rights movement brought to life
Ida Lee Wootten
blood-stained American flag. The tears of a little girl. Voices
raised in songs of protest. The day-by-day struggles associated
with the American civil rights movement are being brought vividly
to life through a multi-media teaching effort led by a University
of Virginia educator.
Vasquez-Levy, an assistant professor in U.Va.'s Curry
School of Education, is creating a Web-based resource for
K-12 teachers nationwide to use when instructing students about
civil rights history. The project, titled "Social
Justice History and Education Resource," also contains
a curriculum that helps students learn about social responsibility
by engaging in community service.
Maznevski, U.Va. research associate, Social Justice History
and Education Project
On Sept. 15, 1963, a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street
Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., killing 11-year-old Carol
Denise McNair and 14-year-olds Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins
and Carole Robertson. This plaque memorializes the four girls,
who had been in a basement dressing room preparing for an
11 a.m. service when the bombing occurred. According to news
accounts, the Sixteenth Street Church had been a center for
many civil rights rallies and meetings, and after the tragedy,
it became a focal point drawing many moderate whites into
the civil rights movement. Investigations into this case spanned
four decades. Most recently, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank
Cherry surrendered after an Alabama grand jury indicted them
on first-degree murder charges and four counts of "universal
malice" on May 17, 2000. Two others prosecuted in the case
were Robert Edward Chambliss, sentenced in 1977, and Gary
A. Tucker, both of whom died in the 1980s.
support from U.Va.'s Institute for Advanced Technology in the
Humanities, Vasquez-Levy and graduate students are developing
a searchable database of digitized original documents from the
civil rights movement, such as diaries, photographs, letters and
oral histories. The Web site at www.social-justice.org contains
census data, newspaper articles, legal records and police surveillance
files as well as radio and video clips.
Web site and teaching materials reflect the multiple perspectives
of those involved in the era, from civil rights leaders to Ku
Klux Klan members.
teachers with Internet access can engage students in authentic
historical inquiry," Vasquez-Levy said. "The Web resource
provides an uncensored view of the civil rights movement."
years in the making, the project has caught the attention of funding
organizations, including the Public Broadcasting System and the
Jesse Ball duPont Fund. To date, the project has received $210,000
from PBS and more than $97,000 from the Jesse Ball duPont Religious,
Charitable and Educational Fund.
will distribute six units of the social justice curriculum nationwide
through its Adult Learning Service, which provides programs that
enhance teachers' skills. From those units, teachers will learn
how to draw from primary sources and incorporate them in their
instruction about the civil rights movement. PBS plans to start
broadcasting the units this month.
"After conducting interviews with teachers, I found they
would teach a unit on the civil rights movement usually in February
during Black History Month," said Vasquez-Levy, who noted
that although the Virginia Standards of Learning call for instruction
on the movement, no comprehensive curriculum for teaching students
exists. "I want to help teachers by designing a curriculum
based on materials selected from a broad range of primary and
secondary sources that now reside in museums and libraries throughout
gain access to such material, conduct historical research and
record oral histories of those involved in the movement, Vasquez-Levy
frequently visits Birmingham, Ala., one of the key locations in
the struggle. She has gained the right to digitize and make available
on the Web site more than 380 oral histories recorded by historian
and University of Alabama educator Horace Huntley.
has been moved by the personal stories and mementos of the era.
such a sacredness about going to Birmingham and being in people's
homes. When I ask social activists how they could get up after
being beaten during a civil rights protest, I am often told, ŒThe
movement is not about me and my children; it's about justice for
all.' The power of their oral histories has great potential for
inspiring teaching and learning," Vasquez-Levy said. "
G. Schoeny, U.Va. associate professor, Curry School of Education
Showing the dates and locations of four civil rights protest
marches, this blood-stained flag is part of the oral history
video U.Va. professor Dorothy Vasquez-Levy and others are
producing as part of the University's Social Justice History
and Education Project. Civil rights activist James Armstrong
owns the flag, which he carried in four protest marches and
now keeps at his home in Birmingham.
social justice project is unique," said Wayne Coleman, archivist
at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. "The Web site,
with its extensive collection of primary sources, should give
teachers and students a new depth of understanding about the civil
curriculum being developed for teachers to use requires students
to engage in service learning. By investigating and implementing
solutions to community needs, the students will deepen their understanding
of social issues, Vasquez-Levy believes. "With its service learning
component, the curriculum fosters independent critical thinking,
academic learning and social skills. Communication and problem-solving
directed toward advancing social justice is not just being taught,
but practiced in real communities," Vasquez-Levy said.
Web resource of original historical sources, the curriculum and
service learning are integrated to deliver a strong interactive
educational experience promoting social justice, social responsibility
and social action," she said.
has assembled a team of teachers who are helping design the curriculum
and serve as mentors to other teachers. Educators at Fork Union
Military Academy and Kempsville High School in Virginia Beach
are participating in the project, and teachers are planning events
in the Birmingham Public Schools next year.
Teachers involved in the project are videotaped as they employ
the online curriculum in their instruction. Their teaching is
posted on the Web site, serving as a training tool for others
investigating how to use the online resource.