Rights movement represents one of the most widespread movements
for social change in the 20th century. In a period of unparalleled
wealth and opportunity in the United States, African Americans
(especially in the South) found themselves struggling in much
the same way as they had been since the end of Reconstruction.
They were disenfranchised, subjected to unprovoked violence at
the hands of whites, unable to take advantage of the basic human
rights guaranteed to all Americans in the Bill of Rights, and
ignored by the U.S. government. Rather than wait for change to
come in its own time, African Americans (and some whites) young
and old, well-known and not, from the North and the South, began
to organize. Those who became part of the Civil Rights movement
drew upon the resources of their communities and built upon the
efforts of those who had been working for racial equality for
years, even as they employed a host of new techniques such as
sit-ins and mass marches. The goal was not only to empower African
American communities, but to make racial injustice known to other
Americans, and to bring about social and legislative change. However,
like other movements for social change, this one was neither static
nor one-dimensional, and over time--in response to both dramatic
successes and continued evidence of racism and segregation-- its
leaders, goals, and politics shifted. In this session, scholar,
activist, teacher trainer and film producer, Judy Richardson (who
was a member of SNCC and who helped produce the 14-hour PBS series
"Eyes on the Prize" for Blackside, Inc.) will help us
solidify our understanding of the shape of and shifts within the
Civil Rights movement over nearly twenty years. She will use sections
of "Eyes" to demonstrate various points during our discussion.
Judy will also share with us her own experiences with SNCC, speak
about the making of "Eyes," and offer ideas about using
that film as a teaching tool.
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Review of A Fragile Freedom: African American Historic Sites,
executive producer Judy Richardson. The Public Historian.
25, no.3 (Summer 2003):140-142.
and Charles E. Cobb, Jr. Radical Equations: Civil Rights from
Mississippi to the Algebra Project. Boston: Beacon Press,
2001. (Chapter 2 "Learning From Ella")
Judy. "Reflections and Memories: An Interview with Diane
Nash." Footsteps. 2, no.3 (May/June 2000): 24-28.
Judy. Review of The Rosa Parks Story and Freedom Song.
Historian. 25, no. 3 (Summer 2003):142-147.
Judy. "Teaching Eyes on the Prize: Teaching Democracy."
Social Education 56(6) (October 1992): 341-345.
three required segments are drawn from both "Eyes on the
Prize" and "Eyes on the Prize II," the two parts
of the critically-acclaimed 14-part series "Eyes on the Prize."
"Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965)"
is comprised of 6 one-hour segments beginning with the 1954 Supreme
Court school desegregation decision and continuing through the
Selma to Montgomery march in 1965. These segments were produced
in the mid 1980s and originally aired in 1987. "Eyes on
the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads (1965-1985),"
an 8-part sequel beginning in 1964 with Malcolm X and ending in
1985 with the Chicago election of Mayor Harold Washington. These
segments were produced in the late 1980s and originally aired
on the Prize"
(1954-1956) - This is the first episode of the series. It
discusses the history of segregation in the U.S., focusing on
the South, and the impact of the 1954 Supreme Court decision against
segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. This episode highlights
the Emmett Till murder case and Rosa Parks and the Montgomery,
Alabama bus boycott.
"Mississippi: Is This America?" (1962-1964)- Focuses
on the continuing struggle for civil rights in Mississippi, especially
as related to the attempt to bring African Americans into the
political process. Details the voter registration drives in 1964
and the anti-civil rights actions that led to the deaths of some
of those working for change during "Freedom Summer".
Focuses too, on the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic
Party and its representatives' attempt to sit in at the 1964 Democratic
National Convention in Atlantic City.
"Fighting Back (1957-1962)" - Focuses on segregation
in education in the southern United States. Highlights two specific
tests of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1954 against segregation
- the case of the Little Rock Nine in 1957 (The integration of
Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas), and James Meredith's
enrollment as the first black at the University of Mississippi
on the Prize II"
Time Has Come" (1964-1966) - The first episode in the
Eyes on the Prize II series, this segment explores the urgency
and frustration that existed among African Americans in the north
and the way in which it was articulated by Malcolm X. The segment
traces the trajectory of Malcolm X's influence, both within the
movement and outside. The impact of Malcolm X's philosophy on
SNCC (as they organized the Lowndes County Freedom Organization
in Alabama and as they began to call for "Black Power")
is brought to the fore.
Nation of Law?" (1968-1971) - By the late 1960s, the
anger in poorer urban areas over charges of police brutality was
smoldering. In Chicago, Fred Hampton formed a Black Panther Party
Chapter. During this same period, inmates at New York's Attica
prison took over the prison in an effort to publicize intolerable
"The Promised Land (1967-1968)" - Focuses on the
final year of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and highlights the
fact that in that year the movement turned its attention to the
economic issues confronting the nation and the issues of the war
in Vietnam. Moved by the increasing level of poverty in America
(esp. among minority groups), King and his followers organized
the Poor People's Campaign, a march of the poor to Washington,
D.C. where they would build Resurrection City. After King's assassination
in Memphis in 1968, his followers struggled to maintain the campaign.
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1. What history
(or histories) of race relations and what legacy (or legacies)
of reform did the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s grow out
of and build upon?
2. How did
the Montgomery, AL movement differ from previous strategies or
movements for civil rights?
3. Was it
reasonable for SNCC and the Lowndes County Black community to
set up an all-black political party rather than an integrated
4. Given the
climate of fear in Chicago, was the action taken against the Chicago
Panther office a rational act on behalf of Chicago authorities?
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