Teaching About Nonviolence and Self-Defense
To engage teachers and/or students in a discussion of the relationship between non-violence and self-defense, we recommend the article Guns and the Southern Freedom Struggle: What’s Missing When We Teach About Nonviolence by Charles Cobb Jr. and a short video clip of Cobb talking about the topic from The Choices Program at Brown University.
In the article and the video clip, Cobb talks about the role that self-defense and nonviolence played in the movement. The Civil Rights Movement is often taught as people who were engaged in nonviolence as a way of life. Cobb explains that for many, nonviolence was a tactic rather than a way of life. People in communities across the south were prepared to use lethal force when necessary to protect themselves. Here is an excerpt from the article:
The stories that emerge from the Southern Freedom Movement introduce a set of extraordinary heroes and heroines who need to be better known: small farmers, sharecroppers, day laborers, craftsmen, entrepreneurs, and church leaders. Many of these men and women, chafing under white supremacist rule, chose to fight back. They often traveled armed and kept their homes organized for self-defense as well.
To facilitate group discussion of the article, we have used the Save the Last Word for ME protocol from the National School Reform Faculty/Harmony Education Center. It gives each participant an equal time when sharing their thoughts about a text.
Here is a summary of the instructions for the protocol:
Separate the class into groups of four.
Participants read through the text, highlighting the most significant idea.
Once everyone has finished reading, a volunteer in each group will read out the part that was the most meaningful to them.
The other three participants have one minute to respond to what has been said. Once each person has spoken, the initial volunteer has three minutes to say why they chose that passage.
The same process is followed until each person has been able to have the last word.
This protocol allows for a rich discussion of the article. It was used in a summer institute in Mississippi (see photo below) and the teachers rated it as being useful for discussing a controversial and little known aspect of history.
Location: National, Mississippi
Grade Level: 7-9, 10-12, Adult
Time Period: 1925-19491950 -1974