In this activity, students will:
Discuss how historical events can be seen from different perspectives
Examine and react to historical events from the perspective of the people involved in them by reading and comparing interviews with noted Frederick County citizens
Interview each other about a current event, and report what they found in writing
This activity is coordinated with the following MSPAP outcomes:
Students will demonstrate their ability to construct, extend, and examine meaning for a variety of texts by using strategic behavior and integrating both their prior knowledge and reading and topic familiarity.
Social Studies Outcomes:
This activity was structured to allow students to see how history actually a collection of formative events that influences the shape of a nation is made and interpreted by the people who live these events. It is the historian's job to gather information from all sources, and sort through it in an attempt to define trends. In doing so, they must consider evidence from a myriad of sources, all relevant to the shape of a particular event or time. In this process, they must also evaluate this evidence, considering the perspective from which the information comes.
In this activity, students will have an opportunity to look at different perspectives on a current event, and apply what they have learned about this process to examine and compare several first-person interviews with Frederick County citizens reflecting on the Civil Rights movement. Teachers should be aware that the Civil Rights movement is not covered in the video program per se, but is part of the fabric of the County and a crucial part of African American life here and elsewhere in the country.
Most acknowledge that the Civil Rights movement began with the landmark Supreme Court decision in 1954 regarding the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. In this case, the court stated that separate schools, segregated by race, were inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional. However, segregation was so enmeshed in many parts of the American culture that change did not happen automatically.
Rosa Parks refusal to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama was another watershed event in the movement. At the time, African Americans were expected to sit in the rear section of any public transportation, leaving the front seats for white passengers. Parks was arrested. In protest, local African Americans staged a boycott of the bus system. This boycott became the springboard through which Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leapt forward to lead the movement, as the head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The boycott was successful: the bus company no longer required that African Americans sit in the back of the bus. Buoyed by this success, Civil Rights leaders throughout the South soon adopted the techniques of peaceful protest and boycotts. By 1960, their efforts had been somewhat successful, but many cities in Deep South remained steadfast: they would not desegregate.
During the 1960s, other groups emerged to lead the Civil Rights movement. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began in Greensboro, North Carolina, when a group of African American college students refused to leave a local lunch counter until they were served. This technique of nonviolent protest soon spread, forcing movie theaters, department stores, supermarkets, libraries, and other public facilities throughout the South to desegregate. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was another organization formed to fight segregation. In May 1961, CORE sent Freedom Riders of both races through the South. More than 70,000 students became Riders, trying to force accommodations serving interstate travelers to integrate their facilities. Despite arrests and acts of violence against them, the riders continued their work in more than 100 cities across the South.
In 1963, with civil rights legislation proposed in Congress, the actions of all these organizations came together with a massive march on Washington, D.C. in August 1963. It was at this march that the rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his historic "I Have a Dream" speech. The same year marked the passage of the Civil Rights Act, which forbad discrimination in public accommodations with a promise to withhold federal funds from communities that refused to integrate their schools. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 further solidified rights for all America's citizens. It end tactics such as poll taxes that kept many African Americans from voting.
Until 1966, the leadership in the fight for civil rights for African Americans both black and
white relied on nonviolent acts of civil disobedience to further their cause. However, in that
year, dissatisfied younger African Americans began to turn to radical and sometimes violent
protests, trying to force the changes they felt were too slow in coming. Their radicalism split the
movement's leadership and alienated some of the white supporters who had been active in the
past. In 1965 - 76, waves of rioting broke out in several major cities, accelerated by the
assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968. Although splintered, the African
American leadership continued, seeking to gain more power by being elected to local, state, and
national offices. The leadership also advocated affirmative action plans, seeking to compensate
African Americans for past discrimination in job hiring and college admissions.
Ask students to brainstorm about the event. Write their ideas and reactions on the board. Then read the article to the class, or select students to read it aloud. How did their impressions compare with the facts of the article?
Direct a class discussion about the ways this event affects the people involved, the people who know them, and the community in which they live.
Ask students to role play, acting as persons who lived through the event, persons who heard about the event that had some involvement in the event, and persons who heard about the event but had no involvement in the event. For example, if the article was about a major avalanche trapping skiers, students could role play the parts of the skiers who were trapped and rescued, their families, the rescuers, the person who owned the resort in which the avalanche occurred, townspeople near the resort, and someone who lived in Florida who had never skied. How do their reactions differ?
Explain that historians have to gather information from a variety of sources, including first-person interviews, diaries, and the like all written from the perspective of an individual. How does their role playing help them see that different people can have different impressions of the same event?
Ask students to recall what they have learned or remember about the Civil Rights movement in the 1960's. Alternately, use the information in the background section to introduce the topic.
Explain that students will now have an opportunity to apply what they have learned about personal impressions of current events to look back in the history of African Americans in Frederick County. Distribute copies of Worksheet A. Explain that these are interviews conducted by MPT personnel in preparation for the video Frederick County: A Crossroads in History. Remind students that these are oral reports; these comments are extemporaneous and made without prepared notes.
Divide students into small group units to examine the document, asking themselves questions such as: How are these recollections similar? How are they different? What new information do you learn from each? What insights does this give them about the way African Americans felt about the Civil Rights movement? How does what they say reflect what they were doing at the time of the Civil Rights movement? Are there any contradictions in the information given by different people? Why do they think this may have occurred?
Each group should select a reporter to bring their information back to the class.
As a culminating activity, ask students to interview 2 - 3 of their classmates about a recent happening at the school. They should prepare a report, news article, or essay about what they found out from different sources.
WORKSHEET A: INTERVIEWS
Ms. Snowden is very interested in the history of the African Americans in Frederick County, and has published several articles on this topic. In addition, she served on the New Market Town Council, the first African American woman elected to the government of a municipality in Frederick County.
In the 60's, when the Civil Rights movement hit this county, at first the county leadership did not know what to do. But suddenly, here was something thrust upon them. I think the main thing it did was open up the schools so that you went to the school that was nearest you. They desegregated the schools because there were job opportunities. Slow, very very slow. But there were job opportunities. Blacks found they could compete and they did, and did very well. Whites found out that blacks could go on a job and . . . the company certainly wasn't going to go to pot just because a black person showed up.
William O. Lee has been a lifelong resident of Frederick County, teaching and coaching at Lincoln High for many years before becoming the principal of South Frederick Middle School. He has a large collection of historical pictures, artifacts, and documents about local African American history, and often lectures on this subject. In addition, Mr. Lee was elected to two terms as an alderman on the City of Frederick Board of Aldermen.
We had very few problems here in Frederick during the Civil Rights movement which started in the 60's. Of course, we were still segregated here, but when the movement started, the NAACP here in Frederick County became very active and visible in the movement . . . But, again, we did not have the kinds of problems here in Frederick City or the county that you had in many of the larger cities, and even smaller cities, throughout the country. Mainly, I attribute it to the fact that the leadership in the community, both communities the white community and the black community, as well as the NAACP, were responsible for keeping things calm here. . . . We had some uprising, we had some breaking of windows in the stores uptown, but nothing you'd write home about.
I guess the most . . . critical moment was when George Wallace came to Frederick when he was running for president. And I was active at the time in the community as well as many other young blacks and women. There were lots of women who were active at that time. It was a test for us that night when George Wallace spoke up at the Frederick Armory to keep our young black kids from rioting up there . . . and we were able . . . to keep the city calm.
We has asked for changes to be made in the town. For example, there was a movie theater here called the Tivoli Theater, which is now the Weinberg Center for the Arts, and that was a segregated movie theater. We never had an opportunity to go to that movie theater, at least I didn't, as a black person. So, during the Civil Rights movement in the 60's, the NAACP picketed it, and they were victorious, because they got it closed down, and then it reopened and blacks were allowed to go in.
We were not able to go into the restaurants or hotels here in Frederick. We could work in them, but we couldn't go in them as a guest or in a restaurant to obtain a meal or anything. All of that changed, and was done peacefully, even in the school system.
Ms. Erickson came to Frederick County in the late 1960s, and quickly became involved in writing about local African American history. Her articles on this topic have appeared in many newspapers and magazines.
Probably the Civil Rights movement had the greatest effect on the education system here in Frederick County. And it took quite a while before all the schools were desegregated. The first school was Brunswick in 1956, and even though it had been a couple of years since desegregation had been made illegal, the schools still had not changed their policy.
But a fire in the Brunswick Elementary School, in the colored school, forced the colored kids, the black kids to be admitted to the white school for the first time. And this was because the parents protested. They didn't want to send their children back to the school even though there was talk of repairing it. But the process dragged on in Frederick County. It wasn't until March of 1965 that the last school was desegregated, and that was when the children in the Dobbs Schoolhouse on Pleasantview Road were admitted to the newly-built Carroll Manor Elementary School in Adamstown.
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