about nonviolent resistance movements that have taken place around the world
and, using video segments from the PBS program Women, War & Peace: “Pray the Devil
Back to Hell” explore how women’s nonviolent protests helped bring about
the end of a bloody civil war in Liberia in 2003. In the Introductory Activity,
students learn about nonviolent resistance, conduct research about nonviolent
protest leaders in different countries and time periods, discuss the goals and
impact of their actions, and place them on a timeline. In Learning Activity 1,
students learn about actions that Leymah Gbowee and the women of Liberia took
to protest the civil war in their country. In Learning Activity 2, students
explore different methods of nonviolent action and read and discuss the letter
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from jail in Birmingham, Alabama, as well as
the statement from Alabama clergymen which prompted him to write the
letter. In the Culminating Activity,
students examine nonviolent protest movements throughout history and discuss
the goals and impact of those efforts. The lesson concludes with students
writing and discussing reflection essays about the use of nonviolent resistance,
citing examples studied in this lesson.
Students will be able to:
- Define “nonviolent resistance” and “civil disobedience;”
- Discuss who Leymah Gbowee is and what her role was in ending Liberia’s Civil War in 2003;
- Describe nonviolent actions the women of Liberia took to protest the war;
- Name at least three leaders of nonviolent protests around the world and discuss the goals and impact of their actions;
- Describe the role women have played in nonviolent protest movements in at least three countries;
- Explain the points raised by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his letter from the Birmingham jail and apply them to Leymah Gbowee’s situation;
- Discuss at least one major nonviolent resistance movement in the United States or another country, the nonviolent actions its leaders took, and the impact of the movement;
- Discuss how nonviolent strategies have been used to achieve various goals in different regions of the world, citing at least three specific examples.
(3-4) 45-minute class periods
War and the Rise of Women's Resistance in Liberia Video
Peaceful Protests in Liberia Video
Steps Toward Peace Video
Achieving Peace Video
In Pursuit of Democracy Video
For each student:
Web SitesFor use in student research during the Introductory Activity:
International Civil Rights Center and Museum
Top Ten Nonviolent Protests
Bringing down Serbia’s dictator, 10 years later: A Conversation with Srdja Popovic
All Nobel Peace Prizes
Freedom Hero: Inez Milholland Boissevain
For use in Learning Activity 2:
198 Methods of Nonviolent Action
Albert Einstein Institution
Peace Magazine: The Methods of Nonviolent Action
Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail
Public Statement by Eight Alabama Clergymen
For use in student research during the Culminating Activity:
International Center for Nonviolent Conflict
Light in Montana: How One Town Said No to Hate
The Orange Alternative: Revolution of Dwarves
Nonviolence: An Introduction
The Class of Nonviolence: Lesson Six
Martin Luther King Jr.’s 6 Facts about Non-Violent Resistance
Part I: Introductory Activity
students to think about different ways people have voiced objections to war
and/or unfair laws and policies. (Protests,
marches, hunger strikes, writings, etc.)
that today’s lesson will highlight efforts of nonviolent resistance that have
taken place throughout history, with special focus on efforts by women in
Liberia in 2003 to bring about an end to civil war in that country.
students to define the terms “nonviolent resistance”/ “nonviolent action” and
“civil disobedience.” (“Nonviolent
resistance” or “nonviolent action” involves using symbolic protests, civil
disobedience and other non-violent acts in order to achieve specific goals.
“Civil disobedience” involves the refusal to obey certain laws or requirements
of a government and is considered to be a form of nonviolent resistance.)
- Ask students to list examples of nonviolent protests with which they are familiar. (Mohandas Ghandi’s Salt March, Martin
Luther King’s civil rights efforts, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, etc.)
- Divide students into groups of 2-3 students each. Assign each group one of the following people/groups:
students to research the role each person or group played in nonviolent
resistance using the websites suggested at the beginning of this lesson, as
well as other resources, as needed. Ask students to find out the following
about the individuals:
- Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan
- Cesar Chavez
- Emily Greene Balch
- Henry David Thoreau
- Inez Milholland Boissevain
- Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. (Jibreel Khazan) and David Richmond
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
- Rosa Parks
- Srdja Popovic
- Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman
a timeline in your classroom and ask students to put the following information
on the timeline:
- At least one major nonviolent action/event with which they were associated.
goal(s) of their nonviolent protest(s).
- Where and when they lived.
- The impact of their actions (on others and on themselves).
- Other additional information about their actions.
- The name(s) of the individual(s).
- The name of one major event for which their
selected individual or group is known.
- The year the event took place.
A photograph of the
individual(s) and/or the featured event.
Possible events and dates
each group to present its information to the class. Ask students to discuss the
roles each of the featured people played in furthering their causes and the
risks they took.
- Henry David Thoreau: Wrote “Civil
Disobedience," also known as “Resistance to Civil Government” (1849).
- Bertha von Suttner: Author of Lay Down Your Arms (1889); Formed the Austrian Peace Society (1891).
- Inez Hilholland Boissevain: Suffrage Parade (March 3, 1913).
- Emily Greene Balch: Co-founder and honorary president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (founded in 1915 as the “Women’s Committee for Permanent Peace”). Secretary of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (1919-22; 1934-35).
- Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi: Non-cooperation movement, British India (September 1920- February 1922); Salt March (March 12-April 5, 1930).
- Alva Myrdal: Represented Sweden at Geneva disarmament conference (1962); Promoted disarmament as a member of Swedish Parliament (beginning in 1962) and as a member of the Swedish Cabinet (beginning in 1967).
- Rosa Parks: Refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama (December 1, 1955); Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956).
- Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. (Jibreel Khazan) and David Richmond: Known as the Greensboro Four, they conducted a sit-in at the Woolworth’s counter in Greensboro, NC (February 1, 1960). Sit-ins by the Greensboro Four and others continued in Greensboro through July 25, 1960.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.: Montgomery Bus Boycott (December, 1955-December, 1956); Project C/Protests in Birmingham,
Alabama (April, 1963); March on Washington (August 28, 1963).
- Cesar Chavez: Strike and march by California grape pickers (March, 1966); 25-day spiritual fast (1968); Boycott to protest use of pesticides on grapes (1980s).
- Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman: Mexico City Olympic Games Black Power Salute (1968).
- Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan: Co-founded the Northern Ireland Peace Movement (1976), also known as the Community
of Peace People.
- Srdja Popovic: One of the leaders of Otpor, the nonviolent protest movement that helped end the dictatorship of
Slobodan Milosovic in Serbia (2000)
Part II: Learning Activity 1
that you will now be showing a video from the PBS program Women,
War & Peace: “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” a program which
documents the role women played in bringing about an end to war in Liberia. Explain that the video introduces Leymah Gbowee and describes actions she took to mobilize women in Liberia to speak out against the war.
students view the video, ask them to write down some of the actions that Leymah
Gbowee took to mobilize the women of Liberia.
- Play War and the Rise of Women's Resistance in Liberia. After showing the
video, ask students to discuss steps that Gbowee and others took to
the women of Liberia. (She reached out
women in churches. Muslim women, inspired by Gbowee’s example, reached
women in Mosques. They encouraged men to lay down their weapons and
religious leaders in churches and mosques to pressure the men to stop
that the next video highlights actions Leymah Gbowee and her
to protest the war and advocate for peace. As they watch the next
students to write down three actions the women took to protest the war
advocate for peace.
- Play Peaceful Protests in Liberia. After showing the video, ask students to
discuss steps Leymah Gbowee and her supports took to protest the war and
advocate for peace. (They decided to
conduct a public protest. They dressed in white and sat at the fish
every day. It was the first time that Liberian Muslim and Christian
joined together. They created a banner that said “The women of Liberia
peace now.” They created signs protesting the war and advocating peace
over 2,500 women join the protest. They sang “We want peace, no more
conducted a sex strike by denying sex to their men.)
- On a
white board, easel pad, etc. write the title “Nonviolent Actions
the Women of Liberia” and, based on what has been featured in the first
videos, ask students to list the nonviolent actions the Liberian women
conducted. (Note: Students will be
more items to this list in Step 11 of this Learning Activity.)
students why the women selected the fish market as the site for their
(It was a visible spot where Charles
Taylor would see them.)
some of the obstacles they faced while conducting their protest. (Bad weather conditions; potential danger to
themselves; the president did not support their cause.)
the next video by letting students know it highlights additional
the women of Liberia took to achieve peace. As students view the
them to write down the actions that the women took.
- Play Steps Toward Peace. After
showing the video, ask students to describe actions the women took to
their quest for peace. (They wrote a
position statement to convince the Liberian government to engage in
talks. The women decided they didn’t want to be seen as politicians and
want to discuss politics or the practices of the government. They,
decided to focus, specifically, on peace. They presented their statement
and decided to sit outside until they heard from President Charles
April 23, 2003 they met with Charles Taylor and handed their statement
pro-tem of the senate- a woman- to give to Taylor. They sent women to
mobilize refugee women living there. In Ghana, they sat outside, holding
and singing. They talked to delegates behind the scenes at the peace
get them to think about possible compromises they could make. They went
delegate to delegate to try to influence them. They continued to protest
fish market every day, fasted and prayed.)
the women’s actions to the list you and your students created of
Actions Conducted by the Women of Liberia.”
- Explain that the peace talks in Liberia
were originally only supposed to last two weeks, but they ended up going
more than six weeks. Ask students to describe additional steps the women
take to get the different sides to come to an agreement and sign the
- Explain that the next video shows what
actions the women took to get the men to focus on the peace talks and
a compromise. As students watch the video, ask them to write down the
the women took.
- Play Achieving Peace. After
showing the video, discuss actions the women took to get the men to
the peace talks and arrive at a compromise. (They
increased their presence in Ghana and sat by the doors inside the
looped arms, blocking the peace talk delegates from exiting. They wore
tee shirts. When the security guards told Leymah Gbowee she was
justice, she removed her hair tie and started removing clothing. Gbowee
with General Abubakar, the Ghanaian Ambassador and others. They asked
release her women and she refused. She then agreed to let the women go,
gave the men two weeks to come to an agreement. She told them, if
would return to protest again in two weeks with more women. After the
the mood of the peace talk became more serious and the delegates signed a
agreement two weeks later. They returned to Liberia after the agreement
students how people reacted to their sit-in. Ask: What were the actions
security guards? General Abubakar? The delegates? (The security guards first accused Gbowee of
obstructing justice, but
then told her she should move some women over to the windows to stop
from escaping. Joe Wylie, one of the warlords from LURD (the opposition
tried to break through the group of women. General Abubakar, the
defended the women and told the man to go back into the room where the
talks were taking place. The General told him that if he were a real man
wouldn’t be killing his people. He told the men not to leave the hall
negotiated with the women.)
- Add the steps from Achieving Peace to the list of actions that the women of Liberia took.
and lead a discussion about all of the nonviolent actions the women took
their efforts to protest the war. For each method of resistance
the women, discuss the following:
Ask students the following:
impact of that action.
challenges and potential dangers faced by the women.
would you have chosen to do similarly or differently if you had been in
of the movement?
you were in charge of a similar type of nonviolent protest movement
had access to the latest state of the art technologies (social media
cell phones, iPads, etc.), what are some additional actions you could
promote your cause? (Facebook posts, tweets, blogs, etc.)
Part III: Learning Activity 2
- Distribute the 198 Methods of Nonviolent
Action list from the Albert Einstein Institution. Divide students into groups
of 2-3 students each. Ask each group to check off each of the actions that Leymah
Gbowee and the women of Liberia used in their quest for peace.
- Discuss how each of the actions helped
further the women’s cause.
- Distribute the Public Statement by Eight
Alabama Clergymen and Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham
Ask students to read the letter from the Eight Alabama Clergymen and
read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s response. Ask students to identify
points made in each document. As students read King’s letter, ask them
out what he says are the basic steps to a nonviolent movement, as well
his views are on following rules.
- After students have read each letter, ask
them to describe the main points made by the clergymen in writing their
and the main points raised by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his response.
- Ask students to discuss what King lists
as the four basic steps to a nonviolent campaign. (Collection of facts to determine whether
injustices exist; negotiation;
self purification and direct action.) Discuss how these steps
apply to the
actions taken by Leymah Gbowee and the women of Liberia.
- Discuss what King says about following
rules. (“One has not only a legal but a
moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral
responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” “We should never forget that
Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian
fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.' It was ‘illegal’ to aid and
Jew in Hitler’s Germany.”)
- Compare King’s sentiments about rules to
Leymah Gbowee’s reaction to the security guards when they told her she
This optional activity
involves watching and discussing the segment In Pursuit of Democracy, which
describes efforts the women in Liberia conducted after the war ended.
students know that the women of Liberia continued to work together after
war. As students watch the video, ask them to identify the objectives
women and to describe the actions they took to achieve those goals.
In Pursuit of Democracy. After showing the video, ask students
to describe the objectives of the women after the war. (To build peace and promote democracy.)
students to discuss the steps the women took to achieve those goals. (They decided to forgive the combatants and
not blame them for actions they committed during the war. The women
and got to know some of the children who fought in the war and realized
these soldiers were also victims of the war. The women believed there
be true peace in Liberia until there was a democratically-elected
They decided to work on the election, by campaigning for Ellen Johnson
who won the 2005 presidential election and was sworn in as President of
on January 16, 2006. They also wore clothing that said “Peace Forever.”
working together for 2 ½ years, the women officially ended their mass
campaign, with the promise of regrouping if the situation in Liberia got
Part IV: Culminating Activity
- Ask each student to select a nonviolent
protest movement to research. Here are some possibilities:
Fisher Body Plant Sit-down strike, Flint, Michigan (December 30,
of the Plaza de Mayo (also known as “The Mothers of the Disappeared”)
Demonstrations, Buenos Aires, Argentina (beginning in 1977)
1st Movement; Samil Movement, Korea (March 1, 1919)
Demonstrations, East Germany (1989-90)
movement, British India (September 1920- February 1922)
protests by women, children and men in
the Palestinian village of Budrus in the West Bank (2003)
protests by women in Ivory Coast (2011)
Alternative Movement, Poland (1980s)
Torch Marathon (August 27, 1967- October 21, 1967)
Power Revolution, the Philippines (1986)
to menorah hate crime, Billings, MT (December 2, 1993)
Revolution, The Baltic States (1987-90)
Square Protests (April 15- June 4, 1989)
and Tobago nonviolent protests (1834)
Revolution, Czechoslovakia (1989)
For additional options, students can
search the “Nonviolent Conflict Summaries” in the “Movements and Campaigns”
section on the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict’s website.Distribute the Nonviolent Resistance Student Organizer. Ask students to explore the following about their
movements and to record their findings on their student organizers:
After students have completed the
organizers, ask them to present their findings to the class.Ask students to compare and contrast the
methods used in the movement which they just studied to the methods used
other examples of nonviolent protest highlighted throughout the lesson. Ask students to reflect upon the impact
of nonviolent resistance movements and to discuss the pros and cons of
types of nonviolent actions. Ask students to discuss the risks taken and
challenges faced by the protesters in the different situations they
Discuss the use of the following in the nonviolent protests studied
lesson and the reasons for using them:
- The name of the movement and date(s)
the movement occurred.
- Names of the principal
leaders/organizers of the movement.
- Details about the participants,
including the approximate number of people involved in the movement.
- Details about the movement,
including how it started, the goals of the movement and the nonviolent
methods used to achieve those goals.
- The impact of the movement (on the
participants and others).
Lead a discussion about the role women
have played in nonviolent protests around the world, citing specific
Argentina, Ivory Coast, Liberia, the West Bank (Budrus), Northern
the United States. Ask each student to write a reflection
essay about the use of nonviolent methods to achieve a goal, citing at
three different cases studied in this lesson. Ask students to include
reflections about the risks and sacrifices taken by the participants of
nonviolent protests. Discuss the impact of their actions on their own
the lives of others in their communities and beyond.Ask students to share their reflections
with the class.
and public demonstrations