Social Change and Civil Rights in Modern America

If you live in a major city like Los Angeles, New York, or as I do in Detroit, you are witness to outcries and protests in response to the recent grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York. Disturbing images of angry protesters facing off with police officers, too often along racial lines, affect us all in different but profound ways. Young people, now so connected to the world, are inundated with news stories, videos, and commentary – often politically biased – on social media and the web. The events cry out to be put in historical context, and our job as adults is do so, and thus help younger generations better understand our seemingly chaotic times.

Dozens of protesters in solidarity with Mike Brown march in Chicago., chanting anti-police and anti-corporate slogans, during a Black Friday demonstration that started at Water Tower then proceeded northwest to the North Ave. shopping stores near Clybourn, Friday Nov. 28, 2014. Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune/TNS

In the spirit of the civil rights movement, the high school-aged daughter of one of my friends recently said “I feel that people are standing up for the rights that they deserve and legally have, but that have been infringed upon. I feel that all voices should be heard, and all races respected, and to me, these protests will help us get to that point.”

Her statement reflects values going back to the founding fathers and continuing through Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King, Jr. It reveals a wonderful opportunity to start a conversation with our young people that will encourage them to learn about the constant, necessary, and ongoing struggle for liberty, freedom, and individual rights that our country was founded upon.

Gale has many resources that can support this discussion, giving historical context to the events, and helping to create understanding and dispel fear.

Greenhaven and Lucent Books offer many titles focusing on African American history. Lucent Library of Black History places important African-American topics in context. Titles include:

If your school subscribes to Questia School, you have access to many books featuring protest songs, including:

  • American Folksongs of Protest
  • Langston Hughes, Folk Dramatist in the Protest Tradition
  • Black Identity and the Black Protest in the Antebellum North
Protesters in Minneapolis shut down the Northbound lanes of I-35W Dec. 4th, 2014, a day after the Grand Jury declined to Indict NYPD Officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS
Protesters in Minneapolis shut down the Northbound lanes of I-35W Dec. 4th, 2014, a day after the Grand Jury declined to Indict NYPD Officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS

Several Archives Unbound collections provide historical materials related to civil rights and social activism.  A selection is listed below. Many more historical archives can be found under the “African American History” category in the Archives Unbound product.

  • Grassroots Civil Rights & Social Activism: FBI Files on Benjamin J. Davis, Jr
  • Liberation Movement in Africa and African America
  • Federal Surveillance of African Americans, 1920-1984
  • We Were Prepared for the Possibility of Death: Freedom Riders in the South, 1961
  • Black Nationalism and the Revolutionary Action Movement 
  • Fight for Racial Justice and the Civil Rights Congress
  • Ralph J. Bunche Oral Histories Collection on the Civil Rights Movement

By understanding the lessons and legacy of our past we can build a better future, and do so with unity, peace, and understanding.

 

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Kay Stefanski

Kay Stefanski
Marketing Director

Kay loves to travel and is passionate about The Arts. She holds an English literature degree and an M.F.A. in textiles. Currently she is an urban pioneer with her husband living in downtown Detroit.

 

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