The Civil Rights Movement and Television

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.

CBS Reports:
Who Speaks for Birmingham


ABC Bell & Howell Close-up!:
Walk in My Shoes





Read more about Percy Sutton.

The Civil Rights Movement and Television Continues...