Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
Biographical sources such as Jacobs, W.J. Human Rights: Great Lives,
Setting: Middle school - Adult
This activity involves learning about
the struggle for human rights through the study of biographies of rights
activists in US history. This study serves as a bridge to identify human
rights activists and issues in their own community.
PART A: Activists in American History
1. If participants are not already
familiar with human rights and/or the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, begin by asking participants to offer definitions of human rights.
Compare their definitions with those offered in the Human Rights Glossary,
p. 99. Then briefly introduce the UDHR and distribute copies of it.
(See p. 3 for a background reading which might be assigned for homework).
Alternative: show the “Animated UDHR” video from Amnesty International.
(See Resource List, p. 103.)
2. Ask participants what we mean
when we call someone an “activist.” Record their responses. Explain
that American History is filled with activists who brought significant
social change. Have them generate a list from their experience. Assign
each participant an activist figure to research. Note: Biographies
for most of those listed below can be found in Jacobs, W.J. Human
Rights: Great Lives, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1990.
|Susan B. Anthony
Martin Luther King, Jr.
William Lloyd Garrison
|Stokley Carmichael/Kwame Touré
Sarah Moore & Angelina Emily
3. Have each participant conduct research on her/his
historical figure, obtaining basic biographical information as well
as the following:
a. causes for which the person worked;
b. obstacles to be overcome;
c. her/his accomplishments and influence on others;
d. articles in the UDHR that match his/her efforts.
4. Have each participant write a summary of this
research on a 5"x8" piece of paper or card with the person’s name at
the top. This should include the relevant articles from the UDHR.
5. Create a list of the 30 Articles of the UDHR
with a brief description of the principle, and write these on a chart
or on the board. (See p. 97 for an abbreviated list.)
6. Have each participant introduce his/her historical
figure without specifically naming the relevant human rights principles.
The rest of the group THEN tries to match the activist’s work to particular
UDHR principles. When done, affix the card to the appropriate Article
on the chart. Where an activist worked for more than one right, write
the name next to these other articles.
7. Engage the group in a discussion of the following
Do these activists seem to
have any similar sorts of experiences and/or personal qualities.
List them on the board.
What are some of the ways they
sought to achieve their goals? Who sought to achieve goals by nonviolent
How many of them appear in
school history books or your library? If so, report what is said
and what is left out. How would you explain their presence or absence?
Introduce the definitions of
civil/political and social/economic/cultural rights. (See Glossary,
p. 99.) How many activists focused on social and economic rights?
How many on political and civil ones?
If you were a human rights
activist, which rights would you focus on in the United States?
What human rights still need to be achieved?
Which articles of the UDHR
have many names on the chart? How do you explain this? Which articles
of the UDHR have few or none? How do you explain this?
PART B: Activists in our Community
1. Explain to participants that there are human
rights activists in their local community today who are doing important
work for these human rights but probably will not make it into the history
textbooks. Indicate that participants will try to uncover and report
on some of these local activists.
2. Brainstorm some of the human rights issues
that participants recognize in their own communities today. List these
on the board. Ask participants to group these into two rights categories:
CIVIL/POLITICAL and SOCIAL/ECONOMIC/CULTURAL. Define these terms if
3. Brainstorm the names of local people and organizations
that are working on any issues on the SOCIAL/ECONOMIC/CULTURAL list.
Encourage participants to think broadly and consider school and youth
organizations and activists, adult organizations and activists, faculty
and staff activists, and other community institutions (e.g., religious
bodies, municipal services, local chapters of national organizations)
and individuals (e.g., someone who has mobilized a community project).
4. Ask participants to match the work of these
local organizations and individuals with specific articles of the UDHR.
Write them next to each name.
5. Have participants choose an individual or organization
to research and interview. Ask them to organize their research as they
did for historical figures and summarize it on a 5"x8" card or paper.
As a class or in small groups, prepare interview questions. Review and
approve the questions before the interviews.
6. Have each participant report on his/her organization
or individual and affix the card next to the appropriate article of
the UDHR on the chart used in Part I.
Note: See Nancy Flowers (ed.), Human
Rights: Here and Now (Minneapolis: Amnesty International USA, 1998)
pp.102-104, for an expanded description of this activity.
1. Guest Speakers. You may want to invite
some of these activists to visit the group and speak about their work.
2. Directory of Community Activism. Participants
might compile their research into a directory of human rights activism
in their community, including contact information.
3. Service Learning. Individual participants
or the group as a whole may wish to volunteer with some of the organizations
they have learned about.
4. Survey of School Community. Participants
might gather data on the social activism of members of their school
or work community. Their findings can be added to the charts the group
has begun in Parts I and II above.
Source: Written by David Shiman.
MARTIN LUTHER KING
JR. FROM CIVIL RIGHTS TO HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 3 - APPENDICES