The Civil Rights Movement in Florida

The Tallahassee Bus Boycott
4th Grade Lesson Plan

CPALMS Reviewed and Approved

This lesson has been reviewed and approved by CPALMS.


African-Americans in Tallahassee boycotted the bus system for nearly seven months after the arrest of two Florida A&M University (FAMU) students for sitting beside a white woman. During the boycott, African-Americans in Tallahassee used car pools to get to and from work and for other necessary transportation. Twenty-one members of the Inter Civic Council were convicted on charges of operating an illegal transportation system for arranging the car pool without a franchise.

Reverend C.K. Steele, pastor at the Bethel Baptist Church, led the boycott of the city-run bus system. The protest began shortly after the Montgomery bus boycott and lasted primarily from May to December of 1956. According to Tallahassee historians Mary Louise Ellis and William Warren Rogers, “[c]ity commissioners and protesting blacks never achieved a formal settlement, but gradually the sight of blacks riding at the front of the bus became more common, and the battle moved to another front.”


Students will:

  • Analyze primary source documents (photographs).
  • Write about history using primary sources.



Florida Standards

  • SS.4.A.1.1: Analyze primary and secondary resources to identify significant individuals and events throughout Florida history.

  • SS.4.A.8.1: Identify Florida’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.

    Examples may include, but are not limited to, Tallahassee Bus Boycotts, civil disobedience, and the legacy of early civil rights pioneers, Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore.

  • LAFS.4.RI.1.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

    Although image analysis activities do not generally require reading, the skills required to extract information from visual content are similar to those required to extract information from text. Practicing these skills using primary source images provides students with a great scaffolded learning opportunity. The Image Analysis Common Core State Standards Alignment from the TPS-Barat Teaching with Primary Sources Program shows how the Common Core reading anchor standards map to primary source image analysis skills.

Materials Needed

  1. The Tallahassee Bus Boycott: Information for Teachers
  2. Photo Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives and Records Administration
  3. Five photographs from the State Archives of Florida (See below.)


Part I: Introducing Content

  1. Teachers should review previously covered material dealing with the Civil Rights Movement in Florida, segregation, civil disobedience, and the Tallahassee Bus Boycott.
  2. Conduct an in-class discussion/survey of students’ prior knowledge of civil disobedience in response to segregation.
    • What do students know about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott?
    • How do students think African-Americans in other cities reacted to segregation on public buses after Rosa Parks began the protest in Montgomery?
  3. Explain to students that the Tallahassee Bus Boycott began soon after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery.

Part II: Photo Analysis

  1. Teachers should give students brief background information on the five photographs.
  2. Students will analyze the five photographs included above. Students should record their reactions to the photographs using the Primary Source Analyzing Tool.
  3. The teacher should conduct an in-class discussion/survey of what students learned during the photo analysis. What can students infer from the photographs about the emotions of people involved in the protest? Were they surprised by anything they saw? The teacher can take this time to answer any questions students might have after their examination of the photographs.

Part III: Writing About the Tallahassee Bus Boycott

Students should write brief journal responses to the photographs, focused on what they learned about the Tallahassee Bus Boycott.

Extension Activities

LAFS.4.RI.3.9 Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

This exchange between Reverend C.K. Steele and Governor LeRoy Collins presents two different views of the car pool that operated during the Tallahassee Bus Boycott. For further study, have students read the telegram and the letter. Then, have students compare the language used to describe the event, and facts that are included or omitted in each account. After reading both accounts, have students discuss what they think really happened.