White Resistance


  • Boston Desegregation Controversy, 1974

    Citizens demonstrate at Boston’s City Hall Plaza against the mandatory busing of students to schools outside of their neighborhoods in this 1974 archival news footage from WGBH: "Evening Compass." The demonstrators, made up of parents and children and led by local politicians, hold signs targeting Senators Edward Kennedy and Edward Brooke and Judge W. Arthur Garrity, Jr. for their support of this policy, which was designed to desegregate schools. While protestors indicate that previous demonstrations were peaceful, the footage shows this demonstration ending with shouting, thrown objects, and property damage to a government building.

    This video is primary source footage and is presented as originally taped.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Burke Marshall

    As an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, Burke Marshall played a key role in the federal government's efforts to desegregate the South. Representing the presidential administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Marshall mediated conflicts between civil rights protesters and southern white officials. In this interview, Marshall recalls the 1961 Freedom Rides and the 1962 desegregation of the University of Mississippi.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Colonel Stone Johnson

    During the Civil Rights Movement, black civil rights activists often risked their lives to promote racial equality. Colonel Stone Johnson, shown in this interview, was among those who offered protection and tried to prevent violence against African Americans, which ranged from beatings to bombings.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom Riders: The Exchange Student

    In this video segment from the American Experience: "Freedom Riders" Web site, watch newsreel footage and interviews and see archival photos to gain insight into the white college students who became active in the struggle for African Americans' civil rights. Jim Zwerg tells how he became one of the Freedom Riders, a decision that led to his estrangement from his parents and a beating at the hands of an Alabama mob. This resource is part of the American Experience: Freedom Riders collection.

    This video includes language that is considered offensive. However, it provides authentic documentation of the bigotry of the era.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom Riders: Freedom Riders Create Change

    In this video segment adapted from American Experience: "Freedom Riders," view newsreel footage, archival photos, and interviews to explore how the Freedom Rides of 1961 brought about the end of racial segregation in interstate transportation. The Freedom Riders, aware that their nonviolent protest would elicit violence from some Southerners attempting to enforce local segregation laws, were determined to continue their protest even in the face of possible arrest. A series of events involving the U.S. attorney general, a U.S. senator, the governor of Mississippi, and a federal agency put an end to discriminatory practices in public transportation. This initial, unambiguous victory for the Civil Rights Movement paved the way for further progress. This resource is part of the American Experience: Freedom Riders Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom Riders: Fresh Troops

    In this video segment from the American Experience: "Freedom Riders" Web site, view newsreel footage, interviews, and archival photos to explore how students in Nashville, Tennessee, prepared for civil rights protests by training in the techniques of nonviolent direct action. This training prepared them for several initial efforts focused on the Nashville community and made them ideal reinforcements when attacks by white mobs decimated the ranks of the first Freedom Riders in 1961. This resource is part of the American Experience: Freedom Riders Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom Riders: The Governor

    In this video segment adapted from the American Experience "Freedom Riders" Web site, watch newsreel footage and interviews and see archival photos to explore one Southern politician's opposition to ending illegal discrimination and segregation against African Americans in the early 1960s. Alabama Governor John Patterson would not honor Attorney General Robert Kennedy's request to ensure the safety of the Freedom Riders, and even refused to take a phone call from President John Kennedy while white mobs were firebombing buses and beating civil rights activists in Patterson's home state. Years later, Patterson expressed his regret for not taking the president's call and for not doing "what should have been done". This resource is part of the American Experience: Freedom Riders Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Harry Briggs, Sr. and Eliza Briggs

    Harry and Eliza Briggs were among 20 African American parents in Clarendon County, South Carolina who sued the school board over unequal education. The case, Briggs v. Elliott, was eventually joined with four other lawsuits to form the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional. In this interview, the Briggs describe the importance of education, the conditions that existed in black schools, and the hardships endured by many of plaintiffs in the suit.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Brown Reactions: Judge Brady

    When the United States Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in 1954, newspaper editorials and other written commentary reflected a nation's divided response. This collection of primary source documents captures the range of opinions about the Court's ruling.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Implementing Brown

    This video segment reveals conflicting views of President Eisenhower's response to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling against segregated schools. NAACP attorney Constance Baker Motley argues that the president should have done more to enforce the ruling. Former attorney general Herbert Brownell and his deputy, William Rogers, explain the president's cautious response.

    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
  • Ku Klux Klan Flyers

    This flyer advertises a Ku Klux Klan meeting held 13 days before the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. The Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist organization active during the Civil Rights movement, was known to harass beat, and even murder African Americans to prevent their participation in the political process. With roots reaching back to the Reconstruction Era, Klan members feared growing black political strength in southern states.

    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
  • NOVA: Percy Julian: Forgotten Genius | Moving to Oak Park

    Learn about the racial violence sparked when chemist Percy Julian moved his family into an exclusive suburb in 1950. Study both the threats and the support the family experienced from the Oak Park community, from the NOVA program Percy Julian: Forgotten Genius.

    Grades: 6-12
  • 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. 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
  • Segregation Ordinances: Birmingham, AL

    In the years immediately following the Civil War, the Supreme Court passed federal legislation granting African Americans citizenship rights. But by 1910, all of the former Confederate states had adopted segregation laws of their own, designed to prevent African Americans from participating fully in American society. In this primary source document from 1951, the city of Birmingham, Alabama spells out its segregation ordinances, the laws requiring the separation of the races in restaurants, public performance spaces, public transportation, and other social venues.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Understanding White Supremacy

    This lesson focuses on some of the structures that supported the system of white supremacy in the South. First, students watch a video of historical footage illustrating white resistance to desegregation. Then students examine a set of ordinances to see how one city legally enforced racism. Finally, students analyze a primary source document that advertises a Ku Klux Klan meeting. This resource is part of the Civil Rights collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • White Resistance

    This video segment illustrates the magnitude of white resistance to the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Archival news footage shows students protesting school desegregation, state officials pledging resistance to racial equality, as well as Ku Klux Klan rallies, mob violence, and bomb attacks that represented more drastic attempts to deter and terrorize civil rights activists.

    Grades: 6-12

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