Leaders and Organizers

  • Freedom Riders: The Inspiration

    In this video segment from the American Experience: "Freedom Riders" Web site, watch interviews and newsreel footage and see archival photos to learn how Mahatma Gandhi, the leader in the struggle for an independent India, inspired and influenced those engaged in the struggle to end racial discrimination in the United States. Gandhi's use of nonviolence had allowed the people of India to win independence from Great Britain in 1947. While Gandhi declined an invitation from American civil rights leaders to become directly involved in the U.S. struggle for equal rights, his encouragement persuaded them that the tactic of nonviolence also held great potential in a struggle for the rights of a minority. This resource is part of the American Experience: Freedom Riders collection

    Grades: 6-12
  • James Farmer and the Freedom Rides

    This interview with civil rights leader James Farmer recalls the Freedom Rides of 1961, when an interracial group rode two buses through the South to test enforcement of recent Supreme Court rulings that banned segregated seating on interstate buses and trains. More than 300 Freedom Riders were arrested and jailed before the Interstate Commerce Commission enforced the rulings.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Jim Zwerg

    In May of 1961, an interracial group known as the Freedom Riders rode two buses through the South to protest interstate bus segregation. On May 20, one bus was greeted in Montgomery, Alabama by a violent mob. This transcript documents an interview with Jim Zwerg, a young, white Freedom Rider, who was badly beaten as he got off the bus.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael)

    This interview transcript documents Stokely Carmichael's his work in the Civil Rights movement. Initially a believer in nonviolent direct action and a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Carmichael was arrested more than 30 times. By 1966, Carmichael's views changed. He began advocating "Black Power" and militant resistance to racism, leading the organization to become increasingly radical, diverging from the doctrine of passive resistance.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Lola Hendricks

    The leadership of the Civil Rights Movement was largely defined by major figures like Martin Luther King Jr., but behind the scenes were people like Lola Hendricks who helped organize the community and filed lawsuits to end discrimination and segregation. In this interview, Hendricks describes her role in the Civil Rights movement.

    Grades: 6-12
  • March on Washington Flyers

    In August of 1963, more than 200,000 activists from all over the country gathered for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The day was filled with speeches, musical performances, and the declaration of political platforms, whose common theme was racial equality in America. The largest demonstration in American history to that date, it marked the apex of the Civil Rights Movement. These flyers document the speakers and issues that pressured President John F. Kennedy to draft legislation guaranteeing equal rights for African Americans.

    Grades: 3-12
  • Melba Pattillo Beals

    This interview with Melba Pattillo Beals recalls her experience as one of the nine African American students who attended Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. Against a backdrop of white resistance and racial violence, Beals and eight other students desegregated Central High School under armed federal escort. Beals was frequently assaulted and harassed by whites while a student at Central High. This resource is part of the Civil Rights collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Reaction to the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968

    Citizens gather at a public rally in Boston, Massachusetts, following the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., in this archival news footage from April 1968. One speaker featured in the footage states that King had been “prepared to give his life for justice in America” in Boston and in the various cities King had visited throughout the South. Another speaker talks about America’s unwillingness—not its inability—to end racism, questions the meaning of “law and order,” and calls violence the “inevitable outcome of oppression.”

    This video is primary source footage and has not been extensively edited.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Reconsidering Brown

    In the video segments presented in this activity, historians and legal scholars Sheryll Cashin, Lani Guinier, Charles Ogletree, and Gary Orfield, reflect back on the promise of the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, and why it remains unfulfilled.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Re-Examining Brown

    This lesson explores the historical complexity of the struggle to desegregate schools, the geographic scope of racism, conditions that prompted activism and litigation, and how laws have changed over time.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Rev. C. T. Vivian

    In this interview, civil rights leader Reverend C. T. Vivian recalls his role in the 1960 Nashville sit-in movement, the 1961 Freedom Rides, and the 1965 Selma voting rights campaign. An executive staff member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Vivian was an ardent advocate of nonviolence.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Rev. Frank Dukes: Selective Buying Campaign

    In 1962, Miles College student Frank Dukes helped organize andparticipated in a selective buying campaign in Birmingham, Alabama. Byboycotting downtown businesses that discriminated against them, AfricanAmericans used buying power as political leverage in the struggle forequality. In this interview, Dukes describes his role in the grassrootseffort that shook Birmingham's economy.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth

    In this interview, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth recalls his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Shuttlesworth was a leader of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and led civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, once considered one of the most segregated and racially violent cities in the South.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Robert Moses

    Robert Moses was a leader in the voting rights campaign of the 1960s. Raised and educated in the North, Moses put his teaching career on hold and moved to Mississippi, where he became one of the architects of the 1964 Freedom Summer Project and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. In this interview, recorded for Eyes on the Prize, Moses talks about his desire to end racial discrimination by helping African Americans participate fully in the nation's political process.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Rosa Parks

    This interview with civil rights activist Rosa Parks describes her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. On December 1, 1955, Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her refusal sparked a massive bus boycott that lasted 381 days, ending on December 21, 1956, after the United States Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation on city buses was unconstitutional.

    Grades: 3-12
  • Simple Justice 1: A Handful of Lawyers

    On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools were unconstitutional. What happened that day reflected years of work, dating back to the law school days of the NAACP attorneys and the professor who trained them, Charles Houston. This video segment, from American Experience: "Simple Justice", looks at Houston's role in preparing the NAACP attorneys and the strategies they would use later in court to attack segregation.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Simple Justice 3: The Trial Begins

    After decades of fighting for equal education, the NAACP's legal struggle came before the United States Supreme Court. The Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education would either affirm or outlaw the segregated schools that existed across the country. This video segment from American Experience: "Simple Justice" recalls the opening arguments.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Simple Justice 4: Arguing the Fourteenth Amendment

    In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled that segregated public facilities did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. Forty-eight years later, the Court reconsidered that argument in Brown v. Board of Education. This video segment from American Experience: "Simple Justice" captures the complexity of the issues before the Court.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Simple Justice 5: Marshall's Closing Statement

    In this video segment, NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall summarizes the reasons why the Supreme Court should outlaw segregation in public education. Brown v. Board of Education would become the most important civil rights case of the twentieth century.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Simple Justice 6: Justice Warren Reads the Decision

    When Brown v. Board of Education was first heard in 1952, the Supreme Court was so divided that the justices rescheduled the case. Two years later, on May 17, 1954, the Court ruled unanimously that segregated schools were unconstitutional. This video segment from American Experience: "Simple Justice" examines the individual justices, key events and issues for the Court, and how the jurists arrived at their final decision.

    Grades: 6-12