2021 NEH Institute on the Grassroots History of Civil Rights Movement

Summer 2021 ONLINE

Teaching for Change partnered with a team of scholars, SNCC veterans, Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, and the SNCC Legacy Project on a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Teacher InstituteThe Civil Rights Movement: Grassroots Perspectives.

Participants (classroom teachers and school librarians in grades 5 – 12) learned the bottom-up history of the Civil Rights Movement and received resources and strategies to bring it home to their students. They had the unique opportunity to learn directly from the people who made the Civil Rights Movement happen, and from the leading scholars of the era. Here are some of the participant reflections:

Everything has been so monumental. One of the largest things for me has just been the community gained here. It’s been amazing to work in a collective of justice minded educators (I’m tearing up thinking about this group!!). On a content level, I am still ruminating on everything Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries shared, and ALL of the stories from Ms. Judy Richardson. It has been such a powerful combination of both organizers and historians. The combination of both of these perspectives has been so powerful.

This experience was transformative and energizing. It is critical to be among a group of like-minded educators to gain strength, learn, and build support for liberatory education. I loved being able to learn about freedom schools from a mix of SNCC activists and scholars. I have soooo many pages of notes to be able to reflect on specific, new understandings. The facilitators were the most responsive group of facilitators I’ve ever had. I gained greater confidence and a deeper desire to use more Zinn materials and SNCC digital resources in my teaching. I also feel so much more confident asking questions that will help students be aware of and combat the dominant narratives of this teaching.

This institute was one of the best I’ve attended. The discussion, films, and activities were valuable for me as a teacher as well as for my practice. I appreciated the time we were given to collaborate with one another and even though talking about civil rights demonstrations and the atrocities caused by whiteness were tough on my spirit the details and resources I learned about in the midst of it were invaluable. I got an opportunity to ask people I’ve watched on TED Talks and seen in films questions about their experiences. I got to indulge in detailed research and met some phenomenal educators who are now my friends. Thank you for this experience. It is bitter-sweet to end here and somehow I don’t see this as an end.

These narratives served as the focus of the institute:

  1. The Civil Rights Movement was a primary force for the expansion of democracy for all.
  2. The Movement was based on the work of thousands of local “ordinary” people who both organized and sustained it.
  3. Women and youth were a fundamental part of the leadership and the  troops of the Movement.
  4. The tradition of protest grew out of a long history of activism and resistance in the Black community.
  5. And more.

The co-directors were SNCC veteran Judy Richardson and Duke professor Wesley Hogan. Presenters included Charlie Cobb, Ashley Farmer, Hasan Kwame Jeffries, and Jeanne Theoharis. In addition to the scholars and veterans, we were joined by Zinn Education Project curriculum writer and teacher organizer Ursula Wolfe-Rocca who worked with the participants to develop lessons based on the institute themes. The 2021 institute was modeled on the 2018 NEH Institute titled “Grassroots Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement (1940-1980).”

We share here highlights from throughout the three weeks, including insights from the presenters, lessons, and teacher reflections.

Week One: July 6 – 9 | 1940-1954

Day One: Tuesday, July 6

The song “Woke Up This Morning” by the Freedom Singers greeted thirty educators from around the country as they logged in via Zoom for the first day of the 2021 NEH Teachers Summer Institute.

SNCC veteran and institute co-director, Judy Richardson, said over the music. “We’re all here today, and we’re going to get to introductions in a moment. But go ahead and get up and sing with us — this is the way we like to start our work!”

Richardson and co-director Wesley Hogan stood up in the Teaching for Change office in DC, dancing and singing along. “Woke up this morning with our minds stayed on freedom!” The educators shook out any remaining morning sleepiness and joined in clapping: “Ain’t no harm to keep your mind stayed on freedom . . .” While it was the second “Teaching the Grassroots Civil Rights Movement” NEH Teachers’ Institute, it was the first institute led remotely. 

After the song, Hogan shared how despite being online, we could create the space we need. She recalled a time in 2003 when Civil Rights Movement veterans Bob Moses and Staughton Lynd shifted the dynamics in an academic conference by rearranging the chairs from rows to a circle.

I’m going to start with a story. It’s April 4, 2003. The scene is a cold, cavernous, beige conference room where 70 or so chairs had been set up in rows, facing a lectern and a table for panelists.

This was for a session on the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Schools at the Organization of American Historians annual conference in downtown Memphis. My co-panelists were freedom movement organizing legend Bob Moses and former freedom school director Staughton Lynd.

Bob and Staughton, as they told me to call them, were in their late 60s, early 70s, with low-key but powerful energy, and spry. When they arrived, they wordlessly moved together to rearrange the chairs in a gigantic circle.

Attendees who showed up 30 minutes later for the “panel” found themselves asked to sit in a huge 70-person circle with Moses, Lynd, and me. Some people turned on their heels and left. Those who stayed didn’t just hear, but participated, face-to-face, in the most basic human form of teaching and learning — the circle.

In retrospect, that simple move, to rearrange the chairs from rows into a circle in the Memphis Convention Center, opened space that stays open for me to this day. We shifted from an industrial-style lecture format to one of sharing, and acknowledging one another’s human-ness. Bob and Staughton invited us into a relational, instead of transactional, learning environment.

Hogan encouraged the participants to imagine that they, too, now sat in a circle where they could learn from and grow alongside one another for the next three weeks. 

Today, Judy and I want to invite you into a similar three week circle. We’re artificially set up in a Zoom grid. Yet I’m going to ask you to imagine when you see the Zoom grid, to pull us mentally into a circle.

So if you could for a moment, I’d like to invite you to a grounding of that three week circle.

Hogan recognized the history of the space and the people in the room. She said,

Imagine yourself where you are now, feet on the ground. If you’d like, [pause], share the names (in the chat) of the Native people you know who’ve stewarded the land we each are on. Here at Teaching for Change in DC, at 11th and T Streets NW, we work from the ancestral home of the Nako-chank /Anacostan/Piscataway people, as well as twelve other nations who have taken care of the peninsula over millennia. Today in Washington, diverse and vibrant Native communities make Washington their home, and we offer this institute from a place of gratitude and honor for these Indigenous people’s stewardship of the land.

All of us in the room, spread out as we are over three time zones, have each lived through 18 months unlike any many of us have been in. So I’m particularly grateful for you all who have mentored and taught young people throughout that period, who as Ella Baker reminded us, are the same young people who sometimes have the courage when we fail, and as Ms. Baker said, “If we can but shed some light, as they carry us through the gale,” Judy and I invite you each to bring in all of these wholly unique experiences, sharing and learning together for this institute.

To get to know each other, there was a roll call with slides of each participant (see sample below).

D.C. high school teacher Yolanda Whitted wrote in the chat, “I found my people!”

The roll call was followed by an activity where everyone wrote, on the cutout of a footprint, “in whose shoes am I walking for justice” or “a stand I have taken in these shoes for justice.” Here are a few examples, 

I walk in the footsteps of Elijah and Virginia Relf, who unselfishly and courageously fed and housed Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama. I walk in the footsteps of Bessie Hartley McMeans, who kept her guns locked and loaded to protect her family in Fort Deposit, Alabama: Bloody Lowndes. I walk in the footsteps of my momma, who was one of the first Black teachers to integrate Alabama Public Schools. And of course, I walk in the footsteps of all my ancestors whose shoulders I stand on, who made a way out of no way. Thank you for all the legacies left far and near. — Ami Relf

I walk in the footsteps of my great grandfather, Judge Nathan J. Kaufman. As a young man he was president of Union Local 142 in Detroit, Michigan during the 1930’s and 40’s. Before and during the war, he wrote affidavits to secure the safety of his relatives and friends attempting to flee Nazi Germany. He was a man who believed deeply in the rights of workers and went on to become a judge for the Michigan Court of Appeals. — Ben Williams

If my shoes could talk they would tell the stories of resistance of Jose Rizal, Larry Itliong, Isabella Garcia, Marcelino Mamaradlo, and Constancia Patenio that my mother’ s generation forgot or tried to ignore, that I grew up embarrassed of. Now my shoes try to stomp the trail, wake the Earth that my ancestors walked upon. — Destiny Andrews

To continue to get to know each other, they met in small groups to respond to a series of prompts (an online version of concentric circles.) The questions included:

  1. One thing you did between school ending and the start of this institute.
    2. Favorite book, film, trip, podcast, or any other resource on the Civil Rights Movement
    3. How have the recent anti-history education (anti-CRT) bills impacted you and/or your school?
    4. What got you into being a teacher?

The next breakout group question (with time to write first) served as an introduction for the lesson that followed and a theme for the institute:

Write about a time in your life related to voting. It could be the first time you voted, or someone in your family voted, or voting rights organizing you’ve done. It could be a moment of epiphany related to voting or its history.

Participants engaged in the mixer lesson from Who Gets to Vote? Teaching About the Struggle for Voting Rights in the United States

New York high school teacher Lori Sandler commented afterwards,

Laws on their face may not appear racist, but the impact . . . is clearly designed to limit people’s ability to vote.

Teachers concluded the day by sharing, on a Padlet, lesson ideas they might work on the institute. They also completed the daily evaluation.

Reflections on the Day

I really enjoyed getting to know everyone in the breakout rooms. I liked the activities that were associated with the breakout rooms. It allowed space to learn about where everyone is coming from. I also like the Voting Rights Mixer activity. I do a similar one by Bill Bigelow on the Mexican American War, but didn’t know how to do that in my class virtually. This was great!

The most exciting part for me was the beginning four breakout rooms where we just got to answer big questions with a few colleagues. One of the things I was most excited about was just meeting other amazing educators and I was so inspired by the people I met. The Google slides collaboration where we talked about whose footsteps we walked in was another really great activity that taught me so much about the different ways everyone has interacted with civil rights.

Ms. Judy’s story of her work was a real moment of connection that we could feel across the distance. I’m excited for the many opportunities with the scholars when the magic of this was so evident. I was amazed at how smoothly all the links came out, that the different forums, whether Padlets, articles, or google docs, allowed for some great integration and engagement. Overall a very smoothly run day and a community was being built through the different break out rooms (very smooth and efficient for that), the roll call, and the Padlets. I’m excited and grateful to be part of this for the next fourteen days.

Day 2: Wednesday, July 7

“Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” sung by SNCC youth organizers in an Albany church, greeted participants as they arrived for day two. Richardson explained that for the members of SNCC, singing transformed political space. She added that freedom songs tore through police lines and picket signs, demanding change and the liberation of Black folks within the democratic process. 

Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I

Hogan introduced the guest speaker, Dr. Adriane Lentz-Smith, a leading scholar on the First World War, and in particular, the social history of race and intersectional identities globally at that time. Lentz-Smith is author of Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I, the article, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Grand Strategy,”  and “The Laws Have Hurt Me: Violence, Violation, and Black Women’s Struggles for Civil Rights.

Here is a recording of Dr. Lentz-Smith’s presentation.

Afterwards, participant Osceola asked Lentz-Smith if she could speak to the legacy of Black Buffalo Soldiers who rebelled in the Philippine-American War. Others asked about the limitations of tying one’s human rights to one’s citizenship and asked, should people not demand rights on the merits of one’s humanity instead?

Dirt and Deeds

Richardson introduced the documentary film, Dirt and Deeds in Mississippi. Watching the film allowed participants to see that land ownership in rural Mississippi was foundational to the success of the Black Freedom Movement. Black land owners housed SNCC participants, bailed activists out with property bonds, were often the first to register to vote, and advocated for their community’s right to do so. Black farmers not only supported the movement, they also had to wage a continual fight against banks and local politicians who tried to cheat them from their land in the 1960s. 

Richardson explained that such challenges have not stopped. As of 2021, banks were still pressuring Congress not to provide COVID-based debt relief to Black farmers, claiming such a program would “cut into [banks] profits and hurt investors.”  

Reflections on the Day

Guest speaker

I also loved Dr. Lentz-Smith’s presentation on African Americans and WWI. I always begin the Civil Rights Movement with my students discussing WW2, but didn’t think to connect the movement of Black soldiers in the WWI in the fight for freedom.

I love that she started her presentation with a personal story about what her parents were going through during the Civil Rights Movement. I related to her initial disappointment and eventual realization that her parents were resisting white supremacy the best way they knew how.

I LOVED that lesson by Professor Lentz-Smith. Her work is amazing and I think it spoke to a legacy of international pressure to make the United States face its uncomfortable truths. Secondly, she also allowed me to get more insight into the question of freedom through citizenship.

Documentary film

Witnessing the generous and brave humanity of the Black landowners who housed the Freedom Summer volunteers at risk to their land, equipment, and lives was a powerful learning for me. The spirit of collectivism and unity moved me and felt in stark contrast to so much of what the construction of whiteness values. It just got me thinking about how to honor the spirit of deep community now, in these times, recognizing that — just like then — it’s probably the only thing that’s going to keep us moving forward. I also noted the vast and long-term (3 years!!) of networking, trust-building, outreach that Bob Moses did BEFORE Freedom Summer, and it made me reflect on union-building in our non-union state.

I will carry forward the ideals and concepts of the documentary which showed how the power of land ownership and self defense provided by Black farmers in Mississippi impacted and sustained the movement. Everyone needs to hear this message.

The film made me think a lot about the framing of the Civil Rights movement and how schools don’t acknowledge the real extent to which it was a revolutionary, often armed struggle. If we can compare this movement to other revolutions, I wonder if that might help students understand the extent to which it WASN’T just a peaceful protest or the result of one man making a speech. They could see the goal as overturning a power structure (not just voting) and the work as ongoing. I also think about the question of “legitimate” uses of violence. I found Adrian Lentz-Smith’s definition of a state as “the entity that has a lock on the legitimate use of violence” as helpful when thinking about what we are and are not supposed to say when we teach Black resistance in U.S. history.

Day 3: Thursday, July 8

Morning song: This Little Light of Mine, sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Wolfe-Rocca invited participants to discuss insights from “The Political Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History and Memorialization in the Present” from A More Beautiful and Terrible History. On a Padlet, each educator posted one powerful quotation with comments explaining why they selected it for sharing. Then they commented on each other’s quote selections, adding additional thoughts.

Destiny Andrews selected,

The task here is to explicitly show that the Civil Rights Movement was never what is now believed about it . . . the heart of the struggle, its most iconic people and moments, and the breadth of its vision, leaders, strategies, struggles, and accomplishments are far different from our popular renderings of them.

Hollie Blake selected,

But this national fable of the Civil Rights Movement became a weapon some used against these new movements for justice, as comparison after comparison was made to the Civil Rights Movement to make BLM wanting.

These and dozens more quotes led to rich insights during the Padlet silent discussion.

Textbook Critique

Educators were then invited to consider these insights as they read and critiqued two textbook excerpts:

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Growing Movement from a National Geographic 2019 U.S. history textbook

Freedom Now about Rosa Parks from a Glencoe 2010 U.S. history textbook

One of the participants noted in her end of the day reflections,

I really enjoyed the Theoharis reading assignment with the textbook analysis. Helping students analyze textbook history can be very valuable for helping dispel misconceptions and myths and can easily be a transferable skill that can be applied for analyzing any source students encounter these days.

Ella Baker

The rest of the day focused on a study of the life and wisdom of Ella Baker. Richardson introduced and shared the documentary film Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker.

Richardson and Hogan shared key lessons to learn from Baker’s work.

1. Build clear, purposeful relationships with each person, based in respect and love

As SNCC activist and Freedom Singer Bernice Johnson Reagon later explained, “in the middle of the most intense movement crisis, Miss Baker would always ask you about your person, your home, your children, your food, your thinking.” This is how she taught everyone “that no movement could exist without individuals,” and that any movement’s organization had to take care of the people who made up the movement. In all this, she was “extremely matter-of-fact,” focused always on “[how] did this action here that you were doing really affect the long range or overall goal of the movement, or of people?”  Yet, in its ultimate application, Baker’s persistent interest in the personal aspects of people’s lives served as more than an organizing method. It was the social cornerstone of political life: for a movement to be democratic, one had to work with its people in a democratic manner.”

2. Young people come first. Fight adultism — it’s everywhere, in all of us. “These youngsters . . . had gone beyond the kinds of stances I had suggested” [Fundi] “To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail, and if I can but share some light as they carry us through the gale.”

Wesley told the story of Nona Perry, working with the Ella Baker Center in Oakland. As a middle and high schooler, Perry loved learning but did “not want to go to school because we supposed to go to school and get education, but the education is not accurately [reflecting] how we feel inside, and it’s not connecting back to our culture. It’s not teaching us where we come from as people.” Perry called such behavior from teachers and administrators “adultism” – the act of minimizing or dismissing the good ideas of young people simply because they were young. Adultism, she reflected, repeatedly and continuously deflated students. Adultism meant that children across the country entered school as one would enter prison, rather than enter it as a ticket to a wider world of experience and knowledge. (See for example Metzger, A Prison Called School and Goyal, Schools on Trial) Ms. Baker said: “I would take an idea from the youngest in the group if I thought it was an idea.”

3. Struggle must be engaged by the struggler. Support young people as they figure out what they need and how to get it. Cheerlead, don’t fix. Builds people’s sense of possibility, capacity. “What do you plan to do about it?” is what Ella Baker says to the little boy in her family. “Let’s come up with a plan.” Baker “taught us that we had to be resilient. Just because you fall down, doesn’t mean you don’t keep getting up.” Baker routinely — even doggedly — insisted “the salvation of a person and a people must come from within.” For her, the key was that “the struggle must be engaged by the struggler.”[ii]

The centrality of this lesson is hard to overstate. So many compassionate people try to help others by doing for them. From nonprofits, to social services, to foundations. Baker’s blueprint differed. Victoria Gray Adams defined what she learned from Baker this way: “The struggle must be engaged by the struggler, in cooperation with significant others having the compassion and needed elements which they themselves do not possess.” Baker herself noted “we have rights only as long as we are willing to struggle for them.”

How am I centering my belief that my students can work out problems on their own? How am I supporting them? What am I doing to control my own urge to “fix” or “help” rather than nurture their own capacity?

4. Everyone has something to contribute, from the farmer to the fur-coated socialite. Look for that in everyone.

Which young people in the room am I avoiding dealing with today and why? How can I seek out that child’s input tomorrow/later this week?

5. Trust people, and that means ask questions instead of telling them what to think. Help students clarify what they’re thinking. Ask questions more often than giving lectures.

Reflections on the day

I loved the text book critique and the opportunity to share our thoughts in breakout afterwards. I learn so much and also find myself in such community with others. I also enjoyed the Fungi film on Ella Baker. I am realizing how I resonate with her work and want to know more about her work as an educator.

A moment from the film today helped to pull together many strands of thinking about teaching and learning. Ms. Ella said, “”I wanted people to realize that there is strength in them and that by combined efforts they could change any condition they wanted to change. They first had to be aware of their conditions.””

It struck me that so much of what I’m reading and practicing now (especially Gholdy Muhammad’s Cultivating Genius and Zaretta Hammond’s Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain) are fundamentally grounded in the concepts Ella Baker is so clearly articulating here.

Small group discussion was awesome again today. Specifically, the textbook critique activity helped us develop a question / activity we might add if we try this with our students: “Scan through this (short, chunked) section of this textbook. Be on the lookout for any examples of passive voice — highlight any you spot. Look for patterns among what you highlighted. Notice / analyze who is given the privilege of being an active participant in this narrative / this history?”

Thank you all so much for creating such an intentional and deliberate and magical learning experience.

Day 4: Friday, July 9

The speaker for the day was Jeanne Theoharis, the author of multiple books on the civil rights and Black Power movements, including A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History, and The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

Zack Wilson, a high school educator based in San Antonio, Texas, interviewed Theoharis, exploring common misconceptions of civil rights activists like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., and the erasure of the powerful legacy of women in the movement. 

When asked what resonated with him from their conversation, Wilson said, “A huge takeaway was the idea that the Civil Rights Movement was happening all around the country; to erase that history is to perpetuate white supremacy.”

Wilson highlighted the 1964 New York City School Boycott, where nearly half a million NYC school children boycotted school to detest segregation in the school systems. “. . .  We saw this in the school system for the most liberal city in America [and it] is because white parents didn’t want their kids to go to Black schools, they didn’t want to share their wealth and resources with Black kids. . .  They exist in this scarcity mindset; they leave Black kids behind — they did that in the seventies and are doing it now.”

Theoharis and Wilson also discussed the necessity of uplifting the women in the movement whose names often go unsung and stories unknown. When we consider Ella Baker, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, and so many other Black women of the movement, we must accredit them and the diversity within their work. 

Theoharis noted for example that Rosa Parks would likely be upset that in 2013, President Obama traveled to dedicate a statue of Parks herself instead of standing outside the Supreme Court the very day it decided Shelby v. Holder. “She would not want a statue commemorating a long-ago action, but recommitment to the Voting Rights Act,” affirming the right to vote for all citizens.

Theoharis illuminated a deep respect for “the kind of steadfastness Rosa Parks had — to have to do that [advocacy] over and over again, and feel really crazy — that is steadfastness.”  In conclusion, Theoharis urged classroom teachers to invite students to consider Rosa Parks in new ways:

1. What did you learn about Parks before this class?

2. How does it change what you thought you knew?

3. Why do you think you didn’t learn about this before?

This is always a critical conversation, she noted — students become able to see, “Why did I learn that? And what did I think when I learned that?”

Reflections on the day

The discussion on how we elevate Dr. King to this level of celebrity that no other leader could attain, and how that makes it difficult for us to imagine a new type of leader in the current moment of activism really stood out to me. I often think about leaders of the movement and how non-hierarchical organizing seems to me today, and while there’s a lot of benefits to that, I hadn’t considered the narrative of elevating civil rights leaders of the 60s to this status that current leaders could never attain. It makes me think about the current narrative of the movement differently.

Centering Black women activists as intellectuals was powerful!

I am always very appreciative of scholars that work in partnership with K-12 educators. It is so important to find ways for younger students to engage with current scholarship. I have only seen the level of commitment you clearly have to this from a small handful of professors at this level. I feel your love and respect for our students and K-12 educators.

Dr. Theoharis was so generous in sharing methodology and resources with us in both the large and small groups. I really loved her response to our questions. Dr. Theoharis really made me pause and reflect on how much Mrs. Parks lost in the years post 1956. I learned so much about Rosa Parks the fighter today. Looking forward to reading the young readers edition of her book.

Week Two: July 12 – 16, 1955-1965

Day 5: Monday, July 12

This institute took place in the midst not only of a pandemic, but also of intense battles over voting rights and an increase in voter suppression laws and practices.  The focus for July 12 was on connecting the voting rights struggle of the 1960s to contemporary organizing.

Richardson began with Story Corps’ powerful two minute video of Theresa Burroughs’ struggle to register to vote in Hale County, Alabama in the 1960s. “I knew it shouldn’t have been this hard,” Burroughs recalled.

Hogan and Richardson introduced Nsé Ufot, chief executive offers of the New Georgia Project and its affiliate, New Georgia Project Action Fund (NGP AF). Ufot leads both organizations with a data-informed approach and a commitment to developing tools that leverage technology with the goal of making it easier for every voter to engage in every election. Richardson called Ufot “A modern day version of the best of us in SNCC” who “knows how to do real grassroots organizing. She grounds her organization in organizing for the long-haul, not just for the next election. That’s the only way you hold elected officials accountable after they get in.”

Hogan added, Ufot “demystifies voting — how to do it, and why it matters.” In her presentation, Ufot said,

We decided it was our responsibility and our duty to go out to meet that sophistication with our own. We build mobile apps and video games designed to demystify government and how it works, and elections and how they work. We have Freedom Schools and gaming to cut through the noise and make up for the gaps in civic education.

The New Georgia Project is a large-scale voter registration program that is fueled by  “the love that we have for ourselves, our families, our communities, which becomes a renewable energy source which keeps us doing the work despite attacks” 

Indeed. Amid a pandemic, advocates and community organizers hit the streets, and record numbers of people registered to vote in the 2020 election. Ufot noted,

We are not just a large scale voter registration project. Stacey Abrams was not standing on street corners registering people by herself. Recruitment is how we bring people in to the work that we do, and how we build power.

Centering her conversation on uplifting and honoring community voices and grassroots power in the South, Ufot described four lenses that the New Georgia project uses in its work: “Love, information, power and innovation.” 

Ufot explains that we cannot hold public officials accountable if we do not know what their role is in our lives and government. “A charismatic, dynamic leader is not enough to bring about the change that we want to see,” said Ufot about the election of Obama in 2008

“We want to make sure that we are building a generation of voters that understand their power, that understand that there is no messiah, and that the role of citizens is to hire and fire elected officials to do the people’s work. . . Demographics do not equal destiny.”

Following her presentation, educators asked question. Here are a few.

Rachel: “How do you adjust your messaging when people say they don’t care about voting for the “lesser of two evils”? 

Ufot: “It’s much less important about what’s going on in the White House, than what is going on in your house. If there are changes that you want to see, you can’t leave any tool off the table. If you think direct action and protesting, that’s fine do that and voting. Voting is the least thing that you can do to bring about the thing that you want to see. Some people talk about voting as harm reduction. In 2016, people completely withdrew, and we got what we got. Our folks stayed home. The least thing that you can do is vote, and grow up, and mature, and this is only part of what we do, also do the other things. You’re not electing your friends, this is not your homie. We need to fix the reality that 60% of the city of Atlanta’s budget goes to the police, and we’re not any safer and they say they can’t fix the roads. Voting is harm reduction.

Zach: How do you cross different constituencies to get people to vote for their interests when they have a real sticking point on something like abortion? 

Ufot: We tease out what people care about most. It’s not one conversation. It’s not transactional, where I’m calling and texting annoying you and acting like we are cool, because I want you to vote for my candidate.  That is not our ambition. We are not here to elect Democrats, we are here to bring about the world that our families and communities deserve. So we are having regular conversations with the same people, and over time

Wesley: do you have a strategy for undocumented folks inclusion even though they can’t vote?

Ufot: Yes, undocumented people and formerly incarcerated folks and people under 18. Yes, absolutely! These folks volunteer with us, doing outreach, the only thing they can’t do is register people to vote, but they can do literally everything else. You don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to be an extraordinary graphic designer.

Watch the video of Nsé Ufot’s full talk below.

Selma and the Right to Vote

The question was posed:

If we focus on young people, how does this change what we know about the famous Selma campaign?

The group watched the 20-minute National Park Service documentary, The Way to Freedom: Selma and the Making of the Movement.  

After the film, teachers had many ideas on how they might teach with this film:

TJ Climate change, BLM, we sometimes struggle getting students to understand the opposition they will face. If you’re willing to walk out for climate change, are you willing to do the Saturday detention that comes with it? What’s the sacrifice that you’re willing to make? The film shows what folks actually risked to achieve their goals:  jail time, hardship.

Hollie You don’t have to be Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks to change the world! That is something I really want to bring back. 

Sarada Not only do you not have to be extraordinary, but we need you to keep bringing this change, because what is happening today, with people pushing back on voting rights, we need you to keep pushing. 

Wesley Sometimes the places where the opposition is the most intense, the movement is also is the most deeply rooted and powerful. The Movement for Black Lives recentered who we were focusing on in the nation between 2013-2020. That can be really helpful when people only have the metric of “how many policies did you get passed.”

Ami described how inspired she has been by watching young people in her school after George Floyd was murdered. The Black teachers put out a manifesto, and the young people followed, and then fought for their vision at board meetings and in other public settings. 

Tangela teaches children to look at economic justice: let’s don’t buy an X Y or Z if that company is doing something harmful. Let’s take a week, and see what we can do at the end of a month, “Can we take those $7 you would have spent at this company, and drop it somewhere else?” It’s important for them to see that they can make a contribution. 

Hogan recommended teachers ask their students to do oral histories with the young people who are active — it changes who they think makes history. You can change in their heads, who are the changemakers? Who should be in the history books? That can be powerful after the organizing has taken place. 

The group discussed how people decide, at different points in their lives, how much risk to take. They watched the Eyes on the Prize segment, “Bridge to Freedom” and discussed the tension inside the Civil Rights Movement (and every other movement since) between organizing people at the grassroots, versus mobilizing people around a march or a demonstration.  

Reflections on the Day

Ufot’s presentation

Nsé Ufot was such an impassioned, funny, and knowledgeable speaker, and I felt that so many of the concepts and ideas she discussed in reference to working on voter registration, activism, etc. can really apply to our classrooms as well, and I am really excited to figure out how I can work this into my pedagogy. I’m thinking about the ideas of language and rhetoric, culture, etc.

Nsé Ufot was very inspiring. Reminds me of the lack of start and end date to the civil rights movement — we are still fighting, still organizing.

It was really inspiring to listen to Nsé Ufot speak this morning. I love the point that she made and that was reiterated in the afternoon film — organization among the people rather than a single leader.

Was great to hear more about the New Georgia Project and make connections to what we have been learning about SNCC. Nice through lines to the present.

I was so inspired by the refrains of knowing your community, listening and organizing for them, and not just assuming you know what people need. It’s an important lesson that we always have to keep in mind when we’re organizing for our neighbors.

The words, “There is no Messiah” will reverberate in me for a long time to come. Thank you for the work you are doing in Georgia. It gives me hope that it can be replicated in Alabama.

Nse really was able to present a strong case without guilt-tripping and proselytizing. Her presentation really stood out in terms of getting young folks in the game.

I was SUPER excited by our speaker and everything she shared about bringing grassroots organizing into the 21st century. What Nse said about moving past transactional community organizing was a GAMECHANGER for me. Seriously. This has inspired me to diversify the type of speakers that I bring into my classroom. I’ve focused on bringing artists, poets, parents and grandparents, politicians, etc. But I need to bring in at least a couple of activist organizers. This has emboldened me.

Every.moment.with Nse Ufot, including the 15 minute small-group chat. I loved the four guiding principles she shared, especially LOVE AS A RENEWABLE ENERGY!! Yes:-) She re-ignited my commitment to every unit this year ending with some kind of civic engagement learning opportunity or advocacy project.

Film and primary sources

I really enjoyed the video clip today on Selma and marching for freedom. Since my lesson plan is going to be on youth activism, that was a really great source and something that might be included in the lesson. I also liked looking at the primary sources and getting to talk to other teachers about using primary sources, because it’s such a big part of the required curriculum for me and I absolutely hate using DBQs — they’re restrictive, incredibly biased, not very enjoyable, and students have a lot of feelings on them going into class that make it harder to even start looking at primary sources. Primary sources are great though so I try to make sure that the voices being heard in those are mainly voices that aren’t normally heard, and I create “scavenger hunts” instead of doing basic, formulaic DBQs. Students get to complete challenges, make video responses, and work in teams to have more fun with analyzing sources. I think that I got a lot of good ideas from my group.

The film: The Way to Freedom: Selma and the Making of A Movement is something I could use with students to empower youth activism.

My group had a really good discussion about the use of primary sources and the limitations of sources.


Day 6: Tuesday, July 13

Teaching With Archives

John Gartrell, the director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture at Duke University, introduced an interactive lesson that led participants through the use of primary sources. Having spent over a decade in university archives, John Gartrell illuminated the importance of representation within archives and their necessity to teach hard history. As an editorial board member of the SNCC Digital Gateway, Gartrell is passionate about preserving “all” histories. At Duke, he has become a national leader in community- and movement-archive building.

He asked us: What history are we able to unveil when we allow ourselves and our students access to primary sources directly from activists and organizers?

Making of Eyes on the Prize

In the afternoon, Judy workshopped Eyes on the Prize with the group, the 14-hour iconic series she played a key part in working on as a producer, editor, and interviewer in the 1980s and 1990s. The film is told through the experiences those who actually experienced the events! Scholars are interviewed on air, they operated solely behind the scenes. Judy notes that Eyes highlights the role of women and young people as leaders in the movement. Blackside, a Black-owned film production company, made the series led by Henry Hampton. Judy was its first full time staff member. 

Below is a recording of Judy’s presentation followed by comments from participants.

Tangela “Other people have movie stars and sports celebrities as their heroes, but for me, Movement people were the rock stars of my world. This is incredible to hear the stories from behind the scenes.” (min. 35) 

Julian talked about using Eyes clip with Jo Ann Robinson sharing how she mimeographed flyers for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and then does a role play with students centered on the challenges organizers faced in 1955. “It goes so far beyond the folks that kids typically know about, and shows students how many people needed to be involved to make things like this happen.” (min. 39)

Turquoise uses Eyes with kindergarten and first graders, who then uses cardboard boxes to build scenes that they saw, adding their own captions. One year, for example, they created the Edmund Pettus Bridge, people on the bridge, and then caption bubbles for them, and then wrote a highway marker. “It is amazing to see how their minds work — [this activity] builds their literacy, writing, and storytelling skills.” (min. 47)


Ursula Wolfe-Rocca introduced participants to the high school lesson she wrote on COINTELPRO. They examined and commented on the language in a primary document and revised the language in a textbook.

Eyes on the Prize: Clips

Judy introduced and shared clips on the murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, and on Attica.

Reflections on the Day

The COINTELPRO lesson really fired me up. I definitely need to include these FBI primary sources in future lessons.

Everything COINTELPRO has been eye-widening and I felt the fire (although, very heavy at the same time).

Our speaker was really great, and the work that we did was really helpful as I would like to definitely integrate primary sources more into my English courses.

The COINTELPRO work was very interesting and useful, but the selection from Eyes on the Prize about Fred Hampton and our discussion and Ms. Judy’s Q&A were the most affecting part of the day. I may have known about this information and these events, but this really made it real and brought it home! So powerful!

I really liked the textbook re-write activity, its powerful to take the dominant narrative and change it based on what we’ve learned. Definitely going to use this strategy to challenge dominant narratives throughout the year.

I really enjoyed the activity with primary sources. I had a really great discussion with my group. This is something that I can do in my own classroom.

I enjoy Judy’s insight that she shares with each Eyes on the Prize excerpt. She is amazing. I also learned so much during Ursula’s lesson about the FBI’s role in the Black Freedom Struggle. I feel so angry, but I am inspired to learn and to teach the truth.

SO MUCH – I really loved hearing Ms. Judy give us the info about the making of Eyes and then her personal experiences; that is something that I’m going to be able share on with my students and I know they will latch on to it too.

Ursula’s presentation was so useful. I love that I now have something ready to use in my classroom. Of course I will make some modifications for my grade level, but I know that I have a comfort level with it already. So useful! AND such a great lesson too.

The cointelpro lesson was so well done. I have so many ideas for my own classroom, and am specifically excited to use the textbook rewrite. I also really enjoyed looking at the documents that John Gartrell shared with us.

Ursula’s lesson on COINTELPRO was great and I’m definitely looking forward to doing some version of that in my class this year

I really appreciated what he said about using black newspapers as primary sources. I’m embarrassed to say that this past year in African American studies, I don’t *think* I used a black newspaper as a primary source, but next year I hope to use them consistently throughout all my units. It’s a fantastic way to teach media analysis and to explore the bias of the white media throughout American history.

I thought there was a really nice flow of things from morning to evening. Flipping through my notes we clearly covered a lot but it happened in a way that didn’t feel overwhelming. The heads-up on tomorrow morning being some lesson planning was also really nice (as is starting the day with that overview of the schedule).

I keep calling my sisters to tell them what I’ve learned because I’m so excited. This really does seem to be the gold standard by which I will evaluate other professional developments and institutes with: content is being taught alongside pedagogy (and that is modeled and experienced); there is active community building among the participants and facilitators; it seems that those who are more knowledgable and advanced about these topics are still gaining so much (and dropping such helpful resources) while being so welcoming to those of us just starting out; and there is a support system of people wanting to teach not only the specific topics but to be these sort of teachers all year round. I am so incredibly grateful that I am able to participate and learn from this.

Exploring archival primary source documents and the possibilities for collections resonated with me, and made me consider my role in my community and with students of documenting the past.

The lesson on COINTELPRO worked very well. This is something I could use with students to get them thinking critically about the narrative in the textbook versus historical documents.

Day 7: Wednesday, July 14

Lesson Writing

Participants had time to work on their lessons and consult with facilitators as needed.

Eyes on the Prize: Lowndes County and Black Power

Judy introduced and shared the Eyes on the Prize segment on Lowndes County and Black Power.

Youth Activism

Institute participant TJ Whitaker shared his experience working with young people in New Jersey. He explained that in the summer of 2016, young people were confronted by police in front of his school. The police did not believe they went to the school and treated them like criminals. A group of educators defended the students, taking their case to the New Jersey Supreme Court. After that they set up a Saturday Freedom School and Teaching for Black Lives study group.

Wesley gave a brief overview of youth activism since 2010 based on her book, On the Freedom Side: How Five Decades of Youth Activists Have Remixed American History. She shared this list of primary source resources (social media posts, films, podcasts, etc.) for teaching the Movement for Black Lives, Standing Rock/Indigenous youth water protectors, immigrant rights, and other youth movements since 2010.

She shared some key points with the group about youth activism:

  • Adultism is everywhere. This is the sometimes unintentional, and often unconscious, bias against youth as political innovators in the United States over the last sixty years. Trump directly belittling Greta Thunberg is typical. It’s the condescension that shows up when white so-called moderates tell 26 year old Bob Moses that Black citizens were happy with things as they were and did not want to vote or when youth working for a path to citizenship put forward the Dream Act in 2001, were told “let us handle it” by Congress, and we still don’t have a path for these young people, who are now in their 30s and early 40s in 2021.
  • Psychologist Alison Gopnik calls children the “Research & Development division of humanity.” — young people inventing new political tools serve a similar function in the public sphere — young people are the “research and development” division of politics. Great innovations do not come out of the garages of old folks homes — but from youth.
  • D’Atra Jackson, the national BYP100 chair, said earlier this week, “We don’t have a healthcare system, we have a capitalist system that provides a process of deciding who has access to healthcare and who does not. We don’t have a justice system, we have a capitalist system that provides a process for deciding who gets punished, and who does not. We don’t have an education system, we have a capitalist system that provides a process of deciding who has access to quality education and who does not.” Kids know that. They see that. They experience that. They can’t unknow it, unsee it. We have to put them in a position where they feel empowered to act to bring about their visions of a just world, and develop their talents.

Day 8: Thursday, July 15

Youth Activism

Tougaloo professor and historian Dr. Daphne Chamberlain talked about the role of children and young people in the Mississippi movement. Her presentation was “Placing Mississippi in the National Narrative: the 1960s Black Freedom Struggle and Youth Activism in the ‘Closed Society’”

The first time I found out what happened to fourteen-year-old Emmett Till I was ten years old. I looked like him. It happened in the state of Mississippi where I lived. And he was not much older than me. I begged my parents, ‘please let’s leave here.’ Those began some of the most crucial conversations around race, and around history, and I developed a passion to want to learn more.

It pushes our children to think critically and analytically about these moments in our history, she shared. She discussed textbook limits, historical amnesia, and how to make sure children can see themselves as civic actors in the history that they’re learning. The questions she asks her students are at min. 6-8. Children are missing from the national narrative of the civil rights movement, she related. We have to put them back in. She also talked about what happened to the children after the movement (min. 39-42).

Children’s Books

Deborah introduced a critique of children’s books on the Civil Rights Movement. Participants met in small groups to discuss the picture book they had received.

Abolition and Education

During lunch, there was the option for teachers to meet to discuss “abolition and education.” Julian Shafer, a teacher from Connecticut, facilitated the discussion. In the session, teachers discussed the necessity for creating space for the trauma that many have experienced in the last year as they protested, as well as providing space and material for students to imagine a non-punitive system of justice. Julian spoke to his experience of holding space for these conversations within the classroom and a lesson he taught on prison abolition, using various chapters from Are Prisons Obsolete by Angela Y. Davis.

Freedom Schools and sncc

Participants watched film Freedom Song. Inspired by accounts of people on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, Freedom Song chronicles a family nearly torn apart by the impact of the movement on a small Mississippi town. It places heroism squarely on the shoulders of the local people, the unsung volunteers who risked their lives to make change at the grassroots level. The film is effective for young people since the story is seen through the eyes of a grade-school student.

Following the film, the group talked about their feelings, reactions, and how they might use it in our classrooms.

I LOVED the interplay and connection between Dr. Chamberlain’s talk and the film that we watched. Both were really about the youth driven nature of the movement and that is so powerful for our students!

Really loved Dr. Chamberlain’s lecture this morning, I got a lot of great info and sources for my lesson plan, which is focused on youth activism in the civil rights movement and today. Definitely will be using her freedom word bubble brainstorm with the students in the fall. I also really loved getting to talk with other educators during Tashia’s lunch meeting today on teaching abolition – so many incredible educators using restorative practices, it gave me a lot of great ideas.

I enjoyed Dr. Chamberlain today, especially what she said about freedom and the perspectives about/related to freedom. The film though…OMG! It was beautifully balanced — I’m so glad y’all played it. I am so grateful, moved and touched. This is likely the best resources I can use in my classroom, without making my students feel depleted and vilified.

I enjoyed watching the film: Freedom Song. I felt all the emotions while watching the film. It really put everything into perspective for me. I appreciated the progression of lessons from yesterday with the morning session and then the SNCC mixer. I cannot believe how much I am learning. I also enjoyed the discussing the children’s book breakout rooms.

The movie was great, I also really enjoyed the lunch discussion on abolition! As far as what I’ll carry forward, I’m probably going to borrow Zach’s idea of using clips from the movie alongside the SNCC lesson we did yesterday.

Great film, great discussions! I had a bunch of new lesson ideas today. As always, Ms. Richardson’s anecdotes added so much color and context to my understanding of our topics. So grateful for her expertise!

Day 9: Friday, July 16

Lesson Development

In the morning, participants worked on their lesson, individually and in small groups.

During lunch, there was an optional breakout room to talk about the anti-CRT laws around the nation. One participant noted, “It feels like a witch hunt.”


Dr. Charles Payne, a professor at Rutgers University Newark and author of I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: the Organizing Tradition in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, gave a presentation about,

    • What led up to Freedom Summer (4 min–22 min)
    • Freedom Summer (22 min – 38 min) and its aftermath (38min – 52min)
    • The unresolved dilemmas about community and democracy highlighted by Freedom Summer (52 min – on)
    • Freedom schools in Newark in the 2020s, (1:20 min on) Mississippi in 1964
    • How to deal with neo-Confederate (anti-CRT) laws today (47 min – 52 min)

Week Three: July 19-23, 1966-1980

Day 10: Monday, July 19

Judy Richardson introduced the speaker for the day, Charlie Cobb — a journalist, author, professor and SNCC veteran.

What I most admire about Charlie is that he has retained the same core principles and humanity that he had in SNCC. Charlie is, above all else, a man of deep integrity . . .  Charlie Cobb represents the best of us.

Georgia high school teacher Mansur Buffins interviewed Mr. Cobb. Below is their conversation.

When he arrived in Mississippi as a SNCC volunteer, Cobb was struck by the number of new brick and mortar schools built for Black children. Yet, as he began working within them, he found that many of the classrooms were all but empty, lacking educational support and materials that the white schools had.  These hollow buildings allowed for the preservation of the “separate but equal” illusion in segregated Mississippi.  This was the denial of access to education for Black youth in attempts to maintain power through intentionally keeping youth ignorant.

. . .  and this still happens all over the country,” said Cobb. 

Mansur Buffins asked, “How can teachers and organizers bring the concept of freedom schools into modern day?”

Though the mid 19th century was a different day, Cobb reiterated the necessity of uplifting the community and allowing autonomy of community members to name the things that they need from their education.  The conversation carried itself upon the necessity of advocacy for change both within the classroom and nationwide. 

“There is a tradition of educating children both inside and outside of the traditional public school structure,” said Cobb. 

While we find ourselves dismantling the bureaucracy in public education, it is necessary that a space is cultivated for youth to learn not only within educational institutions, but in the communities that they belong to. This work takes time. It takes intention, and it takes community members as well as educators engaging in work to dismantle these systems. 

“If I’ve learned anything from the Black freedom struggle in the South, it’s that it’s slow! You put one foot in front of the other and you step forward.” 


Later that afternoon, Ursula led the group in a lesson for high school students on McCarthyism.

Day 11: Tuesday, July 20

Guest presenter Hasan Kwame Jeffries, author of Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt, introduced the story of “Bloody Lowndes” in Alabama, where the black panther logo was first used. He described the formation of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization where Black voters sought to develop a political system — and party — that would represent their economic and political interests.

Jeffries summarized the necessity of teaching the multiplicity of the Civil Rights Movement and the power of local movements:

Think about the movement as a constellation. Clear night, look up at the stars and the sky is covered with stars. Each one of the stars is a different Black community. Stars are burning at different intensities. Some are brighter than others. They’re always there. We just can’t always see it (clouded by pollution). The stars are always there! Communities are organizing at different intensities.

Reflections on the day

Here are some of the end of day reflections from participants.

Hasan Jeffries was incredible, I’ve been following his work for awhile and I never thought that I’d get a chance to hear him speak about all of these big issues and get to hear the great discussion questions from the other educators. The movie was really powerful as well, something I knew nothing about going into today.

The entire day was fire! Both of Dr. Jeffries’ presentations were excellent and totally engaging. The LCFP will most definitely be carried forward in my teaching.
Hasan Jeffries was an incredible guest to have, his constellation analogy, storytelling about Lowndes County and general thoughts on how to teach hard history was really moving. I’m grateful for all the time we had with him today! I’m also an avid Teaching Hard History podcast listener so I was fanboying a bit today too :).

The Orangeburg Massacre film and the following discussion with Judy and Dr. Jefferies was fire today. I had heard about the Massacre because I do a TDIH each day with my class during morning meeting. So I had read the Zinn Ed piece about it to teach my students, but to really learn what happened was truly devastating for me. And I thought about what Dr. Jefferies said later about it being necessary to teach this history even in Elementary. I think so many of my colleagues are concerned about whitewashing the truth that it makes me feel alone in this struggle. The chat also fired me up today. I love learning from the wealth of knowledge in the room. Also Ms. Judy is a new forever hero of mine.

Whewwwww! I learned so much Dr. Jeffries today. I haven’t really been teaching Lowndes beyond a few bullet points, and he lit the fire under me to fix that ASAP. I really appreciated how Dr. Jeffries set up his talk by addressing why there had been so little activism in Lowndes and then traced the narrative all the way through to Lowndes today. That is so critical for helping students (and me!) think through why change happens (or doesn’t). And it was really helpful how he laid out ways to think about Lowndes as a success. I also appreciated how clearly Lowndes illuminates what was meant by “Black Power.” And thank you to Dr. Jeffries, too, for coming back for an extra Q&A!

DR. HASAN JEFFRIES!!!!!! ALL OF THAT ALL OF THAT!!! I took about four pages of notes today and got about 10 new lessons to start writing. I’ve specifically been thinking a lot about re-evaluating the ways that I build relationships with the Parkers Professor families so we can continue on a strong path to racial and social justice. And that “what you learn late, teach early.” And I have been thinking about how I am going to continually DJ the project based learning into this learning experience. And I am thinking about ways to reimagine our local and states Instructional and Professional Development department with a lot of the learning we have had over these few weeks. My mind is really moving.

Everything flowed so beautifully as usual. I am always impressed by how well the topics, speakers, activities, and discussions flow together perfectly and also connect to previous and future days. Just SO well thought out, moderated, and orchestrated!

Day 12: Wednesday July 21

The day began with the freedom song, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, Hold On.

The guest presenters were SNCC veterans Courtland Cox and Jennifer Lawson who had helped to organize the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LFCO). Working in the fields alongside Black folk, sitting in church, and meeting them on their porches, SNCC activists provided support for local community members to take control of their right to vote.

Through photos and first person stories, they shared how (at 19- and 20-years-old) they worked with the local community to challenge the tactics that to date had allowed only four of 5,000 eligible African Americans to register to vote. They spoke of this “coming to age” in the midst of a racial war in the South, admitting to fear and to valiance as they worked alongside community members in Mississippi to advocate for the liberation of Black people and their right to vote. Working as journalists, activists, and cartoonists during the formation of the LCFO, Cox and Lawson iterated the necessity of making education accessible around political organization.  

We focused on “how do I get these people to believe in themselves . . . and participate in a short period of time,” said Cox. “People’s lives depended on what you did.” (58 min.)


Day 13: Thursday, July 22

Historian Emilye Crosby gave a talk with images titled “Looking the Devil in the Eye: The Claiborne County Story of Race Relations in Civil Rights Movement History and Memory (A Case Study of Claiborne County, Mississippi) based on her book, A Little Taste of Freedom: The Black Freedom Struggle in Claiborne County, Mississippi. She shared oral histories of whites and African Americans in Claiborne County, which show that “while they share a past, they do not share an understanding of the past.” 

Crosby distributed primary documents for teachers to examine, allowing them to see firsthand how the memories of African Americans and whites of black activism in Claiborne County differed about conditions in the County and whether the activism was locally initiated or “outside agitators.”

Judy and Emilye then delivered a joint presentation about women and gender roles in SNCC based on research on the topic by Crosby and first hand experiences by Richardson.

Later in the day, participants discussed how to introduce the issue of contested memories to students.


There was an introduction, via film trailers, to more excellent documentaries: Freedom Never Dies – The Legacy of Harry T. Moore, Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek, Freedom on My Mind, and Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart: Lorraine Hansberry

Day 14: Friday, July 23

Ashley Farmer, award-winning historian at University of Texas and author of Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era, shared a talk on Black women in the Black Power movement in conversation with Peta Lindsay for the last day of the summer institute.

Gallery Walk

After lunch, there was a Gallery Walk to see, comment on, and celebrate the brilliance of the lessons everyone had worked on during the Institute.  

In a closing circle, people shared one or two ideas of what they will take back to their communities from the summer institute.

You all have been changing the space we live in, clearing so much space for one another and your future students,” Wesley reflected. “James Baldwin once wrote, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, that ‘each generation helps to doom, or helps liberate, the coming one.’ He marveled at how each of us, however unconsciously, ‘can’t but be the vehicle of the history that has produced us.’ And then we can ‘perish in this vehicle, children, or we can move on up the road.’ We are so grateful each time you each teach the grassroots movement, lighting young people’s imaginations for how they too might move us on up the road, waking the earth.” 

Judy shared her hope that the time together gave people a sense of what young people can do, and of what is possible for our students.

“Thank you all, so so much, for your energy, your stories, your creative brilliant ideas, and your passion,” she closed. “We’re going to sing ‘This Little Light of Mine,’ and then celebrate!”