A Violent Time in the Fight for Civil Rights

51MC6ZzquZL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_“For readers new to the subject, the biographies will be a vivid, informative introduction, but even those who have some familiarity with the landmark events will learn much more here. . . . A penetrating look at elemental national history.” –Booklist

How were you taught the Civil Rights movement? Teachers, how do you teach it? What are the best ways to help students learn about this important era? How do we help them understand the ways it is manifested today?

With the scourge of racial violence since the last election, is history repeating itself? How many young people know our history?

The New York Times reported that:

American students are less proficient in history than in any other subject over all., According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, however, civil rights history is an especially neglected topic in schools. The group, which recently completed a comprehensive review of state standards and curriculum frameworks, found that most virtually ignore it.

If you’re planning to teach about the civil rights movement, this book by Larry Dane Brimner should be included  in your lesson planning: Black & White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor. Written by an amazing storyteller, it is painstakingly researched with incredible detail.  In the style of Brimner’s Birmingham Sunday and We Are One: The Bayard Rustin Story, it is a finely crafted work of art. Black & White is compellingly written and sometimes chilling in its depictions, but always keeps the reader engaged.

In the nineteen fifties and early sixties, Birmingham, Alabama, became known as Bombingham. At the center of this violent time in the fight for civil rights, and standing at opposite ends, were Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor. From his pulpit, Shuttlesworth agitated for racial equality, while Commissioner Connor fought for the status quo. Relying on court documents, police and FBI reports, newspapers, interviews, and photographs, author Larry Dane Brimner first covers each man’s life and then brings them together to show how their confrontation brought about significant change to the southern city. The author worked closely with Birmingham’s Civil Rights Institute as well as with Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and his wife to bring together this Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, ALA Notable Children’s book, and Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book of the Year.

Kirkus Reviews called Black & White “a clean, graphically interesting design abets a well-researched, engaging narrative that contributes a more nuanced view of the period than is often seen.”

An amazon reviewer wrote:

I think the thing that sticks out to me most about this book is the power that one person can have to make a difference for either good or evil. Despite tremendous pressure and attempts on his life,Shuttlesworth refused to back down from his efforts to end segregation. He was arrested numerous times, beaten up several times, had his home blown up and he still refused to give in. Connor on the other hand was just as committed to keeping segregation in place and wasn’t above using his political position to fight for the status quo. In the end though his hatred and violent methods backfired on him. Shuttleworth’s commitment to the nonviolent approach even in the face of great violence helped win the day.

This is a fascinating comparison of two men who were completely committed to a cause but who used very different methods and the chosen methods ended up determining the end result. A great example that indeed the end does NOT justify the means.

What books do you recommend to teach about this important era?

Also posted on Daily Kos. 

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