This open-ended enquiry explores one of the most abiding stories of American Civil Rights. Students are invited to advise a film director on what actually happened in Montgomery in December 1955. They are introduced to the standard, simplified, textbook version that all young Americans are taught in school. Rosa was simply a tired seamstress who refused to give up her seat to a white bus passenger, thereby setting off a storm of protest. The trouble is that it is wrong. But can the pupils prove it and provide a more convincing account? Pupils go on to look at the significance of the episode that propelled Martin Luther King into the limelight as the Civil Rights movement quickly gathered pace.
So the challenge is laid down. Can the students produce their own explanation of what happened using key pieces of source material from the time, as well as extracts from recent revisionist accounts? They end up writing a narrative for the film producer to use as the basis of the film. Constructive writing of history, having evaluated available evidence, is exactly what we should be doing with our history students.
Those of you who are trying to develop greater independence in