Check out these valuable resources, reviewed by Rethinking Schools editors and Teaching for Change colleagues.
Resources on Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Movement
There are many educational resources on Brown and the Civil Rights Movement. The following list includes resources we’ve found useful in our teaching. We recognize that this list is not comprehensive, and we encourage readers to send titles of additional resources so that we might add them to the resource list on our website. Please e-mail resources to Bob Peterson (email@example.com).
Background on Brown v. Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy
By James Patterson (Oxford University Press, 2002). 320 pp. $16.95.
A detailed examination of both pre- Brown and post- Brown legal issues. It asks hard questions about Brown’s impact on racial equality in the United States.
Dismantling Desegregation: The Quiet Reversal of Brown v. Board of Education
By Gary Orfield, Susan E. Eaton, and The Harvard Project on School Desegregation (The New Press, 1997). 424 pp. $19.95.
Analysis of how courts, school districts, and policymakers are implementing a new system of segregation. Ten case studies look at this resegregation.
Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality
By Richard Kluger (Random House, 1977). 864 pp. $25.
First published a quarter of a century ago, Simple Justice views Brown from its past rather than its future and recaptures its significance by relating how much sacrifice it took to produce it. Although Simple Justice is a self- important book, it also remains the most important and exhaustive book on Brown.
What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said: The Nation’s Top Legal Experts Rewrite America’s Landmark Civil Rights Decision
By Jack Balkin (New York University Press, 2001). 336 pp. $55.
Essays by some of the best legal scholars in the nation who reexamine the Brown decision.
Background on the Civil Rights Movement
(Also see nonfiction and memoir listings.)
The Civil Rights Movement: A Photographic History, 1954-68
By Stephen Kasher (Abbeville Press, 1996). 256 pp. $39.95.
A collection of photographs from more than 50 photographers that chronicles the major struggles in the Civil Rights Movement. All ages.
Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965
By Juan Williams (Penguin, 1987). 320 pp. $18.
A compelling overview of the first 10 years of the Civil Rights Movement using narrative, photos, interviews and first-person accounts. Originally published to complement the PBS video by the same name, the book stands by itself as a valuable resource on the movement.
The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, and Firsthand Accounts from the Black Freedom Struggle, 1954-1990
By Clayborne Carson, et al. (Penguin USA, 1991). 784 pp. $18.
A collection of more than 100 speeches, interviews, poems, court decisions and other documents on the Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1990. Excellent primary sources. Useful at all grade levels.
Free at Last: A History of the Civil Rights Movement and Those Who Died in the Struggle
By Sara Bullard (Teaching Tolerance, 1989). 112 pp. $12.95
In magazine format, this summary of the Civil Rights Movement is organized chronologically with an emphasis on those who died in the struggle. An excellent complement to the video A Time for Justice.
Freedom Bound: A History of America’s Civil Rights Movement
By Robert Weisbrot (E.P. Dutton, reprint edition 1991). 368 pp. $16.
One of the best overviews of the Civil Rights Movement in a single volume. Fast-paced and well-written.
My Soul Is Rested: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South
By Howell Raines (Viking Press, 1983). 496 pp. $14.95.
Howell Raines interviewed key figures of the Civil Rights Movement. The voices of ordinary people who make extraordinary sacrifices in the name of justice come alive in this book.
Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s Through the 1980s
By Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer (Bantam, 1991). 720 pp. $22.95.
A massive collection of first-person accounts of different types of activists in the Civil Rights Movement. An excellent resource. A companion book to the Eyes on the Prize video series.
Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, 1941-1965
By Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, and Barbara Woods, eds. (Indiana University Press, 1993). 290 pp. $16.95.
The essays in this wonderful collection range from studies of individual women—including Ella Baker, Septima Clark, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Gloria Richardson—to studies of the school and housing integration fights, organizers in the Mississippi Delta, the Highlander Folk School, and South Carolina Sea Island Citizenship Schools.
The Civil Rights Movement for Kids: A History with 21 Activities
By Mary Turck (Chicago Review Press, 2000). 195 pp. $14.95.
A comprehensive look at the Civil Rights Movement with engaging text. Contains a variety of creative teaching ideas. 4th–8th grades.
Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching
By Deborah Menkart, Alana Murray, Jenice View, eds. (Teaching for Change and PPRAC, 2004). 450 pp. $18.95.
Provides lessons and articles for K-12 educators on how to go beyond a “heroes” approach to the Civil Rights Movement. Includes interactive, interdisciplinary lessons, readings, writings, and interviews. Encourages teachers to take a global and historical look at the meaning of civil rights struggles.
Teaching the American Civil Rights Movement: Freedom’s Bittersweet Song
By Julie Armstrong, Houston B. Roberson, and Rhonda Y. Williams, eds. (Routledge, 2002). 259 pp. $22.95.
Teaching ideas for high school and college level courses including reflections and syllabi on history, drama, music, composition, and social movements.
Freedom School, Yes!
By Amy Littlesugar and Floyd Cooper (Philomel Books, 2001). Unpaged, $16.99.
A fictionalized account of Freedom Summer in 1964 when 600 northern young adults traveled south to teach. Kindergarten and up.
By Deborah Wiles, illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue (Atheneum, 2001). 32 pp. $16.95.
In the summer of 1964 two boys, one white and one black, are excited that they will finally be able to swim at a previously segregated all-white swimming pool. The beautiful drawings bring to life the narrative, which takes a twist when officials decide to fill the pool with asphalt. Kindergarten and up.
Richard Wright and the Library Card
By William Miller, illustrated by Gregory Christie (Lee & Low Books, 1997). 32 pp. $6.95.
A wonderfully illustrated book that describes the struggle of the great African-American author Richard Wright’s attempt to get access to all-white libraries. Appropriate for all ages and a good way to introduce Wright’s works to older students. 1st grade and up.
The Story of Ruby Bridges
By Robert Coles, illustrated by George Ford (Scholastic, 1995). Unpaged, $16.95.
The story of six-year-old Ruby Bridges, the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school, and how she deals with the hatred and prejudice. Kindergarten and up.
Through My Eyes
By Ruby Bridges (Scholastic, 1999). 64 pp. $16.95.
The story of Ruby Bridges’ brave action to integrate her elementary school. Photos, quotations, and Bridges’ own words make this a powerful book.
Books for Beginning Readers
Cracking the Wall: The Struggles of the Little Rock Nine
By Eileen Lucas (Carolrhoda Books, 1997). 48 pp. $5.95.
An easy-to-read book that describes the struggles of the integration of Central High School. 1st–3rd grades.
I Am Rosa Parks
By Rosa Parks (Puffin Books, 1999). 48 pp. $3.99.
A lively autobiography that describes segregation and the bus boycott. 1st–3rd grades.
Intermediate Readers–Fiction Chapter Books
By Yvette Moore (Puffin, 1991). 176 pp. $5.99.
Fourteen-year-old Sheryl, traveling from Brooklyn to the South, is awakened to racist segregation and gets involved with her uncle who is working in the Civil Rights Movement. 5th grade and up.
Mississippi Trial, 1955
By Chris Crowe (Penguin, 2003). 240 pp. $5.99.
A 16-year-old white boy returns to Mississippi to visit his racist grandfather who raised him. He finds himself surrounded by controversy in the midst of the lynching of Chicago teenager Emmett Till. Written from the perspective of a white teenager who deals with racism and his role as a bystander, this novel lays the basis for discussions of the need for whites to be allies against racism. Use with Crowe’s book Getting Away with Murder. 6th grade and up.
Walking to the Bus-Driver Blues
By Harriette Gillem Robinet (Aladdin, 2002). 160 pp. $4.99.
This quasi-mystery is set during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Twelve-year-old Alfa, his older sister, and his grandmother walk everywhere and struggle to pay the rent. When someone starts stealing their money, the children get jobs, only to be accused of stealing themselves. 4th grade and up.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963
By Christopher Paul Curtis (Scholastic, 1995). 210 pp. $5.99.
Fourth grader Kenny Watson tells the story of his family in Flint, Mich., and their trip to Birmingham during the tumultuous year of 1963. Funny, riveting, and genuine, this story will bring this aspect of the civil rights struggle alive for students. 4th grade and up.
Nonfiction, Biographies, Memoirs
Bayard Rustin: Behind the Scenes of the Civil Rights Movement
By James Haskins (Hyperion Press, 1997). 128 pp. $14.95 (hardcover).
This book details Rustin’s work in the Civil Rights Movement. A key player in every major U.S. civil rights initiative and a passionate believer in nonviolent resistance, Rustin helped steer the movement in that direction. 6th grade and up.
Days of Courage: The Little Rock Story
By Mel Williges (Steck-Vaughn Co., 1996). 88 pp. $7.20.
Part of a series of non-fiction children’s books edited by Alex Haley, this book describes the struggle by high school students to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School. 4th grade and up.
Coming of Age in Mississippi
By Anne Moody (Reissue edition, Laure Leaf, 1992). 384 pp. $6.99.
Anne Moody’s autobiographical account of coming of age in Mississippi during the first half of the Civil Rights Movement is a must-read for high school and college students. Moody creates an unforgettable image of the inequities and violence that characterized southern society. 9th grade and up.
The Civil Rights Movement in America
By Elaine Landau (Children’s Press, 2003). 48 pp. $24.
A very readable overview of the main events in the Civil Rights Movement, with many photos and a timeline. 4th grade and up.
By Ellen Levine (William Morrow & Company, 1993). 168 pp. $7.99.
Eloquent first-person accounts by 30 different young people who participated in the Civil Rights Movement, serving time in jail, attending previously all-white schools, and participating in marches. Black-and-white photos and chronology. 6th grade and up.
Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of Emmett Till
By Chris Crowe (Phyllis Fogelman Books, 2003). 128 pp. $18.99.
A well-documented account of the brutal lynching of Chicago 14-year-old Emmett Till. His murder and the speedy acquittal of the accused sparked national outrage and activism that led to the modern Civil Rights Movement. More than 40 contemporary photos. 6th grade and up.
Oh, Freedom! Kids Talk about the Civil Rights Movement with the People Who Made It Happen
By Casey King and Linda Barrett Osborne (Econo-Clad Books, 1997). 144 pp. $12.95.
A student-friendly collection of oral histories, mostly in interview format, with people who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. The book grew out of an assignment from a fourth-grade teacher who worked with students and parents over seven years to collect hundreds of stories. Useful both for its content and as a model for doing oral history interviews. 4th grade and up.
Selma, Lord, Selma: Girlhood Memories of the Civil Rights Days
By Sheyann Webb and Rachael West Nelson (as told to Frank Sikora) (University of Alabama Press, 1997). 168 pp. $15.95.
A poignant account of the voting rights struggle in Selma, Ala. from two children who were active in it. 5th grade and up.
There Comes a Time: The Struggle for Civil Rights
By Milton Meltzer (Random House, 2002). 194 pp. $8.99.
A very readable narrative of the struggle of African Americans for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” starting with the landing of the first slave ships on colonial shores. Asks how did more than 300 years of slavery, segregation, and Jim Crow laws come to an end in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s? What was achieved, and what are the problems still facing us today? 6th grade and up.
Warriors Don’t Cry
By Melba Pattillo Beals (Simon and Schuster, 1993). 312 pp. $14.
Warriors Don’t Cry tells the story of Melba Pattillo Beals’ days as one of the Little Rock Nine. [See pages 43-50.] 7th grade and up.
Witness to Freedom: Young People Who Fought for Civil Rights
By Belinda Rochelle (Puffin, reprint edition, 1997). 112 pp. $15.99.
An overview of the Civil Rights Movement focusing on young people who participated in nine different parts of it. Inspiring stories and photos. 4th grade and up.
Eyes on the Prize: Fighting Back: 1957-1962 and Eyes on the Prize: A Nation of Law? 1968-1971
The entire PBS Eyes on the Prize series on the history of the Civil Rights Movement is worthwhile. These two episodes are dramatic ones: the first recounts the struggle to desegregate Central High School in Little Rock and the University of Mississippi; the second covers the police murder of Chicago Black Panther leader, Fred Hampton, and the Attica Prison uprising. Fighting Back is a compelling mixture of documentary footage and candid interviews.
Freedom on My Mind
Directed by Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford, 1994. 105 min. $69.95 (Clarity Educational Productions, 800-343-5540 for high schools and public libraries. Others inquire.)
A mesmerizing video, distinguished by is its willingness to delve into complicated issues. Puts the Civil Rights Movement into the context of the daily lives of Mississippians and black and white activists. Activists discuss the joys of struggle and the community it creates, as well as the implications of difficult decisions like the one to bring white northerners down to Mississippi to increase media and government attention.
Directed by Phil Alden Robinson. Starring Danny Glover.
2000. 150 min. $20.
Inspired by accounts of the women and men on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, Freedom Song chronicles a family nearly torn apart by the impact of the movement on a small Mississippi town. It places heroism squarely on the shoulders of the local people, the unsung volunteers who risked their lives to make change at the grassroots level. Effective for young people since the story is seen through the eyes of a grade-school student. Teaching guide is available at www.turnerlearning.com/ tntlearning/freedomsong/index.html.
Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks
(Available from Teaching Tolerance, www.tolerance.org)
2003. 40 min. Free.
A moving documentary film with historical footage and reenactments of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Accompanied by an excellent viewers’ guide that has lesson plans and original historical documents for use with students. 4th grade and up.
Murder in Mississippi.
Directed by Roger Young. Starring Blair Underwood and Jennifer Grey, 1990. 96 min. (Made-for-TV movie.)
Because of the significance of Freedom Summer in 1964 and the murders of the civil rights workers Cheney, Goodman, and Schwerner, many teachers have succumbed to the temptation to show Mississippi Burning. We urge you to resist this temptation. It’s a biased film, sometimes erasing, sometimes distorting civil rights activism in Neshoba County, Miss.; and in a bizarre historical re-write, the filmmakers chose to make the FBI the film’s “hero.” A less well-known, but much more honest re-telling of these events can be found in Murder in Mississippi, an engaging made-for-TV movie.
The Murder of Emmett Till
Directed by Stanley Nelson, 2003. 60 min. $24.95.
A moving documentary about the murder of the Chicago teenager that sparked national outrage. Lesson plans available at www.facinghistory.com.
The Road to Brown
Directed by William Ellwood. 58 min.California Newsreel.
The video tells the story of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling as the culmination of a brilliant legal assault on segregation that launched the Civil Rights Movement. It is also a moving and long overdue tribute to a visionary but little known black lawyer, Charles Hamilton Houston, “the man who killed Jim Crow.”
Directed by Euzhan Palcy, 1998. 89 min. $9.99.
A moving rendition of the brave story of first grader Ruby Bridges who integrated her all-white elementary school in New Orleans in 1960. Teachers with children as young as first grade have successfully used this film. Appropriate for older students as well.
Selma, Lord, Selma
Directed by Charles Burnett, 1999. 88 min. $9.99.
The riveting story of the Selma voting rights struggle of 1965. Based on Sheyann Webb’s memoir, this film introduces students to both the realities of racism and the role that young people played in the struggle against it. 3rd grade and up.
A Time for Justice: America’s Civil Rights Movement.
(Available from Teaching Tolerance, www.tolerance.org) 38 min. Free.
A concise summary of the Civil Rights Movement from 1954-1965 including voices from movement participants and historical photography. 19-page lesson plan booklet accompanies video. 4th grade and up.
We Shall Overcome
Directed by Jim Brown, 1989. 60 min. Prices vary, see California Newsreel.
An inspiring film that follows the development of the song that became the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. It combines archival footage with music and interviews and invites students to feel themselves part of the “We” in We Shall Overcome. A good resource for teaching the Civil Rights Movement and/or the role of song in social change.
Civil Rights Education Project of Harvard University www.civilrightsproject.harvard. eduExamines issues of segregation and inequality.
Civil Rights Teaching
Teaching for Change and Poverty and Race Research Action Council offer resources and teaching lessons.
Facing History/Facing Ourselves
Teaching resources and lessons on issues of discrimination.
Story of the Greensboro sit-ins.
Howard University School of Law site on Brown
Engages students in a variety of activities to learn about Jim Crow. Includes teaching ideas for the PBS television series The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project, Stanford University
Check out the section on “Liberation Curriculum.”
National Parks Service
We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement.
Primary sources, lessons, and articles about teaching about the Civil Rights Movement.
Teaching for Change
Some of the resources listed above can be ordered from the Teaching for Change catalog.
A source for free videos and teaching guides on the Civil Rights Movement, and an excellent biannual journal.
What Kids Can Do, Inc
Many resources on Brown including student poetry, research, and links.