Film Resources for the Classroom
Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks
In the film, boycott participants and witnesses are joined by their sons, daughters, grandchildren, cousins, nieces, and nephews to tell the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The film begins with the traditional focus on Rosa Parks, but does provide very useful footage on the Bus Boycott overall. Free for teachers. 40 min., 2002, Teaching Tolerance. ES-HS
A PBS American Experience documentary, this film traces the story of Emmett Till’s murder and the dramatic trial that followed. Using archival footage it gives students a sense of being right there. The website has excellent teaching resources includinglesson plans in History, Civics, Geography and Economics.
Returning to the town where James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were murdered, this film addresses issues of justice and reconciliation 40 years later. Interviewing the victim’s families, current town residents, and the one man who was convicted for the crime in 2005, the film makers look at how racism has and has not changed in this small town. They ask questions about how justice can really be done for these three men, but also for the hundreds of un-named people who died during the Civil Rights Movement. For more information and interviews with both the film makers and some of those interviewed see thisDemocracy Now feature.
Out of the Past
A documentary about the history of gay rights movements in America. Told through the eyes of Kelli Peterson, a 17-year-old high school student in Salt Lake City, Utah, the film explores Kelli’s history-making experience of forming a Gay Straight Alliance in her public school. It also profiles past movements and their activists, providing a comprehensive account of the gay and lesbian struggles throughout America’s history. For more information about the film visit PBS. 70 min., 1997.
Resurgence: The Movement for Equality vs. the Ku Klux Klan
Focusing on a bitter two-year strike led by black women against a chicken processing plant in Laurel, Mississippi, Resurgence contrasts two sides of a political battle in the United States: efforts of union and civil rights activists to achieve social and economic reform, and an upsurge of activity in the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. 54 min., 1981, First Run/Icarus.
The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow
A landmark four-part series, The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow explores segregation from the end of the civil war to the dawn of the modern Civil Rights Movement. Lynchings and beatings by night. Demeaning treatment by day. And a life of crushing subordination for Southern blacks that was maintained by white supremacist laws and customs known as “Jim Crow.” It was a brutal and oppressive era in American history, but during this time, large numbers of African Americans and a corps of influential black leaders bravely fought against the status quo, amazingly acquiring for African Americans the opportunities of education, business, land ownership, and a true spirit of community. Informational website and ordering information at PBS.org. 4 cassettes 56 min. each, California Newsreel, 2002.
The Road to Brown: The Man Who Killed Jim Crow
The Road to Brown is the story of segregation and the brilliant legal assault on it, which launched the Civil Rights Movement. It is also a moving and long overdue tribute to a visionary but little known black lawyer, Charles Hamilton Houston, “the man who killed Jim Crow.” Moving from slavery to civil rights, The Road to Brown provides a concise history of how African Americans finally won full legal equality under the Constitution from the precedent-setting cases Houston waged during the 1930s, to the final posthumous 1954 triumph of Brown v. Board of Education. It depicts the interplay between race, law, and history. The example of Charles Houston’s determination will inspire today’s students to take America further down the long road to social justice. 56 min., 1990, California Newsreel.
Road to Freedom: The Vernon Johns Story
James Earl Jones stars in this fact-based feature as Vernon Johns, the preacher whose words gave birth to the Civil Rights Movement. When racial violence leads to the rape of a young woman and the brutal murder of a fellow church deacon, Johns urges his congregation to stand up for their rights. “When you see a good fight, join it!” Johns proclaims in this powerful look at the beginnings of the most dramatic revolution of the 20th century. 100 min., 1994. ES,MS,HS
Disney presents this live-action film starring Kevin Pollak and Penelope Ann Miller. When six-year-old Ruby is chosen to be the first African American to integrate her local New Orleans elementary school in the 1960s, she is subjected to the true ugliness of racism for the first time. With the guidance and love of her mother, Ruby struggles for a better education. Adapted from the book by Robert Coles, child psychiatrist, Harvard professor, and Pulitzer Prize winning author. He was witness to Ruby’s struggles and is played by Kevin Pollack. 90 min., 1997, Buena Vista. ES-HS
Salt of the Earth
Social drama detailing the struggle for equality of Mexican-American miners and their wives. The men must fight for the rights enjoyed by their White co-workers, the women for equality with the men. Based on an actual strike in Silver City, New Mexico in 1951-52. Most of the roles are played by strikers and their families. The film was financed by a miner’s union. Many of the film professionals involved with the direction, writing, and acting were prevented from working in Hollywood at the time due to the McCarthy hearing accusations against them. Visit thefilm website. 94 min.
Everyone knows about the Kent State shootings of 1970 but few know that a similar massacre happened at South Carolina State College in 1968. This film takes an in depth look at this tragic event in the Civil Rights Movement and finally sheds some light and some justice on a crucial moment in our nation’s history. Using archival footage and interviews with people from all sides, Scarred Justice is a must see for anyone interested in a complete history of the 1960s and 70s. As a classroom resource it can not only portray the racial injustice of the times, it can also spark discussion about why we don’t even know it happened today.
Separate But Equal
Sidney Poitier and Burt Lancaster star in this poignant film depicting the Civil Rights Movement and the Supreme Court decision against segregation. Poitier plays Thurgood Marshall, an NAACP lawyer who later became the first black member of the Supreme Court. See how he took one black community’s plea for a single school bus to the highest court in the nation.
186 min., 1991. Republic. ES-HS
One of the best films on the Civil Rights Movement, this award-winning documentary reveals the movement in Mississippi in the 1950s and 60s from the point of view of the courageous women who lived it- and emerged as its grassroots leaders. The film is full of riveting historical footage and original interviews with Fannie Lou Hammer, Annie Devine, Unita Blackwell, Mae Bertha Carter, Victoria Gray Adams and more. Voter registration, the fight for equal education, desegregation, and of course the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s challenge at the Convention are featured. Order from Teaching for Change.
61 min., 2002, DVD
In 1937, after seeing a photo depicting the lynching of a black man in the South, Bronx-born high school teacher Abel Meeropol wrote a poem entitled “Strange Fruit” that begins with the words: “Southern trees bear a strange fruit. Blood on the leaves and blood at the root.” He set the poem to music and a few years later Billy Holiday recorded it in a legendary heartbreaking performance. The film intertwines jazz genealogy, biography, performance footage, and the history of lynching. 57 min., 2002, California Newsreel.
They Closed Our Schools
A lesser known but very important event in the Civil Rights Movement, this film tells the story of Molton High, a school in Prince Georges County VA where Barbara Johns, a sixteen year old student and a group of leaders led a two week long boycott demanding equal schools for black children under the separate but equal doctrine. Encouraged by the NAACP to demand integration, this 1951 event was a precursor to Brown vs. Board of Education. The result was the closing of all schools in the county for over a year. This film highlights the stories of the student leaders as well as those who were effected by the school closings, many of whom never completed high school education.
Meeting for the first time on an island that served as a former slave port, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and John Hope Franklin discuss issues of personal struggle, racial justice and peace. The conversation is enriched by the presence of and contribution of an international, inter-racial group of 21 high school students. Personal, emotional, and candid, it starts all present and all those who watch it on a journey to reconciliation. Teacher resources are available on the movie’s website.
Understanding the Civil Rights Movement
This informative program explores the history behind the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, featuring archival footage and photographs. Details the events leading up to the Civil Rights Movement of 1960s, including important legislation passed after the American Civil War, the Jim Crow laws, and more. The program highlights important protests and demonstrations of the Civil Rights Movement, and illustrates how Black Americans will able to overcome the constraints of a segregated society. 46 min., 2000, Educational Video Link. ES/MS
The Untold Story of Emmet Louis Till
People who knew Mamie Till Mobley call her the mother of the Civil Rights Movement, yet she died in relative obscurity in Chicago in the spring of 2003. The brutal murder of her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, in Mississippi in August 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman did as much as anything to spark the fight for civil rights. The crime touched the nerves of sex and race. It was straight-up dynamite. Under the threat of death, two sharecroppers—Willie Reed and Moses Wright, Emmett’s great uncle—gave testimony that should have put away Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam. Instead, an all-white jury acquitted the two men, who practically confessed to the murder in a Look magazine article four months later. In a place where a black man could die for eyeballing a white person, think of the guts it took to walk into a hostile courtroom and testify against two white men. Then there was Emmett’s mother, whose gracious grit made her son’s murder an international story. 2002, Keith Beauchamp.
Viva La Causa focuses on one of the seminal events in the march for human rights – the grape strike and boycott led by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta in the 1960s. Viva la Causa will show how thousands of people from across the nation joined in a struggle for justice for the most exploited people in our country – the workers who put food on our tables.
The kit includes:39-minute film on DVD and a teacher’s guide with standards-based lesson plans
We Shall Overcome
An inspiring film that follows the development of the song that became the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. It combines archival footage with music and interviews, and invites students to feel themselves part of the “We” in “We Shall Overcome.” A good resource for teaching the Civil Rights Movement and the role of song in social change. 58 min., 1989, California Newsreel.
This musical chronicles the life of Henry Reyna, leader of a group of Mexican Americans who are set to do time in San Quentin for their part in the Zoot Suit Riots in 1942 Los Angeles. 104 min., Luis Valdez, HS.
Educational videos on African-American life and history, race relations and diversity training, African cinema, labor studies, workplace issues, campus life, and media and society.
First Run/Icarus Films
Distributor of progressive documentary films and videos.
Berkeley Media Resource Center
This is the audio-visual collection at the UC Berkley Library. Provides lists of available films and footage, and accompanying resources.
A source for grassroots organizations, libraries, and other nonprofits on the best of independent films and other resources on the subjects of race and diversity.
Women Make Movies
A multicultural, multiracial, non-profit media arts organization that facilitates the production, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of independent films and videotapes by and abo