***** NOT A TEACHER *****
"IF THE civil rights movement were as unsuccessful as the environmental movement has been, Rosa Parks' granddaughter would still be sitting in the back of a segregated bus."
Hello, Ms. Geremia:
1. I believe (repeat: believe) that most people today would not
use the so-called subjunctive when referring to the
2. As we now know, the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's was
successful. It was
very successful. We are talking
3. According to the greatest grammarian of all time (my opinion, of course):
"The past subjunctive ... for reference to the past is much less common than the present subjunctive for reference to the present and future, for it is contrary to the now almost universally recognized principle that the past subjunctive refers to the present or future."
And he was writing in the year 1931
4. That great scholar does say that in older English, the past subjunctive "were" was, indeed, used in sentences such as yours ( as SoothingDave reminded us).
5. I do not know how much you know about the subjunctive (I know very little), but it is still used here in the United States
for the present and future. But many books advise against using it to refer to past events.
P.S. Your sentence has nothing to do with singular or plural. As you know, the verb depends on the word "movement." For example, "The Civil Rights movement is
studied in the public [state] schools." / "If the Civil Rights movement were
taught in your school, would you take the class?" [As Tdol reminded us, some English speakers would use "was" here. Just as some people say, "If I was
rich, I would fly to the moon," instead of "If I were
That great scholar was Professor Dr. George Oliver Curme. He explains this on pages 424 - 425 in the second volume of his 1931 masterpiece A Grammar of the English Language.