Film Resources for the Classroom
In one remarkable day, four college freshmen changed the course of American history. February One tells the inspiring story surrounding the 1960 Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins that revitalized the Civil Rights Movement and set an example of student militancy for the coming decade. This moving film shows how a small group of determined individuals can galvanize a mass movement and focus a nation’s attention on injustice.
Finally Got the News
Offers black workers’ views of working conditions inside Detroit’s auto factories, focusing on the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and their efforts to build an independent black labor organization. Beginning with a historical montage, from the early days of slavery through the subsequent growth and organization of the working class, the film examines the crucial role of the black worker in the American economy. 55 min., 1970, First Run/Icarus. HS
Four Little Girls
Spike Lee takes an up-close look at a bombing that killed four young girls and considers the impact this act had on the Civil Rights Movement. Features film footage, home photographs, comments, and interviews with family members, friends, and Movement activists. All or part of this film can be shown as a follow-up to students’ reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham. 102 min., 1997, HBO Studies. MS/HS
Free at Last Civil Rights Heroes Series
Emmet Till/Medgar Evers: Part 1
This program documents the stories of two of the Civil Rights Movement’s unsung heroes, individuals who were catalysts for the Movement’s progress and success. This segment presents the story of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black youth who was brutally beaten and shot in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. His murder and the subsequent murder trial brought national attention to the horrors of racism. The program also focuses on the dramatic story of Medgar Evers, a field secretary for the NAACP who was assassinated in June 1963 in the front of his home in Jackson, Mississippi. 45 min., 1999, School Library Journal. HS
The Birmingham Four/Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman: Part 2
Documents the stories of several of the Civil Rights Movement’s martyrs, individuals who were catalysts for the Movement’s progress and success. The program presents the dramatic story of the four young girls who were killed when a bomb exploded during their Sunday school classes in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15, 1963. The program also looks at the details of the murders of civil rights activists Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman and of the subsequent federal trial of their killers. 45 min., 1999, School Library Journal. HS
Viola Liuzzo/Rev. James Reeb/Jimmy Lee Jackson/Vernon Dahmer: Part 3
The story of Jimmy Lee Jackson, whose death at the hands of an Alabama State trooper spurred the march from Selma to Montgomery. The program also looks at the details surrounding the murder of Rev. James Reeb, a Unitarian minister from Boston who traveled to Selma, Alabama, in March of 1965 for a protest march. His death at the hands of four locals received national attention from Washington’s political establishment. The program also documents the story of Viola Luizzo, a Michigan housewife who was killed by Ku Klux Klan members while driving home from the Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The final segment of the program looks at the murder of Vernon Dahmer, president of a local chapter of the NAACP, who died in 1966 after the Ku Klux Klan set fire to his home. The ringleader of the attack was convicted of the crime 30 years later and sentenced to life in prison. 45 min., 1999, School Library Journal. HS
Freedom on My Mind
Nominated for an Academy Award, winner of both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians awards for best documentary, this landmark film tells the story of the Mississippi freedom movement in the early 1960s when a handful of young activists changed history. We witness the growing confidence and courage of poverty-stricken sharecroppers, maids, and day laborers as they confront jail, beatings, and even murder for the simple right to vote. One who joined the campaign, Endesha Ida Mae Holland, a former prostitute, today a Ph.D., recalls, “White people looked me in the face for the first time. I couldn’t turn back.” 110 min., 1994, California Newsreel.
Recently released this documentary created as a part of American Experience depicts the Freedom Ride initiated by CORE and continued by SNCC that desegregated interstate buses. Through interviews and archival film footage, this film highlights a non-violent action in the movement in which activists experienced extreme violence from both the government and local citizens. For interviews with the film makers and some of those interviewed in the film watch this Democracy Now spotlight.
Danny Glover, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Vondie Curtis Hall, and Loretta Devine star in this dramatic account about the impact the Civil Rights Movement had on a small Mississippi town in 1961. The program presents the story of an African-American teenager (Shannon) who joins a grassroots student crusade to desegregate his hometown of Quinlan, Mississippi, even though his involvement with the group threatens his relationship with his father (Glover). 117 min., 2000. MS/HS
Highlighting the turbulent 1960s, this film adds to our understanding of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement by looking at its history from the perspective of Ella Baker, the dynamic activist affectionately known as the Fundi, a Swahili word for a person who passes skills from one generation to another. Fundi reveals the instrumental role that Ella Baker played in shaping the American Civil Rights Movement. Fundi fills a gap for those who know little of the history of the black struggle. It is a compelling portrait of an extraordinary woman who has devoted her life to struggle and to the people who take part in it.” —Harry Belafonte. Joanne Grant. 63 min., 1981, First Run/Icarus. HS
The Global Assembly Line
Inside look at the lives and working conditions of women and men employed in the “free trade zones” of North America and Asia, as U.S. companies close their factories searching the globe for a cheaper labor force. Provides a close-up of the people who make the clothes worn and electronic goods used in the U.S. 32 and 58 min. versions, New Day Films. HS
Hearts and Minds
Academy Award-winning, controversial documentary on the war in Vietnam, made while the war was still in progress. It is an agonizing appraisal of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and a must for every thinking American. The urgency and power of its message hits where it hurts, and its logic and fairness are impressive. 58 min., 1975, Norma McLain Stoop, Peter Davis. HS
A History of the Civil Rights Movement
Lynchings, “Separate but Equal” facilities, and Jim Crow laws provide the realistic backdrop for this insightful and moving visual history of the Civil Rights Movement. The most dramatic moments in the fight for equality are presented, from the historic case of Plessy vs. Ferguson to roles of many prominent African Americans like Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, A. Philip Randolph, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Interviews with Andrew Young, James Farmer, and other leading authorities, illuminate the enduring spirit that inspired bus boycotts, lunch counter sit-ins, freedom marches, and demonstrations. 1994, Schlessinger Media. ES,MS,HS
Ida B. Wells: Passion for Justice
Ida B. Wells, teacher, journalist, and life-long crusader against racism and sexism in America, is profiled in William Greaves’ documentary. Having herself been born into slavery in a small Mississippi town, Wells called upon people of conscience to bring moral, political, and economic pressures to bear against the evils she identified. 58 min., 1989, The American Experience Series.
Incident at Oglala
Documentary of the events at the Oglala Reservation which led to the shooting of two FBI agents and the imprisonment of Native-American activist Leonard Peltier. People on all sides of the issue are interviewed, allowing students to draw their own conclusion as to who was responsible. This video serves not only as a documentary on the Peltier case, but also provides a rare picture of conditions on Native-American reservations today. Narrated by Robert Redford. 93 min., 1992, Miramax Films. HS
In the autumn of 1965, sharecroppers Mae Bertha and Matthew Carter enrolled the youngest eight of their 13 children in the public schools of Drew, Mississippi. The Intolerable Burden places the Carter’s commitment to obtaining a quality education in context, by examining the conditions of segregation prior to 1965, the hardships the family faced during desegregation, and the massive white resistance, which led to resegregation. While the town of Drew is geographically isolated, the patterns of segregation, desegregation, and resegregation are increasingly apparent throughout public education systems in the United States. 56 min., 2003, First Run/Icarus Films. HS
Judy Baca: A World of Art Series
Judy Baca has dedicated her career to “giving voice” to the marginalized communities of California, empowering people through art. Her most well-known and ambitious project is the Great Wall of Los Angeles, begun in 1976 and still in progress. Nearly 400 inner-city youths, including members of rival gangs, have worked on the Great Wall project, which is more than a mile long. Baca believes that the collaborative process and problem solving involved in making art—murals in particular—can be used as the basis for social change. This program shows Baca at work on two public art projects: a mural for the student center at the University of Southern California and a “re-peopling” of Fort Ord, the now-deserted military base that was used as a staging area during the Vietnam War. 30 min., 1996, A World of Art Series.
The Killing Floor
Two African-American men migrate from the country to Chicago during World War I and land jobs in a packing house. They respond very differently to the challenges presented. The film deals forthrightly and effectively with racism in the workplace and the union. It ends with 1919 riots and their aftermath. 118 min., 1985, Columbia Tri-Star Home Video. HS
The Lemon Grove Incident: A Story of Early Desegregation
In 1931, children of Mexican descent were barred from entering the Lemon Grove Grammar School. Outraged that their children were being denied the same quality of education as Anglo children, the Mexican American community of this San Diego suburb sued the Lemon Grove School Board and won. (The judge determined that the children could not be segregated because they were Caucasian.) The story of the nation’s first successful legal challenge to school segregation is told using a combination of dramatized scenes, archival footage, and the recollections of witnesses. 60min., 1986, KPBS.
Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky: Personal Stories of the Fight for Racial Equality
This documentary, part of a multimedia project of the Kentucky Oral History Commission, features Kentuckians who took part in the Civil Rights Movement sharing their own stories of the struggle for justice and equal treatment. It is designed to give a feel for the times, to explain some of the issues that were particularly important in Kentucky, and to inspire young people by showing how people their age have made a difference in society. To facilitate classroom use, the hour-long video is divided into segments that may be viewed separately. Related biographies, a historical timeline, and lesson plans written by Kentucky teachers for various grade levels can be found here. 60 min., 2001, Kentucky Oral History Commission of the Kentucky Historical Society.
This video is a unique opportunity to reconsider the life and legacy of one of the legendary figures of modern African history. Like Malcolm X, Patrice Lumumba is remembered less for his lasting achievements than as an enduring symbol of the struggle for self-determination. Lumumba’s vision of a united Africa gained him powerful enemies: the Belgian authorities, who wanted a much more paternal role in their former colony’s affairs, and the CIA, who supported Lumumba’s former friend Joseph Mobutu in order to protect U.S. business interests in Congo’s vast resources and their upper hand in the Cold War power balance. The architects behind Lumumba’s brutal death in 1961, a mere nine months after becoming the country’s first Prime Minister, recently became known and are dramatized for the first time in “Lumumba.” Extensive background information and primary documents for classroom use available at Zeitgeist Films. 115 min., 2000, Zeitgeist Films. HS