Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching

Article excerpt

Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching, edited by Deborah Menkart, Alana D. Murray, & Jenice View. Washington, D.C.: Teaching for Change/PRRAC, 2004, 576 pp; $29.99, paperback.

From two progressive organizations comes a book that merits the attention of scholars, teachers, students, and families interested in the Civil Rights Movement past and present. Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching is the product of years of research, dialogue, and collaboration led by Teaching for Change and Poverty & Race Research Action Council. The emphasis on "movement" is timely and intentional. In many of our history or social studies classes where civil rights is being taught, the true dynamic nature of a struggle for social justice has been lost. This book is an anthology that places the teaching of civil rights where it belongs: a critical dialogue about the nature of movement in constructing democratic change.

Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching is more than a guide for teachers or a compendium of articles and resources. Rather, this book is one of the most important contributions to the struggle for civil rights (which is mistakenly referred to as an African American movement for voting rights) in recent times. While it is true that African American rights and inclusion were a major focus in 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, this book details struggle for the rights of Latinos, women, American Indians, gays and lesbians, the working class, Asians, and youth.

By offering 31 lesson plans and 86 articles that have been identified for elementary, middle, and high school classes, Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching can be used as supplemental text for a wide range of classrooms. The authors, too, have marked lessons that have on-line resources and lessons materials. A multi-media approach has been taken to exploit the availability of technology that may appeal to younger readers and teachers who are internet savvy. For example, Web sites such as www.laborheritage.org, and www.civilrightsteaching.org are provided.

Divided into six chapters, the book uses a thematic approach to hold the breadth and depth of knowledge of the experiences during the critical years of activism. From the arguments of Brown v. Board to the "Hip Hop" generation, the chapters are a template for reviewing important information that is often unavailable to classroom teachers, students, and their families. The chapters are: (a) Reflections on Teaching about the Movement, (b) Citizenship and Self-Determination, (c) Education, (d) Economic Justice, (e) Culture, and (f) Looking Forward.

The first chapter, "Reflections on Teaching about the Movement," shares the experiences of teachers who have integrated the ideals of civil rights successfully in their teaching. As Dr. Vincent Harding asserts, "...the Civil Rights Movement, in many ways, was the beginning of American democracy" (V. …


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