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Ballou High School Movie Unit – Lesson Plan II


Language Arts, Music, Social Studies  


6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Ballou High School Movie Unit – Lesson Plan II
Film Produced by – Casey Callister
Lesson Plan written by – Bobby Koeth III
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Secondary Subjects – Music, Language Arts
Grade Level – 6-12


      Ballou Senior High is a struggling inner city public school located in Washington, D.C. News reports about this school usually focus on its frequent episodes of violence. In contrast to these reports, Casey Callister produced and Michael Patrei directed a 86-minute documentary focusing on a positive influence at this school. They followed the Ballou Senior High School Marching Band on its way to a national band competition. This film shows how the band members overcame the obstacles of their negative surroundings and uplifted themselves and their community.

Three lesson plans were sent to us by the film’s producer. They challenge students to consider education as a civil right and to create proposals for improving their own school.

In this lesson, students learn about significant Civil Rights Movement leaders featured in the film Ballou. They reflect on the impact the Civil Rights Movement has on their education and on whether celebrities should serve as role models.

You can learn more about the film Ballou at

Lesson Plan Unit Table of Contents:

  1. Colin Powell, America’s Promise, and its Five Points

    Age: High School, College
    Goal: Students will analyze Ballou High School through the lens of America’s Promise and create a proposal for decreasing high school drop out rates.

    Time: Three hours or four 45-minute class periods

  2. Civil Rights – see lesson below

    Age: High School, Middle School

    Goal: Students will learn about significant Civil Rights Movement leaders featured in the film Ballou.

    Time: Three hours or four 45-minute class periods

  3. Proposing to Improve your School

    Age: High School, Middle School

    Goal: Students will assess their school in comparison to Washington DC’s Ballou High School featured in the film Ballou

    Time: Three hours or four 45-minute class periods

II. Civil Rights

Primary Subject – Social Studies
Secondary Subjects – Music, Language Arts, Other
Age – High School, Middle School


      Students will learn about significant Civil Rights Movement leaders featured in the film



Students will be able to:

  • Survey the Civil Rights Movement (Attachment A)
  • Analyze speeches from Jesse Jackson and John Lewis
  • Hypothesize the role of these leaders in this film

Source: AP


    Film, Attachments, Website Resources


    Three hours or four 45-minute class periods


  • Verbal Brainstorm: What are civil rights? When was the Civil Rights Movement?
  • Define key words: “right”
  • Evaluate the Civil Rights Timeline

Main Learning Activity:

  1. Half of the students read the speech by John Lewis about Bloody Sunday; half of the students read the Jesse Jackson speech.
  2. Each half comes together to answer a set of questions. Each group should assign a facilitator, timekeeper, and a recorder.
  3. Come back together, and form small groups of four students, with two people from the Lewis group and two people from the Jackson group.
  4. Give the students seven minutes to teach each other about what they learned.
  5. Watch film.
  6. When the movie is complete, take initial responses from the movie. Steer the conversation away from, “It was good” or “I liked it” by posing questions:
    • Has this movie made you think differently about your education?
    • Is education a civil right?
    • Do you think the Civil Rights Movement has impacted the Ballou students?


  • Written response: Why did the filmmaker choose include these two men (Jackson and Lewis) in the film? How is their appearance in the film relevant to the film’s subject?
  • If time permits, read the following statement by filmmaker, Mike Patrei.

    The celebrity interviews are in the documentary because they are politicians and individuals who are aware of the many issues and obstacles surrounding inner-city schools in this country. It was also important to have them in the film because of their celebrity status. The education of our children is one of the most important issues that this country faces and having the celebrity interviews in the documentary causes more people to pay attention and listen.

After reading the statement, ask the following questions.

  • Do you agree with the statement that more people pay attention and listen to celebrities? Why do you think that is?
  • Do you think that celebrities should act as role models to young people? Why/why not?
  • List a celebrity that you know of that promotes good things or serve as a role model. What do they do? (If you cannot think of one, who would you want to serve as your role model and what do you want them to say or do?)

Website Resources:

John Lewis

Jesse Jackson

In hopes of getting the Voting Rights Act passed, protesters marched from Selma to Montgomery. On this historic march, Bloody Sunday, March 7 1965, occurred. Bloody Sunday, the American version, happened when peaceful protesters crossed over the Edmund Pettmus Bridge and were met with violent police officers.

This is John Lewis’ personal account of what happened. He begins his speech as they are walking of the Edmund Pettmus Bridge.

Then I said, “Well there’s too much water down there. We’re not going to jump. We are not going back, we are going forward.” And we continued to walk. We came to the highest point on the Edmund Pettis Bridge. Down below we saw a see of blue, Alabama State Troopers. We continued to walk.

We came within hearing distance of the state troopers and the man identified himself and said.” I am major [John Clout] of the Alabama state troopers. This an unlawful march and you will not be allowed to continue. I give you three minutes to disperse and return to your church.” In less than a minute and a half, Major [John Cloaus] said. “Troopers advance”.

We saw these men putting on these gas masks. They came toward us beating us with night sticks, bull whips, I was hit in the head by a trooper with a night stick. Had a concussion at the bridge. I thought I was going to die and I thought I saw death. And I don’t know how I made it across that bridge Sunday afternoon but I do recall being at the church. Later, I was hospitalized.

Next morning, Monday morning march 8, Dr. Martin Luther King and Rev. Ralph Abernathy came by to see me. Dr. King said, “Don’t worry, John. We’ll make it from Selma to Montgomery. The Voting Rights Act will be passed” He told me he was making an appeal, issuing an appeal, a call for religious leaders to come to Selma.


Website resources:

      Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail

      This is an excerpt from Jesse Jackson’s speech to the Democratic National Convention on July 18, 1984. Mr. Jackson was the first African American to run for president in the Democratic primaries. He did not receive the nomination, however. Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro were nominated. They lost to the incumbent Ronald Regan.

This is not a perfect party. We are not a perfect people. Yet, we are called to a perfect mission. Our mission: to feed the hungry; to clothe the naked; to house the homeless; to teach the illiterate; to provide jobs for the jobless; and to choose the human race over the nuclear race.

Our party is emerging from one of its most hard fought battles for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in our history. But our healthy competition should make us better, not bitter. We must use the insight, wisdom, and experience of the late Hubert Humphrey as a balm for the wounds in our Party, this nation, and the world. We must forgive each other, redeem each other, regroup, and move one. Our flag is red, white and blue, but our nation is a rainbow — red, yellow, brown, black and white — and we’re all precious in God’s sight. America is not like a blanket — one piece of unbroken cloth, the same color, the same texture, the same size. America is more like a quilt: many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread. The white, the Hispanic, the black, the Arab, the Jew, the woman, the native American, the small farmer, the businessperson, the environmentalist, the peace activist, the young, the old, the lesbian, the gay, and the disabled make up the American quilt. Even in our fractured state, all of us count and fit somewhere. We have proven that we can survive without each other. But we have not proven that we can win and make progress without each other. We must come together.

Democracy guarantees opportunity, not success.

Democracy guarantees the right to participate, not a license for either a majority or a minority to dominate.

The victory for the Rainbow Coalition in the Platform debates today was not whether we won or lost, but that we raised the right issues. We could afford to lose the vote; issues are non-negotiable. We could not afford to avoid raising the right questions. Our self-respect and our moral integrity were at stake. Our heads are perhaps bloody, but not bowed. Our back is straight. We can go home and face our people. Our vision is clear.

Our time has come. Our time has come. Suffering breeds character. Character breeds faith. In the end, faith will not disappoint. Our time has come. Our faith, hope, and dreams will prevail. Our time has come. Weeping has endured for nights, but now joy cometh in the morning. Our time has come. No grave can hold our body down. Our time has come. No lie can live forever. Our time has come. We must leave racial battle ground and come to economic common ground and moral higher ground. America, our time has come. We come from disgrace to amazing grace. Our time has come. Give me your tired, give me your poor, your huddled masses who yearn to breathe free and come November, there will be a change because our time has come.

Website resource:

      The entire speech:

Attachment A

Civil Rights Movement: A brief history

1954: Supreme Court overturns Plessy VS Ferguson and rules in favor of the desegregation of schools in Brown VS Board of Education. Year later, one of the attorneys arguing in favor of desegregation is Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African American justice.

1955: Rosa Parks, a NAACP activist, refuses to give up her seat on a segregated bus. She is jailed. A young preacher, Martin Luther King, heads the Alabama bus boycott. King advocates a non-violent approach.

1956: 371 days later, the boycott has worked and the Montgomery buses becomes desegregated.

1960: Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNCC) forms and students protest by sitting lunch counters.

1963: To test a new Supreme Court decision, young blacks and whites ride supposedly desegregated greyhounds buses. These are called the Freedom Rides. Jon Lewis is one of the people who are riding on those buses. Two months later, one of the buses are attacked and burned.

1963: Martin Luther King delivers his “I have a dream” speech at the March on Washington. John Lewis speaks on behalf of SNCC.

1964: Malcolm X delivers “The Ballot or the Bullet” advocating the use of violence or force in order for black to gain voting rights. Months later, he is assassinated.

1965: Protesters march from Selma to Montgomery for the Voting Rights Act. Protesters are met with violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Voting Rights Act passed.

1968: Martin Luther King steps out of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. He is assassinated. Jesse Jackson is by his side when he is killed.

1983: Jesse Jackson runs for president

1984: Jesse Jackson starts the Rainbow Coalition

1986: Jon Lewis is elected to the House of Representative representing Atlanta’s fifth district.

1988: Congress passes Civil Rights Restoration Act over President Reagan’s veto.

1989: Gen. Colin Powell becomes first black to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

1989: L. Douglas Wilder (Virginia) becomes first black elected governor.

1990: President Bush vetoes a civil rights bill he says would impose quotas for employers; weaker bill passes muster in 1991.

1991: Civil rights museum opens at King Assassination site in Memphis.

1994: Byron De La Beckwith convicted of 1963 Medgar Evers assassination.

1995: Supreme Court rules that federal programs that use race as a categorical classification must have “compelling government interest” to do so.

1996: Supreme Court rules consideration of race in creating congressional districts is unconstitutional.

2002: Halle Berry becomes the first African-American woman to be awarded an Oscar for best actress in a leading role.

2007: Barack Obama enters the Democratic primaries to campaign for presidency.

2008: Barack Obama is the first African American to win the Democratic nomination.

2008: Note: This lesson was posted in October 2008 before the November election and the 2009 parades.

2009: Ballou SHS Marching Band is the first African-American band to perform in both the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in the same year.

E-Mail Casey Callister!

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