Get Up! Stand Up! The Civil Rights Movement and Television
In the years between 1954 and 1965, more legislation was passed, more court decisions were rendered, and more social change was effected in the name of civil rights than ever before. The rise of the Civil Rights Movement paralleled the growing use of television in the United States. In 1950 television was still in its infancy, but by 1960, televisions were present in 90 percent of American homes. Television provided the American public with a means to witness the struggle for civil rights nearly in real time and led a more informed society to enact social change.
As a group, provide definitions for the following words and concepts, which will be referenced during the class.
CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE: The use of nonviolent resistance to challenge laws considered unjust
CIVIL RIGHTS: The nonpolitical rights of a citizen; the rights of personal liberty guaranteed to U.S. citizens by the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution and by acts of Congress
DISCRIMINATION: Unfair treatment of a person or group resulting from prejudice
JIM CROW: Laws that separated blacks and whites in the South after the Civil War
NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People): An organization formed in 1909 to protect the rights of blacks
PREJUDICE: Unfair opinions against a group formed without facts to support them
SEGREGATION: The policy or practice of separating people of different races, classes, or ethnicities in schools, housing, and public or commercial facilities, especially as a form of discrimination
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Supplementary Curriculum Materials
During the 1950s the struggle for civil rights came to a head at the same time television began to appear in most Americans' homes. At the beginning of the decade, television was a novelty owned by very few people. By 1960 ninety percent of American homes had television. Television became a catalyst for change on a massive scale. People in the northern states could see what was happening in Selma, Birmingham, and Memphis and vice versa. In addition, television helped Southern blacks unify, for while local Southern media rarely covered news involving racial issues, they now had access to national newscasts that were witnessing and documenting this revolution.
March is traditionally the month when students and teachers explore the civil rights movement as part of their studies in American History. The Paley Center's Education Department wanted to share some powerful pieces from the collection that we found when developing our workshop, “Get up! Stand up! The Civil Rights Movement and Television.” With media, and specifically television, being a medium so familiar and immediate to today’s youth, these clips take history off the page and engage you and your students in the struggles, conflict and triumphs of one of the most socially significant movements in history.