financially, including teens. There often is not an adult capable of helping or even supporting our students academically, and lack of supervision is significant. Access to technology and even an internet connection is not universal, so a small portion of every class has no ability to reliably utilize those tools. Gang activity is significant in the area, and many young people struggle with safety concerns just to arrive to class.

With a decline in support for all types of art in our community, I feel it incumbent upon educators to create access to art. 3 In an area of funding cuts that have eliminated field trips to museums and plays, bringing as many forms of art as possible into the classroom becomes imperative. Exposure to a variety of forms of art has multiple positive outcomes. The arts enrich lives, promote self-directed learning, improve school attendance, and sharpen both critical and creative skills and even correlate to higher scores on achievement tests ( According to the NEA report, The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies, students of low socioeconomic status involved in the arts have better academic outcomes, higher goals for professional careers, and are more civically engaged. All of these facts and observations lead an educator to the conclusion that now, more than ever, we need to be superb practitioners of the art of teaching. We need to expose students to new ideas, new possibilities, and nurture their development if we hope for them to grow into civic minded, responsible, independent adults. "The arts serve as expressive scaffolding that taps emotive and affective ways of knowing so that students can begin to make empathetic connections to human rights issues." 4

Given that the Common Core State Standards were designed with the intention of developing students who no longer merely regurgitate facts, but who are able to engage in complex critical thinking activities; the introduction of art into the English classroom is imperative. Using art to both teach and support reading comprehension allows students to apply strategies in a text-free environment prior to a text-based application. 5 They need to engage in creative inquiry that develops their ability to synthesize information and clearly express their thoughts about ambiguous and often subjective qualities.

Creative inquiry is a circular or spiral process of interpretation whereby the learner creates a unique representation of understanding through the personal investment of prior knowledge, active engagement in creative processes for understanding, and the creation and reflection of representations for learning. In this case, the focus is on…the creative response to an image. 6

Content Objectives

The goal of my unit is to teach my students interpretation skills that will allow them to talk confidently about images using clear analytic language. It is my hope that this unit will enhance students' skills in the art of interpretation through close reading and analysis of the text, whether that text be a play, poem, sculpture, letter, painting, photograph or any other media. I want them to be able to support their opinions with appropriate evidence from the text and utilize academic language to express themselves both verbally and in writing.

The project will be interspersed throughout a semester as we continually return to a theme and challenge students to express their own thoughts and feelings about the ideas and images presented. Civil disobedience, a deliberate act of political protest, has been a part of the American tradition since the founding of our nation, and it seems to play a large role in modernity. As the tradition of civil disobedience spans such an enormous number of cultures and time periods across the globe, there is no way to comprehensively cover the topic. Instead, this 18-week curriculum unit is intended to intersperse throughout other units in the first semester of my 10 th grade English 2 course, providing case studies of specific moments beginning in 1776. These case studies are varied examples of instances when individuals deliberately defied the law as a means of expressing their belief in higher principles, or as a means of protecting the very society that created those laws. Progressing along the course of a semester, students will explore the theme of civil disobedience with a focus on moments such as the American Revolution, slavery, suffrage, World War II, segregation, Civil Rights, integration and the Occupy Wall Street Protests. Readings on each topic will pair with at least one piece of artwork (sculpture, photograph or painting) and an activity designed to create a deep understanding of the art and the narrative it depicts in hopes that they will elicit high levels of engagement among my students.

Teaching Strategies

Civil Disobedience

Civil disobedience is best described as a deliberate peaceful violation of the law as a form of protest intended to draw attention to a moral injustice in order to draw public awareness to the issue. The justification for the act is inherent in the Bill of Rights because the authority of the government is derived from the consent of the governed. 7 Hence, if a government has policies or laws that violate moral convictions, it is the right and even duty, of every American to act to effect change. "Civil disobedience…was intended as exemplary moral action transmitted by means of news coverage." 8 An act of civil disobedience need not necessarily be illegal, but it must defy an order or decision of some type in hopes of either maintaining the status quo or changing it. Significantly, citizens who engage in an act of civil disobedience should be prepared to endure the consequences of their transgression because it is the consequences, which create the primary strength of this type of protest. The act of suffering empowers individuals because they overcome their individual fears and fully conceptualize the possibilities. 9 The disruption an act of civil disobedience causes creates an awareness in the populace of the injustice, and ultimately will inspire change. If protest is understood as an expression of moral voice, then protestors are central to the success of the vision and voice of the democratic process. 10 Political action will ultimately result in the end of unjust regimes, but civil disobedience will maintain and strengthen a just regime. 11

The expression of civil disobedience takes many forms, but they are traditionally non-violent, public acts of defiance that convey a dissatisfaction with the political status quo. 12 The most widely practiced forms of civil disobedience are boycotts, sit ins, refusing to register per government decrees, refusing to pay taxes, fasting, marches, peaceful occupations of premises, demonstrations and other peaceful expressions of discontent. One branch of civil disobedience is subvertising, the practice of using simple alterations to public billboards with the intention of creating an awareness in the viewer of the corporate strategy utilized to manipulate the consumer. 13 However, it is important to note that while subvertising can be a positive expression of political voice, it is not necessarily an act of civil disobedience if there are not consequences for the action, including violence to their person and imprisonment. 14 Indeed, acts of electronic sabotage, such as those perpetrated by Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, who sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy from legal sanctions, would not qualify as civil disobedience precisely because he was unwilling to accept the legal consequences of his actions. 15 Sabotage is another form of civil disobedience often used by workers' movements and expressed through poor workmanship, rendering equipment unusable, or in a reduction in speed or some other means of reducing the profits. 16 Iconoclasm, or image breaking, is one aspect of civil disobedience wherein individuals destroy a venerated image of political or religious significance in order to reflect a dissatisfaction with values or ideology. Students may be familiar with the destruction of the Berlin Wall, the statue of Saddam Hussein or the practice of burning an image in effigy.

One of the most ancient examples of an expression of civil disobedience are the prophets Isaiah and Micah who advocated disarmament in 700 B.C.E. 17 While the idea of civil disobedience has clearly existed for a very long time, it wasn't until the 20 th century that it really flourished. One of the most notable practitioners of non-violent resistance was Mahatma Gandhi, who sought to produce salt in India as opposed to paying for British importation of the product. The March 1930 salt march, in defiance of British colonial laws, is perhaps the quintessential example of non-violent protest. Tens of thousands of protestors were arrested for their act and, while it did not directly lead to a change in the taxes on Indian salt, it is historically significant. Gandhi's goal was to affect both Indians and British through a moral revolution that would unite Indians in one disciplined political force. 18 Gandhi's belief that the search for truth, Satyagraha, is an interactive process that is necessarily non-violent influenced countless others, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 19 Additionally, the march announced the power and presence of the Indian people who demanded a political voice with Gandhi as their spokesperson. The march was an impetus to other waves of civil disobedience that inspired an oppressed populace.

A great example for students to grasp the true spirit of civil disobedience is the famous choice Rosa Parks made to refuse to give up her seat on the bus in 1955. Her act led to a massive boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama bus system and ultimately, the repeal of the law. This type of non-violent action is most effective because it directly challenges the injustice of the very law it violates. Other familiar examples of civil disobedience students include the twenty-one month standoff between UC Berkeley and the environmental activists who actually took up residence in the trees. The activists sought to prevent the destruction of the trees, which were threatened in order to clear land for a new building. Ultimately, this action was a failure because the oaks were cut down and the protesters charged with trespassing, however it also raised public awareness to the plight of deforestation and urban sprawl.

The future of civil disobedience is a subject fraught with uncertainty. With the digital era ushering in instant global communication, the role of technology and media will greatly influence acts of civil disobedience and the planning and dissemination thereof. 20 Although acts of civil disobedience have clearly occurred across the world throughout history, the phenomenon is in some ways, particularly American because the democratic and republican institutions of our government require a certain respect when dissenting that acts of civil disobedience are uniquely able to provide. 21 "In our more diverse culture, society is splintered, and preserving harmony is a central government function—'the manufacture of consent,' it has been called." 22 In our democratic, pluralistic society, consent can only be reaching if conflict resolution involves parties clearly expressing their opinion, because silence is not equivalent to harmony. 23 Civil disobedience is therefore the obligation of every American who feels their moral convictions compromised.

Classroom Activities

Students will be exposed to a methodology of examining art that encourages free expression of observation and opinion while thoroughly using language to ascribe impressions to identifiable aspects of the image. Questions that address what the artist was thinking or feeling as they created the work (their tone), what symbols or allusions are evident, and who might have purchased the work will lead to conclusions about gender, race and class. Concepts such as main idea and theme translate to visual media as students focus on topic, subject color, scale, the focal point, etc. to determine what the artist is communicating. Literary terms like characters translate to people or subjects and the point of view is an imperative consideration. My students learn setting as the time, place and historical context a piece of literature explores while in paintings, more subjective qualities such as mood, color and pattern will be utilized. In literature, sequencing skills encompass the ability to place events in the correct order from beginning, middle and to the end. For images, students will find sequencing in repetition, balance and angles. Even the strategy of summarizing can be applied to images as students analyze the historical, stylistic and thematic choices the artist expressed. Regardless of the type of artist, a message is still being conveyed through a narrative.

One of the first readings we do in our 10 th grade curriculum is Sophocles' Antigone from 441BC, in which a female protagonist defies the law of man in order to honor the gods by burying her brother. She provides the impetus for the unit when she expresses that a law that defies nature and the gods is not just." 24 Although the image itself is not depicting civil disobedience, Franz Dietrich's Oedipus and Antigone, n.d., Crocker Art Museum will be a lovely introductory piece to the Feldman Approach. Students will have the opportunity to engage with the image through description, analysis, interpretation and judgment. The process should lead them to understand the posture of Oedipus, bowing his shoulders under the weight of his burden of guilt. The filial devotion Antigone expresses with her attentive assistance, moving obstacles from her fathers' path using her staff is evident in both her body language and expression. She wears virginal white under royal purple, while his red cloak continually draws the eye to his hunched form. The background features some hunters with game slung over their shoulders and a scenic twilight. Students will be encouraged to make text-to-self connections to the work by reflecting upon how experiences in their own life seem similar to this artwork or what it reminds them of.


Taking students back to the roots and foundation of our republic, the American Revolution will serve as the starting point for exploration of our theme. Students will view the Paul Revere engraving The Bloody Massacre in King-Street, March 5, 1770 with no background information provided. I will ask if they can determine the setting, (literary term referring to time, place and atmosphere) based upon clues in the image. If they struggle, I will ask pointed questions about the red coats, style of artwork and munitions evident. I hope that by the end of our discourse, students will note the manner in which images of British tyranny are infused with callous disregard for the innocent colonists. This piece, clearly framed as propaganda, will initiate our discussion of how images have the power to reach out to the populace and create perception and even effect change.


Questions to improve comprehension may include:

  • What groups are represented and how do you know to which group individuals belong?
  • What does each group wear and how does that influence your perception of their status?
  • Describe the posture and stances of each group.
  • What do you notice about the faces of each group (shapes and expressions)?
  • What do the leading lines on the right side of the image and the turmoil on the left tell you?
  • What do dogs symbolize and why might it be breaking the fourth wall1} by staring at the viewer? 25 Is the placement of the dog on the left side indicative of anything or is this just a random detail?
  • What time of day is it? What type of weather are they experiencing?
  • What signs can you read in the background?
  • How does the presence of a woman who appears distraught affect the mood?
  • How does Revere create a perception of slaughter of innocents by a callous army?

In order to fully develop the idea of art as propaganda, students will read a historical account of the Boston Tea Party from the tenth grade history textbook. After a close reading of the textbook, during which an exploration of the role of text structure will occur, students will individually highlight differences they note between the image and the written narrative. Students will complete a presentation piece, a Venn diagram, in pairs using the visual image and the narrative. This task is intended to draw upon higher level thinking skills as students compare and contrast the two accounts. They will also write a sentence that clearly identifies what elements of the image classify it as propaganda, which is biased or incomplete information disseminated with the intention of swaying public opinion. A class discussion of their findings might include musing upon why Revere's account differs so greatly from the textbook and how the American colonists might have received that image.


Students will read the text of the Emancipation Proclamation in order to have familiarity with the primary document that occupies such a significant place in the history of our nation. Abraham Lincoln's invocation of words like justice and God reflect his belief that he served a higher good by this act of moral rectitude. Students will answer questions that will lead them to note the geographic restrictions of the proclamation, made in simple (non-grandiose) language based upon his authority.

Students will view the John Rogers sculpture The Slave Auction, 1859, Crocker Art Museum. 26 Careful attention to posture and pose will likely lead students to conclude that the family group's division is imminent. Students will be led through a careful exploration of the composition with attention of the triangular composition and the appearance of the wife, who is more mulatto, to create sympathy amongst viewers for the family on the verge of separation. 27 Students will observe the proud, even defiant stance of the male, the eager and hard lines of the auctioneer leaning forward and the downcast eyes and slumped shoulders of the woman and the fearful toddler hidden in his mother's skirts. Students will consider why this statue depicts this moment in this manner and what that reflects of the political leanings of the sculptor. Once students have made their own determinations, I will reveal an image of the back of the statue, in which the auctioneer's curled hair "reads" as horns and the object hanging from his back pocket as a tail. Their conclusions will likely be that this sculptor is an abolitionist. Students will then write letters home in the personae of two of three options: an abolitionist, a slave owner and a freedman. Each of the letters must operate under the pretense that the author has attended an art exhibition and seen the Rogers sculpture. They should describe the sculpture in the language and voice of their personae while clearly expressing their reaction to the piece.


Students are likely familiar with the name Susan B. Anthony, but her role as a suffragist and her act of civil disobedience are likely not common knowledge amongst my students. Her role in the National American Women Suffrage Association was integral to the passage of the 19 th Amendment to the Constitution, which grants women the right to vote. More importantly, her arrest in Rochester, New York in 1872 reveals the classic characteristics of civil disobedience in that she defied the law by voting and refused to repent or pay the fine for her action. 28 Students familiar with social media will immediately identify with the Rodney Thompson cartoon from Life Magazine in 1913, Suffragettes: Caricatures by Rodney Thomson "Militants". The three versions of the women portrayed demonstrates how perspective, or point of view, dramatically alters the perception of the women's character. Students will draft a list of ten words to describe each of the three portrayals of the women and identify the allusions evident in the middle row of idealized images.


The harsh realities of Jim Crow laws required people of color to ride in the back of the bus, utilize different public, health and sanitary facilities than whites, and prevented certain professional interactions. Without knowing the specific realities of life in New Orleans for a person of color, students viewing Jacob Lawrence's Bar and Grill, 1941, Smithsonian will be able to articulate the differences between the two halves of the painting. Students will note that the white side of the room features comfort, such as the ceiling fan, social divisions between class and a greater numbers of patrons. Students may note that the harsh horizontal and vertical lines, reinforced by vivid colors, exaggerate the separations of color and class. Attention will also be drawn to the newspaper held by the bartender, which appears to have the shadow image of a profile facing the bartender. Focus on the body language (furtive or tense on the white side, while dancing on the colored side) in conjunction with the color choices, may help students understand mood. Connecting with the literary concepts of tone and mood, students will be expected to write a paragraph explanation of the author's tone and the mood expressed by the painting. Modeling of how to lead the conversation is available led by Suzannah Niepold on the website. 29


Students will create an art cube to demonstrate their individual understanding of the piece. I will provide them with a template for a cube that they will color in, write on, cut out and fold together as a presentation piece. The template will have a traced image on the top that students will color themselves in their best attempt to recreate the artist's color and shading/texture choices. The four sides of the cube will be the four stages of the Feldman Approach: description, analysis, interpretation and judgment written in a minimum of ten complete sentences on each facet. The description should focus on adjectives such as vertical, dark, bright and geometric to describe the nouns. The analysis should focus on size and scale relationships, color, perspective and shape. Interpretation requires students to express the feelings the work evokes, the idea or theme they think it expresses and connect the piece to their own lives. The final facet, judgment, requires students to express an opinion about the piece based upon an Instrumentalist ideal that art should advance the needs of humanity. The bottom of the cube will include name of the artist, the piece and the date of creation as well as the student name.

Civil Rights

Segregation, violation of human rights and citizenship were highly contentious issues to African Americans who found themselves the disenfranchised recipients of inequalities, discrimination and abuses. "The separate but equal doctrine enunciated in that case provided the moral, legal, and philosophical foundations for the institutionalization of enforced systems of racial segregation, political disfranchisement, political repression, and violence that would set the stage for the emergence of the modern phase of the black social protest tradition." 30 The fact that lynchings were occurring as late as 1968 and school segregation was still occurring as late as 1978 may shock students. The North American civil rights movement's acts of protest against state laws, namely the deliberate violation of Jim Crow laws, trespassing, marches or sit-ins might have been illegal in the state, but they were supported by federal laws. 31 The boycott of Rosa Parks, whose symbolic act sparked a new era in civil rights in 1955, is an ideal opportunity to lead students into the topic with a familiar and "classic" example of civil disobedience.

After doing a rhetorical analysis of "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", students will view a series of images intended to help them develop empathy, understand the courage an act of civil disobedience requires, and learn to read images as text. Defending his non-violent response to racism, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s letter will harken back to Antigone's argument that a civic law that defies natural law is unjust. Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, Moneta Sleet, Jr.'s images are powerful and students should be aware that his 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Deep Sorrow, 1968 was the first prize ever awarded to a black man and a black journalist. 32 The image of Martin Luther King Jr's funeral is evocative and a significant piece for developing empathy. Sleet's close personal relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr. over the course of many years provided him with access to both the private and public life, leading to astonishing and intimate photographs. A series of questions will lead students into the photograph Dr. and Mrs. King singing in the rain during the 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Through questioning, students will note the respectable attire, the symbols of patriotism, the races evident, and the weather. Without knowing the title of the image, students will make inferences about the identity of the prominent individuals in the photograph and the activities in which they are engaging. Utilizing Visual Thinking Strategy style questions, I will ask what is going on in the photo, what evidence in the image leads them to their observations and encourage them to continue to explore the image for more data. A brief explanation that voting rights were denied for the black residents of Selma, leading to a protest march to the capital will be offered at the end. Students will write a diary entry to express the feelings of one of the participants in the march.

Vietnam War

The threat of communism may seem distant to high school students; however, US foreign policy was so focused on containing the spread of communism in Southeast Asia that the Vietnam War was justified based on the domino theory. China had already fallen, the northern half of this former French colony was under communist rule, and America decided to escalate the war by increasing involvement in Indochina. Despite being the most advanced military power in the world, American military might was stymied by a guerilla war. Unable to win the land war, American strategy turned to air power in an attempt to bomb millions of acres and subdue the Vietcong. In addition, the increasingly unpopular southern regime was competing with a highly popular leader in the north who redistributed land and offered material support for his troops, backed by the Soviet Union and China. Youth culture in America found the loss of life for vague goals unacceptable and protested. Civil disobedience and widescale opposition eventually led to the American withdrawal from Vietnam after the loss of roughly 1.5 million Vietnamese and 58,000 U.S. casualties.

Once again using the standard tenth grade history textbook, students will explore the text structure to find the section on the Vietnam War. A brief exploration of the index, table of contents, and the overall chronological structure of the book will remind them of the importance of text structure. At the top of the blank piece of white paper, each student will draw a timeline, and choose the ten most significant events and place them on the timeline. Small groups will compare their selections to other group members and discuss the criteria and reasons for their choices.

In the past, my students have responded favorably to excerpts from Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, however the text should be carefully selected for appropriateness. The passage that literally describes the items each soldier carried is powerful and engaging, but may not be appropriate for all students due to references to copulation and profanity. Similarly, the passage about the slaughter of a water buffalo may draw in readers, especially young males, but more sensitive readers may find the scene too graphic and the animal cruelty incomprehensible if the context is not carefully established.

Initial protests by the Students for a Democratic Society were prime examples of civil disobedience with their pacifist marches and "teach-ins." Students will view the scene from the movie Forrest Gump to see the famous protest of over 100,000 Americans at the Lincoln Memorial. Low-cost printing techniques allowed propaganda relating to the loss of life and the expenses of waging war to be widely and rapidly disseminated across the country. Images of individuals burning draft cards at the Lincoln Memorial, and a student placing daisies in the barrel of rifles pointed at protestors provide opportunities to discuss how photography can still be a form of propaganda. John Filo's Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of a fallen protestor at the Kent State protests and the manifest shock and grief of Mary Ann Vecchio will engage students on an emotional level. Additionally, this is an ideal time to view images of the tunnels, children, the My Lai massacre, the effects of Agent Orange, and other images of the Vietnamese experience during the war. The 1971 Los Angeles Times political cartoon by Paul Conrad, My Lai Ditch Claims Another Victim, is a particularly powerful piece for students to analyze and serve as a springboard to a discussion about the power of the media to shape public opinion.

Students will be given copies of lyrics for two anti-war songs, which they will listen to and analyze as poems. Strong options include For What It's Worth by Buffalo Springfield, War by Edwin Starr, I Feel Like I'm Fixing to Die Rag by Joe MacDonald and Eve of Destruction by P.F. Sloan. Each of these songs has powerful lyrics and evidences a myriad of poetic devices such as metaphor, repetition, alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhyme scheme, which students will analyze along with form, structure and speaker.

Students have viewed countless powerful images of crowds potent in their solidarity and individuals in agony, heard songs that condemn war and its effect on humanity, and read powerful biographical excerpts about an American soldier's horrific experience in the jungles of Vietnam. Students will choose one image or excerpt or song that they felt expressed the most powerful and effective anti-war sentiment. Using the paper with the timeline, students will write the name of the piece and artist they felt engaged them emotionally and write a solid paragraph with three pieces textual evidence to support their claim. For homework, students will draw an image that could be an album cover if they chose a song, a cover if they chose the book or they can sketch the photograph they found most powerful.


After completing the Jamestown Education reading and activities on school integration in Alabama, students will view a variety of images designed to expose how the tension of this era is evident in photographs. Two images by photographer Brent Jones of eight year-old girl, Nichelle Morgan, attending her first day at an all-white public school in Milwaukee in 1976 are striking in their portrayal of stoicism. 33 First Day of Voluntary School Integration, Milwaukee #1 and #2, 1976 are powerful in their stark simplicity and after the reading, students will be receptive to the challenges and tension of that day. Students will ascribe words associated with emotions to the body language Nichelle Morgan demonstrates while on the bus to school and exiting the bus. Her direct stare as she leaves the vicinity of the bus for her first day at a previously all-white school engages the viewer directly and students will describe her emotions.

After carefully examining the two images, students will consider the medium, genre, and subject. They will then describe the visual details that catch your eye, such as shapes, the use of light and dark, space, scale, perspective, framing, vantage point from which the subject is shot, the distance between the subject and the camera, the focus of the lens, tone, framing, etc. Students will consider how facial expressions tell a mood and "story" that is evident with limited visual clues. The image will be removed from the projection and students will be asked to recreate it to the best of their ability. Given that they have viewed the image with great attention to detail; this should be an interesting exercise in attention to detail and the forms. For homework, students will use an oval facial proportion diagram, on which they will draw a pencil-only self-portrait that expresses a strong emotion. Student will explore a number of famous self-portraits and discuss facial expression, clothing, background details or accessories, elements of art, and principles of design. Students will then return home and create a final draft of their self-portrait using any materials and colors they choose. On the reverse of the image, students will title the piece with the emotion they wanted to express and write a paragraph that evaluates how successful they felt they were at expressing a mood and creating an emotion by analyzing their artistic choices. Students will return the following week with their self-portrait and during a gallery walk, each student will put a sticky note below each image with the emotion they feel is expressed and how they know that was the artists' intent.


The Occupy Wall Street movement found a voice in California college students who resented tuition increases amongst other perceived failures of the institutions for higher learning. On November 18, 2011, students at the University of California at Davis engaged in a sit-in protest and despite orders to avoid the use of force and arrests, Lt. John Pike pepper sprayed the protestors. While the protestors felt their body language, (seated with arms linked) reflected universal non-violence, they were nonetheless repeatedly coated in pepper spray. 34 The incident was instantly an internet sensation and many viewers felt the video demonstrated a casual and callous demonstration of unnecessary force by the officer. 35

After reading the article from The Huffington Post that immediately followed the incident, students will highlight words that demonstrate tone (the author's feelings about the subject), then write a 50 word summary of the incident. At that time, a student volunteer will be given a copy of the still image of the incident by Associated Press photographer Wayne Tilcock. The volunteer will not show the image to the class, but describe it in as much precise detail as possible, while their peers attempt to sketch the mental picture they have formed. This exercise in visualization encourages students to be aware of the necessity to use clear and precise language when describing something. The image will be projected for the entire class to view, and a discussion will ensue during which students will be encouraged to draw parallels and contrasts to the Paul Revere propaganda after the Boston Massacre. Students will compare images and note similarities and differences in their peers' artwork. Recognizing the difficulty in clearly describing an image, each individual student will write a highly detailed description of the image. They will then view the video and after a discussion, students will write a one page analysis of which of the media (article, photograph or video) most effectively conveyed the significance of the incident and provide specific evidence form the text to support their opinion.

Enduring Understandings

An understanding that all forms of artistic expression be they oil paintings, song lyrics, letters, plays or photographs have a power to influence their audience is a key concept I want to impart. As they make connections between these various media, students will begin to develop confidence in their emotional literacy, while developing an awareness of political literacy.

My students are reaching the age of responsibility at a time when instant access to information has created a global economy and communication network previous unimaginable. In a country that declares them legal adults at the age 18, with a civic responsibility to vote, the themes inherent to this unit will be relevant and compelling.

Knowledge of an artist's background, the historical and cultural context in which art was created, and close visual analysis will lead to deeper understanding. Interpretation of art is a skill that can be developed and is especially beneficial for students who struggle with engagement and expression in a text-based environment. Opinions about art require evidence from the text itself, and students will learn to cite evidence from any type of text. Rigorous content and the expression of knowledge through higher order thinking skills are essential skills for individuals to hone as high school students.

For their final demonstration of comprehension, students will select an image that represents a subject about which they feel personally concerned. Immigration, the environment, animal cruelty, the death penalty, the justice system, or any other issue may be utilized to express their desire to utilize the practice of civil disobedience to combat injustice. Students will closely analyze their carefully selected image for qualities such as line, shape, mass, volume, color, value, texture, spatial depth, perspective, scale, proportion, motion, principles of design, unity and variety, balance, etc. Students will make an arguable assertion, or thesis, about the image and utilize their observations of the artwork to prove their point of view. Students will write a five-paragraph essay about their chosen piece of art. After an introduction about the piece and artist, students will write a well-researched paragraph with citations about the issue they find socially concerning. Next, students use the elements of art and the principles of design to express what they see in one paragraph. The third paragraph focuses on mood, setting and subject matter as part of interpretation. In the fourth paragraph students will outline appropriate acts of civil disobedience that they feel would effectively draw public awareness to this issue, as well as express the resolution they feel would be most desirable. The conclusion should remind the reader why this piece is the most powerful image, able to convey emotion and a message to the public about a social injustice. Students must qualify their judgment with evidence from the text/image and end with a call to action.



Barringer, Timothy J. "Art History." Class lecture, Understanding History and Society

Through Images, 1776-1914 from Yale University, New Haven, July 7, 2014.

Brown, Judith M.. Gandhi and civil disobedience: the Mahatma in Indian politics, 1928-34. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

Brown, Rebecca M.. Gandhi's Spinning Wheel and the Making of India. London: Routledge, 2010. Well-researched and thorough exploration of Gandhi's philosophy and politics.

Bustle, Lynn S. Image, inquiry, and transformative practice: engaging learners in

creative and critical inquiry through visual representation. New York: P. Lang,

2003. Fantastic resource for teachers who want to incorporate art into the classroom.

Cherkis, Jason. "UC Davis Police Pepper-Spray Seated Students In Occupy Dispute." The

Huffington Post, November 19, 2011. (accessed July 12, 2014).

Critical Art Ensemble. Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media. New York: Autonomedia, 2001.

Critical Art Ensemble. "Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas." Brooklyn, New York: Autonomedia, 1996.

Danoff, Michael. Compassion and Protest: Recent Social and Political Art from Eli Broad Family Foundation Collection. New York: Cross River Press, 1991.

Douglas, Gordon. "Guerilla Bike Lanes and Other Acts of Civic Improvement through

Civil Disobedience." Architect Magazine, Aug., 2012. Interesting exploration of some very modern expressions of civil disobedience.

Friedersdorf, Conor. "Reports Reveal Two New Scandals in the Pepper-Spraying at UC

Davis." Atlantic Monthly Group, April 19, 2012. (accessed July 12, 2014).

Gans, Chaim. Philosophical Anarchism and Political Disobedience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Goldwin, Robert A. Ed. On Civil Disobedience: Essays Old and New. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1968. Invaluable collection of essays on the progression of American thought about civil disobedience.

Graff, Gerald and Cathy Birkenstein. "They Say/ I Say": The Moves that Matter in

Academic Writing. W. W. Norton and Co., 2010. Helpful resource for teachers to learn how to give sentence frames and help students articulate their thoughts.

Herngren, Per. Path of Resistance: the practice of civil disobedience. English language ed. Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers, 1993.

Holmes, Brian and Gregory Sholette. "Civil Disobedience as Art: Art as Civil


Jasper, James M.. The art of moral protest culture, biography, and creativity in social

movements. Pbk. ed. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Karapetian, Farrah. "Art as Civil Disobedience." Seismopolite (30 Sept, 2012).

Orcutt, Kimberly, ed. John Rogers: American Stories. New-York Historical Society, 2010.

Perry, Lewis. Civil disobedience: an American tradition. New Haven: Yale University

Press, 2013. By far the most accessible, articulate, and engaging primer on civil disobedience.

Protest & Survive. London: Whitechapel Art Gallery, 2000.

Ruskin, John. "Unto This Last." Essays from the Cornhill Magazine 1860. Reprinted

as "Unto This Last" in 1862.

Sophocles. Antigone. Translated by R.C. Jebb. 442BCE.

Storing, Herbert J. "The Case Against Civil Disobedience." On Civil Disobedience. Chicago: Rand McNally & Co., 1968. 95-120. Print.

Strickland, Carol, Ph.D. The Annotated Mona Lisa. Missouri: John Boswell

Management Inc., 2007.

"Teaching, home of the National History Education Clearinghouse."

Paintings About Segregation. (accessed July 11, 2014).

Willis, Deborah. Black photographers bear witness: 100 years of social protest.

Williamstown, Mass.: Williams College Museum of Art, 1989. Amazing resource with rarely seen photographs that are fantastic and brief biographies of the photographers.



This is the first year that Oak Grove High School will be implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS standards seek to create students who are ready to be successful with 21 st century skills and knowledge. Students will be able to:

  • Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1)
  • Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL 9-10.1d)
  • Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7)
  • Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9)
  • Articulate how personal beliefs, cultural traditions, and current social, economic, and political contexts influence the interpretation of the meaning or message in a work of art. (CCSS.Visual Arts-9-12 Proficient. Derive Meaning.4.1)


1. While the quote may indeed be specious as no primary source document attributing the quote to Jefferson was detected, it is a liberal paraphrase of the sentiment in the Declaration of Independence that it is the right of the people to abolish a government that is unresponsive to their needs.

2. Photography is an especially democratized tool for modernity to capture moments and evoke emotional responses. Deborah Willis, Black Photographers Bear Witness, 9.

3. "Creating classrooms that empower, celebrate multiple perspectives, and invite imagination requires teachers to employ intuition, perception, and imagination& Teaching includes being able—morally and aesthetically—to read/view highly complex landscapes that often define learners& " Lynn S. Bustle, Image, Inquiry, and Transformative Practice, 45.

4. Lynn S. Bustle, Image, Inquiry, and Transformative Practice, 170.

5. Jennifer Klein and Elizabeth Stuart, Using Art to Teach Reading Comprehension Strategies, 1.

6. Lynn S. Bustle, Image, Inquiry, and Transformative Practice, 16.

7. Henry David Thoreau's treatise "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" is a primary document students may benefit from examining in order to better understand the justification for this type of action.

8. James M. Jasper, The Art of Moral Protest, 70.

9. In an interesting side-note, Herngren notes that an act of martyrdom is not civil disobedience because the martyr suffers as a proxy for the individual, but the individual never overcomes their own fear of the consequences or suffering. Per Herngren, in The Path of Resistance, 136.

10. Per Herngren, The Art of Moral Protest, 379.

11. Thoreau and King seem to have advocated the practice of ignoring small injustices that are part of a large governmental machine as long as they do not involve compromising your inner moral code. Herbert J. Storing, The Case Against Civil Disobedience, 107.

12. The idea of non-violence is imperative, as noted by Per Herngren, because war is fighting an enemy, but politics is compromising with your enemy. Per Herngren, The Path of Resistance, 87.

13. Protest and Survive, 4.

14. Per Herngren, The Path of Resistance, 9.

15. Lewis Perry, Civil Disobedience, 15.

16. Per Herngren, The Path of Resistance, 81.

17. "He will judge between the nations/ and will settle disputes for many peoples./They will beat their swords into plowshares/ and their spears into pruning hooks./ Nation will not take up sword against nation,/ nor will they train for war anymore." Isaiah 2:4

18. Judith M. Brown, Gandhi and Civil Disobedience, 81.

19. Per Herngren, The Path of Resistance, 18.

20. "It has not always been clear whether the goal of civil disobedience is to be true to private conscience, to demonstrate morality, or to exert power. Is it to convert or coerce? Though nineteenth-century civil disobedience was justified in terms of private conscience, in the twentieth century disobedience was increasingly linked to power." Lewis Perry, Civil Disobedience, 18.

21. Hannah Arendt attributes the American quality of civil disobedience works to the spirit of our republic. Lewis Perry, Civil Disobedience, 23.

22. Michael Danoff, Compassion and Protest, 85.

23. Michael Danoff, Compassion and Protest, 87.

24. Antigone rails against the injustice of the civic law when she defends her action by stating that she does not feel "a mortal could override the unwritten and unfailing statutes of heaven." Antigone, lines 307-312.

25. The fourth wall is an artistic construct that divides the art from the audience, such as on a stage. Breaking the fourth wall refers to the artist acknowledging the audience such as when an actor delivers an aside directly to an audience.

26. Utilizing a black man to market his sculpture, Rogers' "sculpture defined itself as antithetical to the faux-marble whiteness of canonical European classical and neoclassical figurines." Kimberly Orcutt, John Rogers: American Stories, 19.

27. The image was displayed at the New York National Anti-Slavery Association as it humanized the subjects, exhibited sentimentality and addressed concern about the breakup of the black family structure. Kimberly Orcutt, John Rogers: American Stories, 79-81.

28. "But women were subject to the laws even if they did not make them, and what if one woman entreated others to break laws that society honored as fundamental to social order?" Per Herngren, Civil Disobedience, 64.


30. Deborah Willis, Black Photographers Bear Witness, 15.

31. Per Herngren, The Path of Resistance, 9.

32. The term black is utilized as it conveys culture as opposed to race and honors the black photographers whose artistry extends back to the inception of the art in 1839. Deborah Willis, Black Photographers Bear Witness, 7.

33. Deborah Willis, Black Photographers Bear Witness, 62.

34. Lewis Perry, Civil Disobedience, 313.

35. In an interesting footnote, Lt. John Pike was awarded a $38,055 settlement by the Worker's Compensation Appeals Board for the mental anguish and trauma he suffered as an UC Davis employee.

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