Civil Rights


In 1954, the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education declared segregated schools unconstitutional and sparked a decade of groundbreaking civil rights activism and legislation. Using archival news footage, primary sources, and interview segments originally filmed for Eyes on the Prize, but not included in the final broadcast, this collection captures the voices, images, and events of the Civil Rights Movement and the ongoing struggle for racial equality in America.

  • The Great War: Alice Paul and Women’s Suffrage

    Meet suffragette leader Alice Paul and learn about her undaunted fight for the right of women to vote, in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Great War. Not wanting to be cast as unpatriotic, many women’s suffrage groups suspended their protests after the United States entered World War I in 1917. Paul and a small group of supporters continued their efforts. Paul accused President Woodrow Wilson of “obstructing the cause of democracy at home, while Americans were fighting for it abroad.” With Paul in prison and his administration’s credibility under attack, Wilson would eventually come out in support of women’s suffrage. This resource is a part of the The Great War: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Freedom Riders: The Inspiration

    In this video segment from the American Experience: "Freedom Riders" Web site, watch interviews and newsreel footage and see archival photos to learn how Mahatma Gandhi, the leader in the struggle for an independent India, inspired and influenced those engaged in the struggle to end racial discrimination in the United States. Gandhi's use of nonviolence had allowed the people of India to win independence from Great Britain in 1947. While Gandhi declined an invitation from American civil rights leaders to become directly involved in the U.S. struggle for equal rights, his encouragement persuaded them that the tactic of nonviolence also held great potential in a struggle for the rights of a minority. This resource is part of the American Experience: Freedom Riders collection

    Grades: 6-12
  • Sonia Sanchez: The Meaning of Malcolm X

    This gallery contains three video segments of poet Sonia Sanchez recorded for Eyes on the Prize. In The Meaning of Malcolm X, she describes what Malcolm X represented to African Americans in the 1960s. In Meeting Malcolm X, she recalls the pivotal moment when she first heard him speak. In "Malcolm", she recites her poem, a eulogy to the slain civil rights leader.

    Grades: 9-12
  • NOVA: Percy Julian: Forgotten Genius | Moving to Oak Park

    Learn about the racial violence sparked when chemist Percy Julian moved his family into an exclusive suburb in 1950. Study both the threats and the support the family experienced from the Oak Park community, from the NOVA program Percy Julian: Forgotten Genius.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Lola Hendricks

    The leadership of the Civil Rights Movement was largely defined by major figures like Martin Luther King Jr., but behind the scenes were people like Lola Hendricks who helped organize the community and filed lawsuits to end discrimination and segregation. In this interview, Hendricks describes her role in the Civil Rights movement.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom Riders: Freedom Riders Challenge Segregation

    In this video segment adapted from American Experience: "Freedom Riders," watch newsreel footage, archival photos, and interviews to explore how Freedom Riders made efforts to end the segregation of African Americans in the Southern United States. Even after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that the segregation of black and white riders on interstate buses was unconstitutional, Southern states continued to enforce local segregation laws. In response, members of both races decided to force the issue and challenge illegal segregation by riding together in buses headed to the South. This resource is part of the American Experience: "Freedom Riders" collection. 

    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom Riders: The Young Witness

    In this video segment adapted from the American Experience: "Freedom Riders" Web site, watch interviews and newsreel footage and see archival photos to learn about the response of one young Southerner to her community's violent confrontation with the Freedom Riders in May 1961. Janie Forsyth, a 12-year-old girl living on the outskirts of Anniston, Alabama, was moved to assist injured Freedom Riders when their bus was firebombed outside her father's grocery store. Her action earned her the hostility of her community, which felt that violent resistance was required to preserve the existing segregated order. This resource is part of the American Experience: Freedom Riders collection.

    This video includes language that is considered offensive. However, it provides authentic documentation of the bigotry of the era.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Melba Pattillo Beals

    This interview with Melba Pattillo Beals recalls her experience as one of the nine African American students who attended Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. Against a backdrop of white resistance and racial violence, Beals and eight other students desegregated Central High School under armed federal escort. Beals was frequently assaulted and harassed by whites while a student at Central High. This resource is part of the Civil Rights collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Simple Justice 5: Marshall's Closing Statement

    In this video segment, NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall summarizes the reasons why the Supreme Court should outlaw segregation in public education. Brown v. Board of Education would become the most important civil rights case of the twentieth century.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Simple Justice 2: Social Science Evidence

    In this video segment, African American psychologist Dr. Kenneth B. Clark conducts his famous "doll test," designed to gather social science evidence of the effects of racial discrimination. That evidence would eventually be presented in Brown v. Board of Education. to argue that racial discrimination in public schools was a violation of the Constitution and psychologically harmful to African American children.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Jim Zwerg

    In May of 1961, an interracial group known as the Freedom Riders rode two buses through the South to protest interstate bus segregation. On May 20, one bus was greeted in Montgomery, Alabama by a violent mob. This transcript documents an interview with Jim Zwerg, a young, white Freedom Rider, who was badly beaten as he got off the bus.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom Riders: Fresh Troops

    In this video segment from the American Experience: "Freedom Riders" Web site, view newsreel footage, interviews, and archival photos to explore how students in Nashville, Tennessee, prepared for civil rights protests by training in the techniques of nonviolent direct action. This training prepared them for several initial efforts focused on the Nashville community and made them ideal reinforcements when attacks by white mobs decimated the ranks of the first Freedom Riders in 1961. This resource is part of the American Experience: Freedom Riders Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Mendez v. Westminster: Desegregating California's Schools

    In 1946, eight years before the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, Mexican Americans in Orange County, California won a class action lawsuit to dismantle the segregated school system that existed there. In this video segment, Sylvia Mendez recalls the conditions that triggered the lawsuit and her parents' involvement in the case.

    Grades: 3-12
  • Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth

    In this interview, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth recalls his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Shuttlesworth was a leader of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and led civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, once considered one of the most segregated and racially violent cities in the South.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Bus to the Burbs

    Ten years after the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional, the vast majority of American schools remained segregated. In Boston, a group of black parents began busing their children to better schools in predominantly white neighborhoods. The Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunities (METCO) busing program remains a strategy for integration today. This video segment from La Plaza: Bus to the Burbs takes a closer look at the METCO program.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Rev. Frank Dukes: Selective Buying Campaign

    In 1962, Miles College student Frank Dukes helped organize andparticipated in a selective buying campaign in Birmingham, Alabama. Byboycotting downtown businesses that discriminated against them, AfricanAmericans used buying power as political leverage in the struggle forequality. In this interview, Dukes describes his role in the grassrootseffort that shook Birmingham's economy.

    Grades: 6-12
  • 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
  • Simple Justice 3: The Trial Begins

    After decades of fighting for equal education, the NAACP's legal struggle came before the United States Supreme Court. The Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education would either affirm or outlaw the segregated schools that existed across the country. This video segment from American Experience: "Simple Justice" recalls the opening arguments.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Robert Moses

    Robert Moses was a leader in the voting rights campaign of the 1960s. Raised and educated in the North, Moses put his teaching career on hold and moved to Mississippi, where he became one of the architects of the 1964 Freedom Summer Project and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. In this interview, recorded for Eyes on the Prize, Moses talks about his desire to end racial discrimination by helping African Americans participate fully in the nation's political process.

    Grades: 9-12
  • A Class Divided 2: Day Two

    When the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in April 1968,Jane Elliott taught her third-grade class a daring lesson in discrimination. The third time she taught the lesson, cameras were present.In this video segment from FRONTLINE: "A Class Divided,"Elliott changes the rules, and discriminates against students with blue eyes.

    Grades: 3-12

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