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Historical Era

Thinking Skill


The Suffrage and the Civil Rights Reform Movements

Launch Lesson

National Archives Education Team
Focusing on Details: Compare and Contrast
Historical Era:
Across Multiple Eras
Primary Historical Thinking Skill:
Historical Analysis & Interpretation
blooms taxonomy
Bloom's Taxonomy:

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The Suffrage and the Civil Rights Reform Movements


This short comparative analysis activity involves comparing and contrasting two images of marches for freedom—a 1917 march of suffragists and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom by Civil Rights leaders. Students will consider the similarities and differences between these two images and hypothesize what major differences these photos might imply about the two social reform movements.

This activity is used to support the National History Day (NHD) theme of Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History.

Author’s Notes

Learning Objectives

Students will compare and contrast photographs of a Bastille Day march by suffragists in 1917 and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. For grades 6-12. Approximate time needed is 15-20 minutes.


This activity is intended as a warm-up or introduction to reform movements as part of a discussion of this year’s National History Day theme: Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History. The two photographs depict historical events in the history of the woman suffrage and Civil Rights movements.

Present the activity to the entire class. Model careful analysis with students. Ask one half of the students to focus on each photograph. Tell students to use the zoom feature to see details in their photograph. Instruct students to create lists of people, objects, and activities in their photograph.

Note: For the list of people, ask students to look at the types of people, specific famous people, and any other details about the people in the photographs (e.g. size of group, clothing, ethnicities, etc).

Bring the class back together and have students discuss each individual photograph as you list the people, objects, and activities on the board.

After this discussion, have students pair off and discuss similarities and differences between the photographs in a small group. Next, discuss the similarities and differences between these photographs together as a class.

Some of the similarities they may notice include:

  • Both groups are protesting in the nation’s capital.
  • Both groups are using banners and slogans to spread their message.
  • Both groups appear peaceful and well mannered.

Some of the differences they may notice include:

  • In the suffragist photo, men do not seem to be a part of the marchers (instead, merely spectators). Civil Rights marchers includes both men and women, as well as African Americans and Whites.
  • Suffragist marchers seem to be a smaller group.
  • The caption of the suffragist photograph explains a negative reaction to their march (i.e. prison).
  • The slogans of the Civil Rights group seem more focused on particular goals (segregation, voting rights, jobs), while the suffragist banner uses a slogan of the French Revolution (Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity).
  • There are more recognizable faces and names in the Civil Rights photograph (Martin Luther King, Jr., for example)

Finally, ask students to respond to the conclusion questions they see after clicking “I’m Done.” Based on these photographs:

  • What can one infer about the differences between the suffrage and civil rights movements?
  • What was the biggest and most important difference?
  • Cite specific evidence from the primary sources.

Extension Activity

Direct students to explore additional photographs of suffrage movement and photographs of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Ask them: If you were doing a National History Day project about either the suffrage or Civil Rights movement, which 3-5 documents would you include in your finished product? Why?

Additional Resources

Find more teaching activities and documents related to National History Day topics on the DocsTeach National History Day page. Find more NHD resources from the National Archives.

For more information about the featured documents, follow the links below.

Documents in this activity: