The Big Dreamer: Meredith's Fight for Integration Lesson Plan

Kari Baker

Students Will

  • Use prior knowledge on the Civil Rights Movement, integration in Mississippi, and the struggle for equality of African Americans.
  • Analyze the article’s terminology through discussion and individual research.
  • Synthesize information to answer and create their own questions from both the text and the photographs included in the article.
  • Explore events and information from the life of James Meredith
  • Create a news heading and photo caption about James Meredith.

Curricular Connections

Mississippi College- and Career-Readiness Standards for the Social Studies


Mississippi Studies

  • MS. 8 Evaluate the role of Mississippi in the Civil Rights Movement.

US History: 1877 to Present

  • US.3.2 - Trace the development of political, social, and cultural movements and subsequent reforms, including:  Jim Crow laws, Plessy vs. Ferguson, women’s suffrage, temperance  movement, Niagara movement, public education,  the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Marcus Garvey.
  • US.3.4 - Trace national legislation resulting from and affecting  the Progressive Movement, including: the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act.
  • US.5.7 - Debate the causes and effects of the social change and conflict between traditional and modern culture that took place during the 1920s, including: the role of women, the Red Scare, immigration quotas, Prohibition, and the Scopes trial.
  • US.11.3 Explain contributions of individuals and groups to the modern Civil Rights Movement, including Martin Luther King Jr., James Meredith, Medgar Evers, Thurgood Marshall, the Southern Christain Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Congress of Racial Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the civil rights foot soldiers.
  • US.11.6 Describe the accomplishments of the modern civil rights movement, including: the growth of the African American middle class, increased political power, and declining rates of African American poverty.

Problems in American Democracy 

  • PAD.8 Examine how and under what circumstances state governments and the federal government have expanded or constrained the civil and political rights of African Americans and other groups since the Civil War.

African American Studies 

  • AAS.8 Analyze the success and failures of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Minority Studies 

  • MIN.2 Trace the group dynamics that play a role in the marginalization of minority groups.
  • MIN.6 Examine the major events, methods, and leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.
  • MIN.8 Examine contemporary issues related to the treatment of minority groups.

Teaching Levels

Grades 8-12

Before the Lesson

  1. Students should read "Big Dreamer" and have a knowledge of the included vocabulary terms. It will be helpful if the students have prior knowledge of the early stages of the modern Civil Rights Movement as well as the south's segregated society.



communists: people who believe in a political and economic system that seeks to create a classless society; all things are divided equally for all people 

crusade: a strong course of action for political, social, or religious change

integration: incorporation as equals into society or an organization of individuals of differing groups; countering racial segregation 

mob: a large and disorderly group of people, especially one bent on destructive action

Molotov cocktails: a hand-thrown weapon that bursts into flame, made in a fragile container of flammable substances with a fuse

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP): established in 1909 and is America's oldest and largest civil rights organization

perseverance: continuing on with something even though it is hard or there is a delay in success

riot: a violent public disorder specifically a disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons assembled together and acting with a common intent

segregated: the separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group by enforced or voluntary residence in a restricted area, by barriers to social intercourse, by separate educational facilities, or by other discriminatory means

self-sufficiency: the ability to provide what is necessary without the help of others


After reading the article, students should be able to answer and discuss the following questions.

1. What are some reasons other than race people may be discriminated against when it comes to college admission?

2. Why do you think self-sufficiency was such an important quality to James Meredith's father?

3. What would have been some of the notable differences between a segregated and desegregated train station?

4. Why was the riot at the University of Mississippi so interesting to the media? Do you think a similar event would gain this same type of attention in today's media? Why do you think that?

5. Who was the US Attorney General during James Meredith's attempts to register at the University of Mississippi?

6. What do you think life was like for James Meredith during his attendance at the University of Mississippi?

7. What qualities did James Meredith possess that allowed him to be successful in integrating the University of Mississippi?

8. Looking at the photograph of people walking with their hands up, what is the first thing you notice? Discuss some of the differences you notice between the groups of people here. 


Student answers will vary; however, they should show thoughtfulness and an understanding of the facts of the article.

1. College admissions could discriminate based on age, gender, religious beliefs, social and economic status or even family background. 

2. James Meredith's father likely valued self-sufficiency because as a farmer it was the best way to keep his family fed. Dependence on others meant they could go without things they needed.

3. Differences easily noticed would have been separate entrances for African Americans; signs on restroom facilities were also quite different. White men usually had a smoking room while Black men had to smoke outside the station. 

4. All media wanted to show the sensationalism of the event no matter the side they were on.  Generally, riots and protests on college campuses have always received large amounts of media attention and would be no different today. These answers will vary but should show thought and understanding of the question.

5. Robert F. Kennedy, brother of President John F. Kennedy, was the U.S. Attorney General at the time of Meredith's enrollment.

6. These answers from students will vary, but a general thoughtfulness and an understanding of the question should be obvious in their answer. Lead the students to the photograph of Meredith in the virtually empty classroom.

7. Students will have varying answers here, but a majority should see his confidence in his abilities and the courage that he displayed in order to see this endeavor through to the end. 

8. Students should notice the tactical gear being worn by the national guard, their weapons and the large number of them. They should also notice the students lack of visible weapons and how they are being led. Discussion should lend itself to the reasons for this photo.