More often than not, it has been the people of this nation, not it elected representatives, generals, judges, etc. to elevate our nation above the mistakes of its past. The Civil War ended slavery, but did not end racism and inequality. For almost 100 years later, that struggle continued. Now we are learning about it in US History 2 class.
Before we begin, let’s take a look at race as a concept. There’s a lot people that think they know about race. Let’s look at science, actual historical evidence, and ourselves to learn about how race is an illusion and is socially constructed. That means racism and the concept of race is not born with us. It is taught.
But how has it been taught in America? To learn that, we need to learn the history of slavery and segregation. Two of the best sites on these topics are below.
Now, we begin with some context, and then heard the stories of the murder of Emmitt Till, the Little Rock 9, and the Nashville Sit Ins. All of these stories were told from the perspectives of the people there – as documented in the award winning film, Eyes on the Prize.
Then, timed with the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides of 1961, we explored the issues, met the people, and felt the struggle for equal protection under the law concerning African Americans and white college students who volunteered to ride together on buses, as the Supreme Court allowed, into the deep south. This powerful story was told by American Experience, as a documentary in May 2011.
Finally, we compared the incredible rhetoric and the persuasive methods of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in their response to the struggle for equality, justice and freedom. When we examined Dr. King, we heard from his own words and actions about the need of nonviolence and love to be central to his position on integration. From those who knew him, selections from the American Experience’s Citizen King were very moving.
Students quickly learned that Malcolm X was very, very different than Dr. King. His ‘naked honesty’ concerning the oppression of African Americans and his segregationist position (when in the Nation of Islam) troubled many students, while they found his personality and rhetoric profoundly appealing. The American Experience’s Malcolm X: Make it Plain allowed students to see and hear him in his own words.
Now we will prepare our debate between the message and methods of Dr. King, Malcolm X and the greater issues behind the Civil Rights Movement.