Fighting Segregation: Then and Now

  • FRONTLINE: The Return of School Segregation in Eight Charts

    Changing demographics and controversial court rulings have prompted a return to levels of school integration last seen during the Johnson administration, as represented in this series of eight charts from the FRONTLINE: Separate and Unequal website. The charts convey the impacts of the declining role of the courts in enforcing integration plans. Among other findings, the charts show that gains achieved by black students in the South are significantly declining, that segregation tends to rise without court oversight, that segregation is as much about poverty as it is about race, and that attending an integrated school can lead to a healthier financial future. This resource is part of the FRONTLINE Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
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    FRONTLINE: Separate and Unequal | School Integration

    A group of citizens in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, considers forming a new school district, inspiring a debate over the effectiveness and importance of school integration, in this video from FRONTLINE: Separate and Unequal. While many parents prefer sending their children to schools with diverse races and cultures, even if it involves busing them to public schools outside of their neighborhoods, others believe that integrated schools aren’t providing their children with a good education. As one group of dissatisfied, mostly middle-class parents pledges to form a new, less racially, and economically diverse school district, critics of their plan fear the potential impact of such action. This resource is part of the FRONTLINE Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Still Segregated | The March @ 50 - Episode 3

    Shukree meets with Gary Orfield, co-founder and director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. They explore how American classrooms have re-segregated along ethnic and, often, socio-economic lines.

    Shukree explores this backward momentum with a trip to St. Louis to examine a controversial Missouri Supreme Court decision.

    Grades: 6-9, 11-12
  • Civil Rights in the Classroom | Georgia Stories

    Art like "Freedom School" shows how far we have come, provoking the viewer with its images and symbols to ask questions about that time in history. Mabel Cochran describes the school she attended and how students made do with battered and worn textbooks handed down from white schools. She states that white people fought school integration because they knew education would change a person's world. "If you can't read or write, think or figure, than someone else will control you. Education will free you," she said. Today's schools are very different with many races and nationalities represented in classrooms.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Boston Desegregation

    This news segment from 1975 reviews the events of the first year of Boston's controversial school desegregation plan. Because of geographic barriers between black and white communities, a federal court instituted and enforced busing to desegregate the city's schools. The plan was greeted with white resistance, racial violence, and the boycotting of several schools.
    Grades: 6-12
  • Freedom Riders: Freedom Riders Challenge Segregation

    In this video segment adapted from American Experience: "Freedom Riders," watch newsreel footage, archival photos, and interviews to explore how Freedom Riders made efforts to end the segregation of African Americans in the Southern United States. Even after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that the segregation of black and white riders on interstate buses was unconstitutional, Southern states continued to enforce local segregation laws. In response, members of both races decided to force the issue and challenge illegal segregation by riding together in buses headed to the South. This resource is part of the American Experience: "Freedom Riders" collection. 

    Grades: 6-12
  • James Farmer and the Freedom Rides

    This interview with civil rights leader James Farmer recalls the Freedom Rides of 1961, when an interracial group rode two buses through the South to test enforcement of recent Supreme Court rulings that banned segregated seating on interstate buses and trains. More than 300 Freedom Riders were arrested and jailed before the Interstate Commerce Commission enforced the rulings.

    Grades: 6-12
  • 1964: "The Importance of the Civil Rights Act"

    Learn about the impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, often considered one of the most influential laws in U.S. history, in this video from American Experience: “1964.” It not only ended segregation in public places, it altered the “southern way of life” and created a new America. Although Lyndon Johnson celebrated its passage, he knew that it would bring sweeping and sometimes challenging changes to society. This resource is part of the American Experience Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • 1964: "Passage of the Civil Rights Act"

    Explore how President Johnson used his powers of persuasion and political skills to convince legislators to vote for the controversial Civil Rights Act of 1964, in this video from American Experience: “1964.” Despite resistance from a solid block of senators from the Deep South, who had successfully used the filibuster to prevent civil rights laws from being passed for nearly 100 years, Johnson was able to find enough votes to pass a law that would end segregation in public places. This resource is part of the American Experience Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Melba Pattillo Beals

    This interview with Melba Pattillo Beals recalls her experience as one of the nine African American students who attended Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. Against a backdrop of white resistance and racial violence, Beals and eight other students desegregated Central High School under armed federal escort. Beals was frequently assaulted and harassed by whites while a student at Central High. This resource is part of the Civil Rights collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • LaVon Bracy Fights for Her Rights | Memories of the March

    Listen to the amazing story of a freedom fighter who took the first brave step in integrating her school in the Jim Crow South. Activists such as LaVon Bracy helped end segregation by enrolling in racially seperated schools.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Birmingham in Early 1963 | The March

    Examine the actions of the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, in this clip from The March. The nonviolent Birmingham protests leading up to the March on Washington were orchestrated by Martin Luther King Jr. in direct opposition to the local authorities often extreme anti-protest tactics. Despite these efforts by staunch segregationists like Birmingham Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene “Bull” Connor, the protests were able to continue due to the timely aid of young civil rights activists.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Segregation Ordinances: Birmingham, AL

    In the years immediately following the Civil War, the Supreme Court passed federal legislation granting African Americans citizenship rights. But by 1910, all of the former Confederate states had adopted segregation laws of their own, designed to prevent African Americans from participating fully in American society. In this primary source document from 1951, the city of Birmingham, Alabama spells out its segregation ordinances, the laws requiring the separation of the races in restaurants, public performance spaces, public transportation, and other social venues.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Segregated Schooling in South Carolina

    In 1950, a group of black parents in Clarendon County, South Carolina filed a lawsuit to equalize education for their children. Encouraged by the NAACP and a local minister, the Reverend Joseph Armstrong De Laine, the case became part of the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling. In this video segment, the Reverend De Laine's children, Joseph De Laine Jr. and Ophelia De Laine Gona, recall conditions in their segregated school.
    Grades: 3-12
  • Rosa Parks

    This interview with civil rights activist Rosa Parks describes her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. On December 1, 1955, Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her refusal sparked a massive bus boycott that lasted 381 days, ending on December 21, 1956, after the United States Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation on city buses was unconstitutional.

    Grades: 3-12
  • The Murder of Emmett Till- Jim Crow in Mississippi

    An excerpt from a 1960 film by the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, an anti-civil rights agency. "Message from Mississippi" presents segregation as Mississippi's positive solution to the "preponderance of colored citizens." Video from, American Experience: "The Murder of Emmett Till."

    Grades: 6-13+
  • Documenting Brown 5: Brown v. Board of Education, 1954

    In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools were unconstitutional, challenging centuries of legalized segregation in America. It was considered the most important civil rights case of the twentieth century. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the Court's unanimous opinion.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Simple Justice 1: A Handful of Lawyers

    On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools were unconstitutional. What happened that day reflected years of work, dating back to the law school days of the NAACP attorneys and the professor who trained them, Charles Houston. This video segment, from American Experience: "Simple Justice", looks at Houston's role in preparing the NAACP attorneys and the strategies they would use later in court to attack segregation.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Simple Justice 5: Marshall's Closing Statement

    In this video segment, NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall summarizes the reasons why the Supreme Court should outlaw segregation in public education. Brown v. Board of Education would become the most important civil rights case of the twentieth century.

    Grades: 6-12