Using Photographs to Teach Social Justice | Advertisements Promoting Activism

The photo shows two students collecting signatures to protest the treatment of women at the university. This lesson is part of the Using Photographs to Teach Social Justice series.
Grade Level


Activities will help students:

  • explore the role of photography (and the photographer) in documenting activism
  • examine different kinds of activism in photography
  • analyze how photographs can be persuasive
Essential Questions
  • How do photographers play a role in activism?
  • How can photographs be persuasive and/or inspiring?


The photo shows two students collecting signatures to protest the treatment of women at the university. Examine the photograph.


Photo caption: A group of Yale University students and their supporters sign protest cards outside the temporary office of university president Richard C. Levin in New Haven, Conn., Thursday, Feb. 17, 2005. The group said they were protesting the treatment of women at the university. They were seeking to present a petition to Levin who was out of town. (AP Photo/Bob Child)



  1. Work in small groups to analyze the photograph. Discuss:
    • What other details do you notice about this photo?
    • What do you think the photographer’s purpose or intent is in taking this photo?
    • How does this photo capture a kind of activism?
  2. Now take a look at some photographs from other protests. Examine these photos: Discuss:
    • What seems to be the major issue that people in each photo are protesting for/against?
    • How are these photos examples of different types activism in action?
    • How are the moods of the people in each photo different? How are they similar?
  3. Each photo shows a different kind of activism, from collecting signatures to marching with signs and filing complaints. Other forms of activism include:
    • demonstrations (or street marches)
    • boycotts
    • hunger strikes
    • sit-ins
    • civil disobedience
    • petitions
    With a partner, take turns describing each form of activism and discuss any unfamiliar ones. What kind of activism do you think is the most powerful to create real change? Share your thoughts with each other.
  4. Out of all of the photos you have seen during this activity, which is the most persuasive? Why? Write a short speech in which you argue why the photo you chose is the best example of activism.
  5. Deliver your speech to the rest of the class. Then either design a rubric or use one like Persuasive Speech Rubric to assess the speeches.