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Rosa Parks — The Movie! 7 Questions for Substantive Conversation

By Christy Crawford on February 15, 2014
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

PHOTO/FILM Credit: Eunique Jones Gibson for the Because of Them, We Can™ Campaign

After the positive response to my previous post, "Contemporary Images for Black History Month," I had to share this movie. Savvy mom and cultural artist, Eunique Jones Gibson, shot the film Rosa to get kids to take a new look at Ms. Parks.



To view film, click on the image or here.


Below are the big seven subtopics my fourth and fifth graders grappled with after watching and re-watching the film. Use the short film during morning meeting, social studies, or anytime you're ready for substantive conversation or a thoughtful Socratic seminar. See Angela Bunyi's fabulous post for step-by-step directions on higher order comprehension conversations.

Small Group Discussion Questions for Because of Them We Can

1. In the opening shot, compare Parks's size to the size of the bus. How does Gibson, the filmmaker, use size to convey power? What does the bus represent?

►Be prepared to discuss institutional racism, a system of inequality based on race (racism in schools, banks, restaurants, stores, government offices, everywhere . . . ).

2. Look at the film's first chyron, "Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was an African-American civil rights activist." What activities did Parks immerse herself in when she was not at work? She was secretary of what group? What was the purpose of that group? The film's third chyron reads, "At the time, Parks was secretary of the Montgomery Chapter of the NAACP. If your students have read Nikki Giovanni's Rosa, they'll likely remember that Parks was secretary of the NAACP.

►Use the film to discuss Parks's defense of Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old who was thrown off a city bus before Parks herself was arrested. For more information on Parks and Colvin see Newsweek, History.com or have students listen to this NPR interview.

3. Read the film's second chyron, "The United States Congress called her 'the First Lady of Civil Rights' and 'The Mother of the Freedom Movement.'" Why was Parks an ideal candidate for any nonviolent movement? How could her story inspire others to break barriers?

4. Where are the passengers on the bus? Why do you think the filmmaker chose not to have any passengers on the bus?

5. Whose voice is narrating Parks's walk? What was the narrator's relationship to Parks?

►For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.s' Speech and a detailed timeline of events after Parks sat down, see Scholastic's interview with Parks, "How I Fought for Civil Rights."

►To listen to Dr. King's full address to the first Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) Mass Meeting, or for the full transcript, see Martin Luther King, Jr. And the Global Freedom Struggle.

6. Why is the film’s Parks’s clutching her purse? Was the Civil Rights movement dangerous? Why or why not?

7. How does the filmmaker convey Parks's choices?

►Ask students to discuss Gibson's shot choices as well as the pace and duration of the film within their small groups. What were the consequences of Gibson's choices?


Learn more about Gibson and the Because of Them, We Can campaign in the Behind the Lens series on PBS. How could you and your students use the film in your classroom or organization? Please share your ideas below.


Comments (2)


Thanks for your comment! I wish there were more videos available now! Please let me know how your class discussions progress.

Very powerful video! Thanks for posting this along with your discussion questions.

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