Beyond Black History Month
Teachers, Students Nationwide
Gain Access To Powerful Sources Describing American Civil Rights
29, 2001 -- A blood-soaked 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 for a new generation through a multi-media
teaching effort led by a University of Virginia educator.
Vásquez-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.
support from U.Va.s Institute for Advanced Technology in the
Humanities, Vásquez-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 (www.social-justice.org)
contains census data, newspaper articles, legal records and police
surveillance files as well as radio and video clips.
Web site, which goes on-line Feb. 1, and the teaching materials
reflect the multiple perspectives of those involved in the era,
including civil rights leaders, KKK members and segregationists.
teachers with Internet access can engage students in authentic historical
inquiry," Vásquez-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 (PBS) 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 incorporate primary sources in their instruction about the
civil rights movement. PBS plans to start broadcasting the units
conducting interviews with teachers, I found they would teach a
unit on the civil rights movement usually in February during Black
History Month," said Vásquez-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 the country."
gain access to such material, conduct historical research and record
oral histories of those involved in the movement, Vásquez-Levy
frequently visits Birmingham, 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. She has been moved by the personal
stories and mementos of the era.
such a sacredness about going to Birmingham and being in peoples
homes. When I ask social activists how they could get up after being
beaten during a civil rights protest, I am often told, the
movement is not about me and my children; its about justice
for all. The power of their oral histories has great potential
for inspiring teaching and learning," Vásquez-Levy said.
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 rights
curriculum being developed for teachers requires students to engage
in service learning. By investigating and implementing solutions
to community needs, the students will deepen their understanding
of social issues, Vásquez-Levy believes. "With its service
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."
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 classroom teachers who are helping design
the curriculum and serve as mentors to other teachers. Educators
at Fork Union Military Academy and Kempsville (VA) High School 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
on-line 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 in their instruction.
Ida Lee Wootten, (804) 924-6857