Lesson Plans

In these lessons, students don’t just listen to other people talk about Black history. They can help create it! Using the free & easy-to-learn Library of Congress website, students get to transcribe the writings and miscellaneous papers of an extraordinary woman named Mary Church Terrell. 

The lessons below were written for teachers to use in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. Each plan is aligned with the relevant Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Every lesson contains a basic set of activities, with extensions for use in middle and high school classes.

Mary Church Terrell & the Quest for Social Justice

Want to learn about the person behind the featured activity this year? See our short biography of Mary Church Terrell.

Overview of the lesson plans

In these lessons, students will participate in activities that will spark a connection between 20th /21st century social justice initiatives lead by Mary Church Terrell.  Mary Church Terrell dedicated herself to suffrage and equal rights. Terrell’s lifelong activism was spurred by the lynching of her good friend, Mr. Thomas Moss, who killed by whites because they wanted to eliminate the competition of his business. Mary Church Terrell responded to this act of violence and sadness by choosing to act. 

As the students analyze and synthesize a variety of primary sources, they will gain a better understanding of the reasons for the success and failure of social justice movements and campaigns during the life of Mary Church Terrell.

Lesson Plans

Download all of the lesson plan materials (PDF)

  1. Introductory Lesson Plan
  2. Mary Church Terrell and Segregated Education
  3. Mary Church Terrell from Suffrage to Voter Suppression
  4. Mary Church Terrell and Politics of Black Femme Style
  5. Mary Church Terrell and Health
  6. Mary Church Terrell and State Sanctioned Violence
  7. Mary Church Terrell and Frederick Douglass

Supplementary Materials

  1. Introduction to the lesson plans
  2. List of facts about Mary Church Terrell
  3. Short biography of Mary Church Terrell
  4. Resource Links

Common Core State Standards

Students will be able to identify key ideas in accordance with Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.3: Identify key steps in a text’s description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).


  1. Students will be able to identify three important aspects of leadership and activism in Terrell’s life.
  2. Students will be able to identify important events in the life of Mary Church Terrell which led to the development of her values/ethics.
  3. Students will be able to identify, describe and connect to contemporary issues at least two contributions to society made by Mary Church Terrell and write them in a reflective journal with reference to primary or secondary sources.
  4. SWBAT conduct Media analysis–articles, graphs, blogs, pictures, videos (need to produce or find media analysis guide–research information, think critically resources, the way that information is presented).
  5. SWBAT explain and identify primary sources and secondary sources.
  6. SWBAT transcribe primary documents using web application at the Library of Congress and explain why this work is important.

Questions to facilitate learning

  1. What were the issues that Mary Church Terrell devoted her life to?
  2. Why did Mary Church Terrell pursue a life of activism?
  3. Why do you think she chose those issues instead of others?
  4. Was Mary Church Terrell unusual or do you think there a lot of women like her during that time?

Additional Websites

Resources for Teaching MCT’s papers as Primary & Secondary Source Analysis