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Historical Era

Thinking Skill


A Famous Person and Event are Revealed

Launch Lesson

National Archives Education Team
Focusing on Details: White out/Black out
Historical Era:
Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
Primary Historical Thinking Skill:
Historical Analysis & Interpretation
blooms taxonomy
Bloom's Taxonomy:

Use to create an Activity

A Famous Person and Event are Revealed


This activity requires students to examine the arrest record of an un-named person. Students will analyze and evaluate the data contained in the document, applying prior knowledge, to discern what happened in the incident and the identity of the person involved. It is Rosa Parks, but her name has been blacked out in the activity.

Author’s Notes

This activity can be used during a unit on the Civil Rights movement, in teaching about protests and civil disobedience, or when focusing on Rosa Parks individually. For grades grades 5-8. Approximate time needed is 15-30 minutes.

Most students have learned about Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement: On December 1, 1955, Ms. Parks took part in a deliberate planned act of civil disobedience by refusing to relinquish her seat on a public bus for a White person.

Ask students to work in pairs to engage in conversation and share their thought processes. The activity asks students to: “Look carefully at this document. It’s part of a famous story, but an important clue has been blacked out. Use every bit of information contained here to describe what you see. Then, apply your knowledge of history to figure out what this document is and whom the story is about.”

Depending on students’ abilities and prior knowledge, assign 3-10 minutes to examine the evidence. Assign 3-5 minutes for students to write a description of the evidence, their thought process, and their conclusions. Then, ask each pair of students to report both their thinking and their answers to the class. Follow up with a review of the events related to Rosa Parks. Find more information about her arrest on the Teaching With Documents section of the National Archives website.

To conclude the activity, lead a discussion based on the follow-up questions in the “I’m Done” section:

  • This document tells part of a famous story of a person, of a group of people, and of our country. It’s a big story of courage and audacity, and this document provides the evidence of what really happened.
  • What evidence was most helpful? What was confusing or surprising? What helped you discover whom this story is about?
  • Look at other documents related to Rosa Parks and to the Civil Rights Movement. Tell the story of Ms. Rosa Parks using this document and others as the factual basis of your narrative.

For more information about the featured document, follow the link below.

Documents in this activity: