The early 1960s was a tumultuous time in modern civilization, and especially in American history. The American presence in Vietnam was rapidly increasing, violent crime statistics rose dramatically, riots blighted many urban areas, and racism was still prevalent in many parts of the country. After the quiet social conformity and conservatism of the 1950s, the upheaval of the sixties shocked many people and brought about a maelstrom of social change.
In 1960, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Boynton v Virginia that segregation in interstate bus and rail stations was unconstitutional. Despite the ruling, many stations in the southern U.S. continued to maintain separate terminals for blacks and whites, and many buses still designated “blacks only” seating. Determined to focus national attention on the lingering racial discrimination, the first Freedom Ride rolled out of Washington, DC on May 4, 1961. These Freedom Riders consisted of seven black and six white activists seated in two public buses, all intent on testing the effect of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the deep south. The Riders experienced a relatively quiet trip until the second week of their journey, when they began to endure severe beatings, jail terms, the torching of buses, and complete indifference by many police forces and medical staff through parts of Alabama and Mississippi. While the Freedom Riders never made it to their ultimate destination in New Orleans, their courage, determination, and strict code of non-violence sparked many supporters, and ultimately forced the U.S. government to end the abuse and enforce civil rights laws.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides. Several reunions and functions are planned to commemorate the event, and to celebrate the 400 black and white Americans who ultimately participated in the Rides. There is also a great deal of buzz about a new PBS American Experience documentary entitled Freedom Riders, which will premiere nationwide on May 16, 2011. This WGBH production explores in depth the Rides, the people involved in the movement, and the social issues that fueled the movement. This week, I’ve selected three resources for various grade levels that feature age-appropriate lessons about the Freedom Rides. Please be sure to check out our Facebook and Twitter pages as well, as we’ll be featuring several new lessons, activities, and other resources on the Freedom Rides each day for the entire week.
Democracy in Action
Subjects: Civics, U.S. history
Despite federal laws outlawing racial segregation, interstate bus travel through the American South in 1961 still reinforced segregated sections in buses and terminals. In the spring of that year, a group of civil rights activists (Freedom Riders) rode buses into the South to challenge this ingrained bigotry and challenge the local customs that allowed racism to continue. This teacher's guide examines the Freedom Riders and who they were, the social climate in America in the early 1960s, how the media influenced political and social events, and how citizens can shape democracy. The teacher's guide is meant to accompany the 2011 film "The Freedom Riders" produced by WGBH, the flagship Boston PBS station. Please note that this teacher's guide does contain some offensive language and terms relating to race. The authors of the guide decided to include the "N" word to honestly communicate the harshness of the bigoted language of the time. This guide was produced by WGBH and Facing History, a global organization that works with teachers to develop curricula to combat racism and bigotry and promote involved and humane citizenry. WGBH produces myriad educational television shows, including American Experience, the nation’s longest-running history television series. WGBH also produces educational materials for teachers.
Civil Rights: Freedom Riders
Subjects: Civics, U.S. History
Students learn about the civil rights movement in the United States, with particular focus on the Freedom Riders in 1961. Students will learn about some of the men and women who made great personal sacrifices to stand up for what they believed, even when it was scary and difficult to do so. The lesson also contains many suggestions and adaptations for students with limited proficiency in English, as well as below grade-level students.
This lesson was created by Teacher Created Materials, which publishes quality research-based educational resources in all curriculum areas for teachers and students at all grade and skill levels. They also offer some free lesson plans and other educational resources.
The Freedom Riders
Subjects: Civics, US History
Grade: 6-8, 9-12
In this lesson, students will use a primary source — an NBC news report from 1961 — to investigate the Freedom Rides, and to explore segregation in the South and the tenets of nonviolent protest. This lesson contains adaptations for grades 6-8 and 9-12.
This lesson was created by Teaching Tolerance, a division of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Teaching Tolerance is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations, and supporting equitable school experiences for students. They also provide free educational materials to teachers and other school practitioners in the U.S. and abroad.
~Joann's Picks - 5/14/2011~