Mass Protest


  • Analyzing Primary Source Media

    In this self-paced interactive lesson, students examine primary source media—specifically, news footage carried on Boston television channels over the last five decades. Like historians who analyze documents, photographs, and other primary sources to learn more about the people, issues, and events of the past, students watch news footage on subjects including the 1979 oil crisis, the 1974 Boston school desegregation controversy, and affirmative action. They practice three steps—observe, interpret, and question—to analyze the media. For a final assignment, they select footage and write an essay or blog post that contains their analysis and reflects their understanding of the content in its historical context.

    Grades: 6-12
  • 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
  • Decision in the Streets

    In the early 1960s, students from the University of California, Berkeley, and other civil rights activists formed the Ad Hoc Committee to End Racial Discrimination and took to the streets of San Francisco to protest racial inequality and unfair hiring practices. This video segment recalls their demonstrations of 1963-64.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Excerpts from the March on Washington, Part 1

    The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech dominates popular history of the August 1963 March on Washington, but the day was full of speakers and performers. This audio compilation captures the voices of A. Philip Randolph, Ralph Abernathy, Roy Wilkins, Walter Reuther, Ralph Bunche, and Daisy Bates.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Excerpts from the March on Washington, Part 2

    At the 1963 March on Washington, civil rights leaders offered a "Tribute to Women," which recognized the leadership roles of women in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the widows of civil rights leaders who were murdered for their activism. This recording pays tribute to Rosa Parks, Daisy Bates, Diane Nash, Mrs. Herbert Lee, Mrs. Medgar Evers, and Gloria Richardson.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Excerpts from the March on Washington, Part 3

    John Lewis, heard here in this live recording from the 1963 March on Washington, was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who helped trigger a new activism among college students. Of all the March on Washington speeches, Lewis's was considered the most controversial for its criticism of the government.

    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
  • 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
  • Law Student Barack Obama, 1991

    This archival news footage from 1991 shows scenes from a rally held at Harvard Law School at which Barack Obama, a law student at the time and president of the Harvard Law Review, introduces Professor Derrick Bell. Some of the banners in the background read “Harvard Law School on Strike for Diversity,” “Diversity Now,” and “No More Excuses.” In his speech, Professor Bell notes the significance of his appointment two decades earlier as the first tenured African American professor, before chiding the school for its overall “past racist hiring record.”

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

    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
  • The Murder of Emmett Till

    Watch this video segment—adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: "The Murder of Emmett Till”—to learn the story of a 14-year-old black boy who was brutally murdered on a visit to Mississippi from Chicago in 1955. After Emmett whistled at a white woman, he was beaten and murdered by two white men; they were later found innocent by an all-white jury. Emmett’s tragic death and the subsequent publicity about the trial helped spark the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s.

    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
  • Sheyann Webb

    Eight-year-old Sheyann Webb was among the youngest activists to demonstrate during the Civil Rights movement. In this interview, Webb recalls her decision to participate in the 1965 voting-rights march from Selma, Alabama, the resistance she encountered from her parents, and the violent force used by local officials to stop the march.

    Grades: 3-12
  • Taking a Stand

    This lesson provides an introduction to the discrimination and segregation that triggered the Civil Rights Movement, through the eyes of some of the youngest activists at the time.

    Grades: 3-5

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