RESPOND TO ISSUES YOU CARE ABOUT,
EXTEND YOUR DEFINITION OF CIVIC ACTION
IN THE DIGITAL AGE
WHat can we learn from social change efforts from the past?
Activity: Eyes on the Prize: Then and Now
[The following activity was adapted from Facing History and Ourselves’ curricula on “Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement: 1954-1985” in collaboration with Adam Strom. Facing History’s full curricula is available at: https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/eyes-prize-americas-civil-rights-movement]
In February 1960, the first major student-led mobilization sparked by the Civil Rights Movement and formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) unfolded in Nashville, Tennessee. While it had been six years since Brown vs. Board of Education (the Supreme Court case that desegregated schools), segregated businesses and social institutions persisted in Nashville and many other cities.
Ask your student to watch Eyes on the Prize: America's Civic Rights Movement: Ain't Scared of Your Jails (1960-61) (Part 3, Disc 2) featuring footage from the Nashville movement and interviews with key activists. Focus on the following excerpt: 2:00-22:50.
The documentary shows how youth strategized, organized, prepared for, and carried out the lunch counter sit-ins, marches, and other acts of civil disobedience as they pushed for recognition of their civil rights from the city’s mayor and desegregation across the city.
[Note to teachers: The video can be accessed through the Kanopy website. Access to the video requires a Kanopy account as well as a library card or university credentials. Please keep in mind that there is a one day waiting period from the time you request the video to the approval of your request.]
While they watch, ask students to use the two-column note method to record the following:
Left column Right column
What choices did the activists make? What choices did others make in response?
In small groups or pairs, ask the students to discuss the following questions:
What were the key choices made by the activists that led to their success - including the way they responded to pushback or resistance from non-supporters?
How might this story have played out differently in digital age? How could digital tools have been used to forward the goals of the campaign? What challenges may have come up?
Despite the many differences between then (1960) and today, what choices and strategies still have relevance for taking action today?