While the World Watched: A First Person Account of the Bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church

Dawniell Black: Franklin High School
Subject Area: U.S. History
Grade Level: 11 th
Overview: Through a series of activities, studenst will gain an understanding of pivotal moment of the Civil Rights Movement and the effect of world events on individual lives. The lesson will provide a greater understanding of the people and events that shaped the Civil Rights Movement.
Note: This lesson stems from a 2011 presentation by Mrs. Carolyn McKinstry, a survivor of the 16 th Street Baptist Church bombing, hosted by the Elk Grove Unified School District’s Teaching American History Grant Program. Mrs. McKinstry discussed life in Birmingham, Alabama before, during and after the church bombing. This lesson was designed to accompany the full presentation available on-line. This lesson also uses portions of Carolyn McKinstrys book While the World Watched: A Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement (Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 2011). The lesson can be used as a whole or in parts. This lesson was designed for a 90-minute block.
Objectives: Students will be able to

  • Examineand analyze key events related to the evolution of the civil rights movement.
  • Examine the roles of civil rights activists and the effect of the civil rights movement on individual people.
  • Evaluate and respond to primary sources.
  • Respond and reflect on events related to the bombing of the 16 th Street Baptist Church.
  • Create a timeline of events significant to their lives and analyze the effect of local, national and international events on their own lives.

Pre-lesson Activity: Prior to teaching this lesson student,s watched the video Four Little Girls directed by Spike Lee. The documentary is all encompassing and provides the students with background and understanding of the events; however, watching the video is not a necessary component of the lesson. Prior to teaching the lesson, you may want to provide the students with the Quotation Response Activity (see Materials section – Quotation Response Activity) for homework, although the activity may be completed during the lesson as well.
Introduction: A power point presentation accompanies this lesson. All items that are available in document and pdf form are also on the power point slide, so you can choose to make copies for the students or just use the powerpoint. Introduce the lesson (ppt slide #1) and distribute the Carolyn McKinstry Opener (see Materials section – Carolyn McKinstry Opener) or use Opener (ppt slide #2).
Activity #1: Think-Write-Pair-Share (ppt slide #3). After reading the opener, give students time to think and respond in writing to the prompt (give students 5-7 minutes to respond in writing). Direct students to pair up and share their responses (give students 5-7 minutes to share). Give students 3-5 minutes to record their partner’s response. Allow students time to share their response or their partner’s response to the whole class. Once students have shared, change to (ppt slide #4) and/or explain that the scenario they responded to actually happened to Carolyn McKinstry at the 16 th Street Baptist Church on September 15 th 1963 and today’s lesson will focus on what her life was life in Birmingham, Alabama, before, during and after the bombing of the church.
Activity #2: Quotation Response (ppt slide #6-14). If students have already completed this activity for homework, then students can volunteer answers as you move through the slides. If students have not completed the assignment for homework, you can distribute the Quotation Response (see Materials section – Quotation Response) for students to respond in writing and then as a class go through the powerpoint slide and allow students to respond verbally or use the powerpoint slides and have students respond verbally without writing.
Activity #3: Carolyn McKinstry Presentation Discussion Questions (ppt. slide #15-18). Powerpoint slide #15 hyperlinks to the Carolyn McKinstry presentation available online. There are questions that have been designed for students to respond to while viewing the presentation (see Materials section – Carolyn McKinstry Presentation Discussion Questions), the questions are also available on powerpoint slides #16-18. The video presentation is 40 minutes in length. You may decide to show the video as a whole or break the video in to two parts allowing students to review, reflect and respond verbally to questions. Below is an outline of the presentation based on minute/second breakdown of the presentation.
0:00 – 9:24: Introduction of Carolyn McKinstry, discussion of Birmingham segregation laws,history of the 16 th Street Baptist church and significance of the church to the community, discussion of family life in Birmingham.
9:25 – 19:42: Dr. King speaks at the 16 th Street Baptist church, Carolyn McKinstry’s personal experiences with segregation, discussion of the Children’s March, bombings that took place prior to the church bombing. Note: This is a good place to pause the video and allow the sutdents to reflect and respond. 34:30 – 38:04 Carolyn McKinstry reads an excerpt from her book. Activity #4 uses this segment of the presentation.
Activity #4: While the World Watched Activity (ppt. slide #19). Distribute the handout While the World Watched (see Materials section – While the World Watched). Instruct the students to read the excerpt from Carolyn McKinstry’s, While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement ( Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2011) along with Carolyn McKinstry. They should underline or circle the passage or passages that most resonates with them. Use the last segment of the Carolyn McKinstry presentation (34:30 – 38:04). Allow students to share the passage they underlined.
Activity #5: History of Me (ppt. slide #20 and #21). Distribute the handout History of Me (see Materials section – History of Me). Discuss the activity with students. This can be a homework assignment, but you may want to take some time to brainstorm major events that have happened during their lifetime with them to help them. Students can either produce a poster or power point slide. Included in the power point is an example of my timeline (ppt. slide #22). You may want to create one to give students an idea how it should be done. There are also samples from students in the Students Products section.
Evaluation: Students can be evaluated on their participation in class discussion and completion of class activities.
Extension Activities: Allow students to present their timelines to the class.

  While The World Watched.ppt

Student Products


  • Creativity and Innovation: Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

Common Core Standards

  • Craft and Structure
    • Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history and social science.
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
    • Integrate visual information (e.g. in charts, graphs, photographs, videos or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

California Content Standards

  • History/Social Studies Skills 9- 1. Students will demonstrate the skills necessary for chronological and spatial thinking. 3. Students will demonstrate skills necessary for historical interpretation.
  • History/Social Studies – Grade 11
    • 11.10.2 Students will examine and analyze the key events, policies and court cases in the evolution of civil rights.
    • 11.10.4 Students will examine the roles of civil rights advocates.
    • 11.10.5 Students will discuss the diffusion of the civil rights movement from the churches of the rural South and urban North, including resistance to racial desegregation in Little Rock and Birmingham.