The “Teaching the Movement” program represents a partnership between Whitman College, Walla Walla Public Schools and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Whitman College, in partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center and Walla Walla Public Schools, is coordinating the Whitman Teaches the Movement initiative to enhance civil rights education for Walla Walla students in grades 2, 5, 7 and 11 to coincide with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Whitman College students, working in small groups, will travel to all 10 local schools Jan. 19-20 and 23-24 to lead 45 minute lessons on civil rights education. The lessons are age-appropriate and based on curriculum developed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, history teachers and organizations which specialize in teaching history.

The participating college students hail from 17 states and two foreign nations. They have volunteered their time and efforts, which included training sessions held in December by Kate Shuster an education researcher for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“When students learn about the civil rights movement they learn what it is like to be American,” said Shuster. “It shows students it is possible to struggle against great injustices and emerge victorious.”

Student Lessons by Grade Level:

• Second Grade: Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins

• Fifth Grade: Jackie Robinson

• Seventh Grade: Women in the civil rights movement

• Eleventh Grade: Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports its research has discovered two-thirds of all states, including Washington, fail at teaching a milestone period in American history – the civil rights movement.

Walla Walla Public Schools Superintendent Mick Miller says collaborating with Whitman College on this project allows the district to enhance learning opportunities and better utilize a valued and trusted community asset.

“We chose to participate in the Whitman Teaches the Movement project because we wanted our students to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement, have strong role models in our classrooms, and to strengthen our ties to Whitman College,” Miller said.

Noah Leavitt, Whitman assistant dean for student engagement, is managing the college’s involvement in the program and says this is “an extraordinary opportunity for Whitman students to address real world issues of non-discrimination, justice and citizenship in a way that enables them to serve and engage with our community.”

Walla Walla Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Linda Boggs says the project supports the district’s curriculum and provides a venue for Walla Walla students to interact with college role models.

“I am especially excited about the custom-designed grade-level lessons and materials,” said Boggs. “Additionally, having college students as guest teachers provides an opportunity for our students to get a real life glimpse into ‘college,’ as many students, especially younger ones, may know college as a word but not have a clear picture of what it might look like.”


Background information:


Whitman College

Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash., is honored to attract students who represent the Whitman mosaic—down to earth, high achievers with diverse interests. Whitman is the premier liberal arts college that combines academic excellence with an unpretentious Northwest culture and an engaging community. An independent, non-sectarian residential college, Whitman fosters intellectual vitality, confidence and leadership in its 1,450 students. Also noted for its commitment to environmental principles, Whitman is characterized by intellect, down-to-earth sensibilities, collaboration over competition and active lifestyle.

Southern Poverty Law Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see

Walla Walla Public Schools

Located in Southeast Washington state, Walla Walla Public Schools serves more than 6,000 students in 10 schools. Walla Walla Public Schools mirrors the community in its demographics and social economics and is committed to meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse community and student population by addressing the issue of cultural, social and economic differences.

Approximately 41 percent of district students are minority and 52 percent qualify for free or reduced-priced meals based on federal poverty standards. Walla Walla Public Schools continues to be at or above most state testing standards, especially when compared to districts with similar demographics. The district strives for Excellence in Every Classroom by offering a comprehensive P-12 educational program and numerous afterschool and extra-curricular offerings. Walla Walla Public Schools offers gifted learning programs and Advanced Placement courses, an array of support programs for struggling learners, a comprehensive Special Education program and bilingual education programs. 

The district recruits and retains highly qualified and effective teachers, administrators and support staff and embraces parent involvement.  Walla Walla Public Schools collaborates with the community to establish partnerships to enhance learning opportunities.

Media Contacts:

Whitman College
Ruth Wardwell, assistant vice president for communications

Walla Walla Public Schools
Mark Higgins, director of communications

Southern Poverty Law Center
Ashley Levett, communications associate