Birmingham & Montgomery: The Civil Rights Movement Reimagined NCHC Faculty Institute / City As Text

By Bobby Hom, Coordinator, The Honors Program and Professor, Humanities, Santa Fe College, Gainesville, Florida

Sponsored by the National Collegiate Honors Council, “Birmingham & Montgomery: The Civil Rights Movement Reimagined” is a Faculty Institute that uses City as Text methodologies to help participants recontextualize the 1950s and 60s Civil Rights Movement. We’ve all seen the historic photographs and television footage of Civil Rights marches and protests in Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma, Alabama. We're all aware of the historical figures (Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks) and historic sites (16th Street Baptist Church, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Edmund Pettis Bridge). We’ve watched feature films (The Long Walk Home (1990), The Rosa Parks Story (2002), Selma (2014)) and documentaries (Eyes on the Prize (1987), Four Little Girls (1997), The Freedom Riders (2010)) that dramatize the events and help us understand their significance. And we’ve seen the monuments and memorials that bear witness to individuals and events related to a specific location.

As a culture, we feel that we “know” and “understand” the Civil Rights Movement, that we’ve "learned" its lessons, and that as a society, we’ve "moved on" past this dark time in our nation’s history. This NCHC Faculty Institute dispels these notions, demonstrates our ignorance, and suggests that not only have we not learned our lessons from the past, but that our past still colors and shades our present. Unlike a conference, where experts present papers that digest content and meaning for us, City as Text allows its participants to explore "familiar knowledge" in new ways, making it "new" through a recognition of one's own preconceptions and a combination of background readings, small group experiential explorations of place and space, and reflections via large group discussions and debriefings and individual writing.

Photo courtesy of Jaeden Henderson, https://www.emaze.com/@AZLOCCWL/The-Magic-City

Coming to the Faculty Institute, I did not have a good impression of Birmingham and Montgomery. My perceptions of the two cities were informed by my study of history and by some limited personal experiences. As a historian, I knew Alabama as a Deep South slave state, a Jim Crow segregation state, and an epicenter in the fight for (and against) Civil Rights. Throughout my academic career, Birmingham was defined by police dogs and fire hoses turned on marchers; the city exemplified racism and racial terror during the Civil Rights era. In a graduate level Urban History class, I studied Birmingham's origins as a post-Civil War industrial and railroad nexus; it was a southern version of Pittsburgh and one of the major reasons for the New South's ascendancy.

Birmingham Sheriff Eugene "Bull" Connor used police dogs to attack marchers in 1963. Photo courtesy of Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

My feelings towards both Birmingham and Montgomery were influenced also by travel through and to them, by what friends who had lived in them said about cities, and by what I've seen on television. Being an undergraduate at Emory University meant that trips west required us to drive through Birmingham. This was the late 1980s, when everything was or at least seemed smaller. Birmingham didn't "feel" like a big city, certainly not in comparison to my home at that time, Atlanta. I have a friend who attended University of Alabama-Birmingham medical school in the 1990s; while I remember him enjoying his medical education, I don't remember him saying anything good about the city. On television--coverage of University of Alabama football games at Legions Field and of the Birmingham Bowl--the city felt run-down, depressed, and grey. As for Montgomery, I remember visiting and actually driving through the city once, again as an undergraduate, looking for a rugby pitch located on a "bad" side of town. After playing our two matches, we relocated to a bar and then home, back to Atlanta. Several years later, as a graduate student at the University of Florida, I played on the same rugby team as one of the Montgomery players who I had competed against earlier. He was in his daily life a pharmaceutical representative. I remember him saying how shocked he was that some of the doctors' offices he visited still had segregated waiting rooms. In my mind, Montgomery was a backward, racist city, Birmingham was small and economically depressed, and the entire state of Alabama could be characterized the same.

My impressions of Birmingham started to change in the Atlanta airport

My impressions of Birmingham started to change in the Atlanta airport. Waiting to board the plane to Birmingham were an Asian family, four Italian tourists, more African Americans than in my plane out of Gainesville, and two men--one black, the other white, both in their 50s--talking, laughing, and having a good time in each other's company. After landing, the cab driver who took me to the Faculty Institute hotel was an immigrant from Pakistan, who had come to Birmingham from Chicago twenty-five years ago for the weather and who stayed because he loved the city.

My positive second impressions of Birmingham were mitigated somewhat by the comments of an older white woman who I met later in the day. I told her I was in town for the weekend to attend a conference, not divulging the subject of the Faculty Institute, and that I was surprised how much the city had grown in the nearly thirty years since I had originally driven through it. She told me she moved from New York to Birmingham in 1957, after marrying a Southerner. She punctuated her comment by characterizing the era as, "It was not a good time, because you know Civil Rights."

Her statement made me recall comments by a student in my American Humanities course (probably some 15 years ago) in response to a lesson on the Civil Rights Movement. He said that his family was from Birmingham, that not every white person in the city nor in the state agreed with the establishment response to the marches and protests, and that some whites even stood alongside blacks in protesting segregation. His own family, he noted, watched on television like the rest of the nation, as fire hoses and police dogs were used against marchers. He then followed-up with what I remember to be a fairly racist remark about Martin Luther King, Jr. being a communist.

My encounter with the older woman and my recollections about my student suggest the complexity of racialized memory. Their attitudes towards the Civil Rights Movement reflect equal parts denial, guilt, anger, resistance, and frustration over the memory and portrayal of race relations in their city.

The "Global South" is "an imagined space that ties cultures together by their common experiences and considers the voices of people not commonly heard"

Since I arrived well before the Faculty Institute was to begin, I was able to visit the Birmingham Museum of Art. For me, a city's worth as a destination is determined in part by its cultural scene. I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the museum and by the size and scope of its collection. The museum was three stories, had galleries dedicated to its permanent collections of European, American, Asian, African, Pre-Columbian, and Native American arts. Additionally, the museum had devoted an entire floor to an exhibition entitled, Third Space / Shifting Conversations about Contemporary Art.

Artwork on display as part of the Birmingham Museum of Art exhibition, Third Space / Shifting Conversations about Contemporary Art

One of the articles assigned for the Faculty Institute, "A Tale of Conflict: Charles Gaines on the Contemporary Art Museum in the Age of Liberalism," criticizes art museums for continuing a legacy of western colonialism by under-representing diversity amongst curators and exhibition designers, minority artists and artwork, and by promoting a trope of progress based on Western Eurocentric values. Even when non-Western and minority arts and artists are included, the article argues, they are used often to highlight "the difference between mainstream Eurocentric cultural production and minoritarian cultural production." (https://openspace.sfmoma.org/2016/03/charles-gaines/) In other words, minority and non-western arts and artists are utilized as an "other" whose existence proves the quality and superiority of the West.

According to this article's argument, the Birmingham Museum of Art has its faults; for example, the museum tucks non-western arts into back galleries on the second floor. The museum does, however, deserve praise for its Third Space exhibition. The exhibit not only foregrounds works by and about peoples of color but explores them through the lens of the "Global South"--"an imagined space that ties cultures together by their common experiences and considers the voices of people not commonly heard" (Third Space / Shifting Conversations about Contemporary Art)--and its connections to Alabama, historic and present, in the "context of equality and freedom, the exploitation of people and the land, as well as identity and race relations." (https://openspace.sfmoma.org/2016/03/charles-gaines/)

Dawoud Bey, Mary Parker and Caela Cowa, 2013. Photograph on display at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

Included as part of Third Space is the large-scale photograph by Dawoud Bey shown above. Bey picture is part of a series of work ("The Birmingham Project") created along with a video to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. Four girls died in the blast that day: Denise McNair, 11, and Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, all 14. Two boys were killed in related incidents: Virgil Ware, 13, shot by a white teenager while riding his bicycle, and Johnny Robinson, 16, shot as he fled from police after throwing stones at a car whose white riders taunted him while waving a confederate flag. Each of Bey's photographs in the series depicts an adult who in 1963 was the age of the girls killed in bombing and a child who is that age currently. The photographs are an elegy, speaking​ of history and potential, what was, what could have been, and what may yet be. Bey's intent for the series are in his words, "to give tangible and palpable physical presence to the young people martyred that day...While the horror of the day is clear, the actual identities of the young people have become abstracted in a fuzzy and mythic kind of way.” (Berger, Maurice. "Reimagining a Tragedy, 50 years later." https://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/13/reimagining-a-tragedy-50-years-later/)

The Birmingham Civil Rights District

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) served as the host of the Faculty Institute. According to its mission statement, "BCRI is a cultural and educational research center that promotes a comprehensive understanding and appreciation for the significance of civil rights developments in Birmingham with an increasing emphasis on the international struggle for universal human rights. BCRI is a 'living institution' that views the lessons of the past as crucial to understanding our heritage and defining our future." (http://www.bcri.org/information/aboutbcri.html)

View of 16th Street Baptist Church from Kelly Ingram Park. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is located out-of-frame to the left. Photo courtesy of Preservation in Pink, https://preservationinpink.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/kelly-ingram-park/

BCRI is centrally located in the city's "Civil Rights District," specifically adjacent to two key historic sites: the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park. During the 1960s, the church served as an organizational headquarters, site of mass meetings, and a gathering point for marchers and protesters. On September 15, 1963, the church was bombed, killing four young black girls preparing for Sunday school. Kelly Ingram Park (known historically as West Park) was also a staging site of Civil Rights rallies, demonstrations and confrontations. In Spring 1963, Birmingham sheriff Eugene "Bull" Connor ordered marchers and protesters, some as young as six, sprayed with high pressure fire hoses and attacked by police dogs.

Sculptures commemorating the Civil Rights Movement, Kelly Ingram Park

Kelly Ingram Park is particularly interesting for its statuary commemorating the events of Spring 1963. The sculptures depict the police dog and fire hose assaults, capture the injustice of segregation and jailing children, and ground the movement in spirituality and prayer. One work depicts the four girls killed by the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing playing on a bench. On one of its edges are photographs of the faces of the four girls and two boys killed on the day of the bombing. Several years ago, the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau with funds from the Alabama Tourism Department installed a cell phone audio tour to accompany the sculptures. Visitors are able to dial a number to receive commentary about the historical context and significance of each of the statues.

Tourists attempting to enter the 16th Street Baptist Church

Kelly Ingram Park and the Civil Rights District as a whole are tourist destinations. During the four days of the institute, I saw white families and other groups white teens and adults walking through the park, examining the statues and listening to the cell phone tour. I met a white mother and her adult daughter attempting to enter the 16th Street Baptist Church. Both were traveling through Birmingham and decided to visit the Civil Rights District during their layover. The mother said as a child growing up in Minnesota during the Civil Rights era, she couldn't understand why people disliked others just because of skin color. She came to the church to experience tangibly the city she saw on television and to gain some historical perspective about racism in America.

Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail Signs

I also saw families and groups walking through the area along a city-established "Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail." Signs that include a period photograph taken near where the markers are placed, a relevant quote, interpretive text, and a cut-out silhouette of a non-violent action guide visitors throughout the district. The purpose is to educate the public by taking this history of public protest in public spaces "back to the street." (http://heritagetrail.birminghamal.gov/About)

As our Faculty Institute progressed, I couldn't help but question the effectiveness and impact of the public art and public history signage. Through my experience as a teacher and in my past work with museums, I know how little audiences can benefit from interpretive text, written or spoken. While most people will look at interpretive labels, most won't read past 100 words, and the depth at which they read is to skim. The font on the Heritage Tour signs is small, and the length of the text is beyond the attention span of the visitor. The sculptures in Kelly Ingram Park have the benefit of audience interaction; the viewer is invited to walk in, amongst, around, and through the work. The work itself is emotional, appealing to the viewer's horror, fear, and sympathy / empathy. The cell phone tour overcomes the problem with labels--the audience does not have to read, but rather the text is read to them. However, the technology adds a barrier between the viewer and the emotional content of the piece. Rather than spend time examining and reflecting on the content and meaning of the sculpture, they rush through, content to look while being told what to know and think.

Young girl examining the Four Spirits sculpture honoring the victims of the September 15, 1963, bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church.

The best use of the sculpture as a teaching tool was by a young family I encountered leaving the BCRI one afternoon. A young girl was on her knees in front of the Four Spirits sculpture honoring the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. She was inspecting closely each of the pictures of the six youths killed. She took her time looking at each face and seemed to be making a personal connection with each image. Her dad commented something to the effect of, "isn't it a shame that these kids were killed because of the color of her skin." I imagine the lesson of the sculpture, the empathy that it was designed to elicit, was not lost on the child nor on her father because of the personal connection they were able to find.

The Power of the Personal Story

This academic year I have had the privilege of attending in Gainesville, my hometown, two city-wide book discussions, the first for Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, the second for Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped from the Beginning: A History of Racist Ideas. Organized by the mayor, the discussions were intended to help in some small part race relations in Gainesville. Both talks featured experts, the second the author himself, followed by audience comments and question and answers. The comment, "we--society as a whole--have problems with race relations, because we--again, society as a whole--are afraid of each other, and that we are afraid of each other, because we don't talk to each other" was made during both talks, by different people.

On an implicit level, I've recognized this problem. I use slave narratives to help tell the story of American slavery and oral histories housed at the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and TEDxUF talks to help dramatize the Civil Rights movement in Gainesville. For the past couple of years, I've had my students complete assignments in which they dialogue with someone of a different race and with a recent immigrant, in order to learn someone else's story and in the process, understand a perspective different than their own. The assignment has been well-received by students. They've commented how much they've learned about their friends, classmates, and/or co-workers. Pedagogically, their stories make real on a personal level what I can only cover historically and theoretically through lecture and readings.

During the Faculty Institute, we had two different types of opportunities to hear someone else's story: from experts invited by the facilitators to speak and from informal conversations had as part of the City as Text methodologies. The following images and accompanying text have been taken from the Faculty Institute's Instagram feed (Instagram.com, search #nchccivilrights).

Dr. Autrey, who also teaches at Alabama State University, asked us to consider how unique and special Montgomery was in 1955-56. A confluence of events and factors came together in Montgomery to achieve something that went on to inspire other struggles for equality and against oppression around the world.
Prof. Woolfolk recounted her experiences as a foot soldier of the Civil Rights Movement and her role helping to found the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
Dr. Horace Huntley (center) with Ms. Donna Andrews (left) and Prof. Ada Long (right). Dr. Huntley recounted stories of his youth, growing up in the county outside of Birmingham, the little acts of resistance to segregation and racism in which he participated, and how his experiences as a young man in the military showed him how race in the North differed from race in the South. Like Odessa Woolfolk, Dr. Huntley told how young African Americans, who were required to sit in movie theater balconies, took advantage of their location to rain popcorn, ice, candy, and other things down on the white moviegoers below.
I had the privilege of riding "shotgun" with Cort, who drove the 15-passenger van that took us to Montgomery as part of the Faculty Institute. During the three-hour round trip, we talked about a wide variety of topics, from football (high school, college, and professional) to art and his favorite artists to his jobs as groundskeeper for a sports park and as a baseball / softball umpire to how he ended up in Birmingham. Like many people that I met during the week, Cort is not native to the city. He moved from Long Island, New York over 25-years ago. He fell in love with the city, in spite of what he remembers as his first sight--a large Confederate flag. Photo courtesy of Bernie Day.
A "Living Institution"

The BCRI's conception of itself as a "living institution" that applies the lessons of the past to the realities of our present, became increasingly significant as the Faculty Institute progressed. We discovered as a group the problems of treating working institutions as historic sites. We also discovered how history through public memorialization becomes in Dawoud Bey's words, "abstracted in a fuzzy and mythic kind of way."

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Montgomery, AL; 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, AL

The 16th Street Baptist Church was founded in 1873 as the First Colored Baptist Church of Birmingham and moved to its current location and name in 1880. The church standing today is the second building, completed in 1911 and repaired following the 1963 bombing. The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church of Montgomery was established in 1877; the lot on which the church sits was purchased in 1879; and the building was constructed between 1883 and 1889. Both churches hosted Martin Luther King, Jr., the former in 1963 during the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Birmingham Campaign, the latter from 1954 to 1960 as its pastor. Both churches were headquarters for Civil Rights protests in the city. The Birmingham Campaign sought desegregation of Birmingham's downtown stores, fair hiring practices in shops and city employment, reopening of public parks, and the creation of a bi-racial committee to oversee the desegregation of Birmingham's public schools. From his office in the Dexter Avenue Church in Montgomery, King provided leadership for the Montgomery Improvement Associations and for the 1955-56 boycott of the city's bus system.

16th Street Baptist Church, 1963 and 2017

That Civil Rights history and connection to Dr. King is what draws visitors to these churches. Both congregations offer tours of their building. For $5, visitors to the Birmingham church can take a one-hour tour; visitors to the Montgomery church are charged $7.50 for a tour of similar length. The Dexter Avenue Church describes its tour on its website: "In this National Historic Landmark, see the modest pulpit where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. first preached his message of hope and brotherhood. This church was also a center point of the Montgomery bus boycott. A large mural in the church depicts King’s civil rights crusade from Montgomery to Memphis." (http://www.dexterkingmemorial.org/tours/church-tour/)

Image from Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church mural depicting Dr. King and some of the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.

Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to take the 16th Street Baptist Church tour; I did, however, take the Dexter Avenue Church tour. The best way to describe its content is that it beatifies Dr. King, seeing him as a saint sent by God to Montgomery to organize and deliver its black citizens out of bondage. The history from Montgomery to Memphis is teleological; the progress from segregation to Civil Rights inevitable because of Dr. King and the other figures depicted in the mural in fulfillment of God's purpose and design. This view of history as progress ignores much -- the foot soldiers who marched, the energy and enthusiasm of college students from Alabama State University, the role of women and women's organizations, etc. It also suggests that change in the present is not likely unless another great individual appears.

More problematic to these churches are their shrinking congregations and the disruption historical tourism produces on their activity. According to our tour guide, the Dexter Avenue Church is experiencing a transition. Its membership numbers only about 200. These parishioners are typically older, many in their 70s and 80s. In an attempt to lower the median age of the congregation, the church actively develops programming for students from Alabama State University. Like most universities, the ASU population is transient, most staying in the area only for the four years of their education. The 16th Avenue Church attendance fluctuates with the season, spiking with religious holidays and Black History Month celebrations. The occasional worshiper and the tourist tend to disrupt the normal functions of the church and its worship services.

Public history presentations of the Civil Rights Movement

Public history presentations of the Civil Rights movement focus almost exclusively on the past. The effect is commemoration, apology for past wrongs, reconciliation of aggrieved parties, and forgiveness and cleansing of society's collective soul. The implicit message is where the problem lies. The monuments and memorials proclaim a progress narrative, one in which we as a culture and society have experienced but ultimately moved past and beyond these horrible events. The suggestion is that these social inequities no longer exist, which while maybe true in scale is not true in the absolute. In her critique of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Victoria Gallagher notes "what is hidden by this 'tradition of progress' theme are current demographics showing that Birmingham like so many other American cities, continues to be segregated...[T]here is no clear assessment of the current state of affairs in Birmingham within any of the galleries. History is therefore fractured from current reality on a day-to-day level." Gallagher continues, "The Institute helps people to vividly experience, remember, and interpret events and accomplishments removed from them in time and space but is less useful in assisting one to interpret the comments of a rental-car spokesperson about the good and bad sections of the city." (Gallaher, Victoria. "Memory and Reconciliation in the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute." Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Vol 2, No. 2, 1999. p. 315.)

The Birmingham Pledge, Birmingham; Historic Marker, Montgomery.

Still, the manner in which the BCRI specifically and the city of Birmingham in general treats the Civil Rights Movement is superior to the manner in which Montgomery presents it. The two markers above promote different views of the Civil Rights Movement, the former as a "living institution" the latter as a historic moment.

The Birmingham Pledge Foundation was launched in 1998 as "a grassroots effort to recognize the dignity and worth of every individual, by making a personal, daily commitment to remove prejudice from our own lives and to treat all people with respect." (http://www.thebirminghampledge.org/) In 1998, more than 2,000 Birmingham residents attending the Martin Luther King Unity Breakfast recited the pledge together. By 2008, more than 120,000 individuals had signed copies of the pledge, resulting from pledge-signing drives, distribution of educational kits to school, community programming, and a website. The lesson is that Birmingham has learned the lessons of its Civil Rights history and is applying it to the unfinished task of securing equality and respect for all of its citizens.

The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation promotes Montgomery as "One of America's most historically marked cities." The city has 177 markers, 18 of which are devoted to the Civil Rights Movement, 22 to "Pioneers and Patriots," 20 to the "Blues and the Grays," 12 to "Cotton and Commerce," 8 to "Inventors & Innovations," 20 to "Airmen, Soldiers and Sailors, 12 to "Leaders and Lawyers," 6 to "Famous Folks," and 64 to "Historic Places." According to its promotional brochure, the markers all exemplify Montgomery as a "place that nurtures and supports the lofty aspirations of dreamers and doers from all walks of life." (https://issuu.com/montgomerycvb/docs/marker_brochure_for_web?e=0/4523765) That values statement defuses the role of the Civil Rights struggle as an opposition movement to entrenched segregation and racial discrimination. The actors and events of the era are sanitized of their political meaning and become part of a larger historical narrative of personal ambition and the American dream. As problematic are the sheer number of markers, which make them a mundane feature of the landscape and as a result, easy to ignore.

A crosswalk in Montgomery -- is it an homage to Civil Rights marchers are just a decoration?

I use Robert Hughes' American Visions series in my American Humanities class to help teach the art history. About two-thirds of way through Episode 1, he opines, "Monuments live by use and die by neglect. The world is studded with dead monuments." He goes on to demonstrate how Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement refreshed and transformed the relevance and meaning of the Lincoln Memorial.

We can know about the events and the sites of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham and Montgomery, but unless we apply their lessons our current realities, they become no better than fetish objects. Prime examples of historical fetish-ism that I experienced during the Faculty Institute are the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery and Sloss Furnace in Birmingham.

The First White House of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis' residence when Montgomery served as Confederate capitol prior to summer 1861.

The First White House of the Confederacy is a beautifully preserved 1835 Italianate style house, completely furnished with original period pieces from the 1850s and 1860s. Many personal items belonging to Jefferson Davis and his wife are included in the displays. While the site succeeds in presenting an authentic architectural and design experience, it fails in its presentation of the historical context. Other than the brief historical marker placed in front of the house, there is no interpretation of the events leading up to the South's succession and the need for a Confederate capitol and presidential residence. The house participates in the South's "Lost Cause" mythology, as a shrine honoring the president and leader of traditional southern society and values.

Images of Sloss Furnace, Birmingham.

Sloss Furnace operated in Birmingham for nearly 90 years, producing pig-iron, employing the city's white and black residents, and fueling the industrial economy of the region. The plant ceased operation in 1971 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1881. My first impression of the site was that it reminded me of the work of artist Charles Sheeler. Sheeler gained fame and acclaim in the 1920s and 30s depicting in photographs and paintings images of America's industrial power. Sheeler's work celebrates the factory as if it were a cathedral. The structures are clean, bathed with light; beams and conveyors and walkways crisscross like flying buttresses and Gothic vaults. Visitors can--and are encouraged to--photograph the Sloss Furnaces similar to Sheeler's aesthetic. I think, however, the message produced is ironic. There's no more strength left in those iron works; there's only rust mixed with historic reflection mixed with graffiti...not the ingredients for steel, but a memorial for the bygone days of Birmingham industry.

During one of the Faculty Institute's debriefing sessions, Monita Bell from the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance Program was invited to speak. She presented five essential practices necessary for teaching the Civil Rights Movement. Two, I think, are particularly appropriate to what I learned from my experiences during the Institute and what I plan to implement in my own pedagogy: Educate for empowerment and Connect to the Present. "Empowerment," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center "The March Continues" brochure, begins by teaching students to think critically about history and to question the conventional story and seek the story beneath. "Connecting to the present" means establishing relevance in student's lives by linking historical events to present circumstances. Both together encourages students to engage contemporary problems as active citizens and to continue crafting out a legacy for the Civil Rights Movement.

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