We Shall Overcome

The What you just watched was a video that my partner Alex and I made as a project for PLP. We just finished a very important unit. This unit included stuff that is very hard to talk about, and that made this unit quite mentally challenging. For this unit, we learned about the civil rights movement in the United States. You’re probably confused now, because that video has nothing to do with civil rights or the United States. Well, our video does have something to do with our driving question which is, How can the actions of an individual change a system? Let me explain how we learned about the answer to our question.

In grade 11, the history we learn about is mostly the mid to late 1900’s. As you may know, our last unit was on the 1950’s. Here is the blog post on that unit. If our last unit was on the 50’s, that means that this unit had to be on the 1960’s. Specifically we focused on the civil rights movement because that was a huge part of the 60’s. Before we could learn anything we needed to figure out what we needed to learn. As a class we created a numbers document where we wrote down what we already knew about the topic, what we needed to know, and the goals we had for this unit. We continued to edit this document throughout the unit as we learned about what we needed to know. 

Before we could learn about the movement, we had to learn about the history of racism and slavery in America. We learned about the civil war, reconstruction, and the Jim Crow laws. This set up the basis for the unit, and I learned about how after slavery was abolished, white people still felt the need to control African Americans, and created the Jim Crow laws to do so. The Jim Crow laws were a set of very racist laws that were put into place so white people would still have power over African Americans.

As part of the English part of this unit, we had to do Socratic Seminars. These seminars consisted of everybody in the class reading a piece of text or watching movie, then discussing the texts in groups of about 8-9. The first text we had to read was a book called Dear Martin. We divided it into two sections and discussed each section in a seminar. We also watched a couple of different movies about the movement to discuss in seminars. I really enjoyed the seminars because they helped me get a deeper understanding of the texts. Here is a little bit of one of my seminar reflections so you can have an idea of how they went. 

The civil rights movement had most of its momentum in the 1960’s, but the spark that started it was ignited in the 1950’s. The laws in America stated that African Americans should be treated equally but should be separated from white people. The problem with this was that they were separated, but they weren’t treated equally. One of the ways the African Americans first started to fight for their equality was with the law. For example, Brown v. Board of Education, which was a case where an African American girl wanted to go to a white school because it was significantly closer to her and it was a better school. They ended up winning the court case because the schools were separate but not equal. Here are some other significant events of the 1950’s if you would like to read about them.

Emmett Till was a 14 year old boy who lived in Chicago with his mom. His father was killed in the war, so Emmett wore his ring everyday. One summer, Emmett decided to go to Mississippi to work on a farm with some of his family. Growing up in Chicago, Emmett had no idea how bad the racism was in the south. His mother warned him to always do what he was told and to never even look at a white person. One day, while working on the farm, it got really hot so Emmett and some of his family went to a grocery store to get some refreshments. They didn’t want to make a scene at the store, so they al went in in groups of 1-2. While at the grocery store Emmett had an interaction with the white woman working at the store. She says he wolf whistled at her, but what really happened will never be known. The lady told her husband and he and his brother wanted revenge. They stole Emmett from his house, and brutally murdered him. The men tried to sink his body but they were unsuccessful. Emmett’s body was found in a river with a fan tied to his neck with barbed wire. His body was so deformed they could barely recognize him. The only reason they knew it was him was because of his fathers ring. His body was sent back to his mother in Chicago where she had a funeral. She made a brave decision to have an open casket and show everyone what the racists in Mississippi did to her son. Thousands of people came to Emmett’s funeral to see his body. This sparked outrage across the world. No one could believe how bad the racism was in America. The men who did this were taken to court where they were found not guilty for their crime because the all white jury couldn’t be sure that the body was even Emmett’s. A few years later, the brothers completely confessed to the crime and sold the story. Even after that, they still got no punishment. Emmett’s murder wasn’t completely in vain. It showed the people up north, and around the world how bad the racism was in the south. It was a spark for the civil rights movement.
In December of 1955, Rosa Parks, a women who worked for the NAACP, was riding the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was sitting in the first row of the coloured section and the bus was starting to get full. When this happened, the people in the front of the coloured section are supposed to move to the back of the bus. The bus driver came to the back of the bus and asked Rosa, and three other coloured passengers to move to the back. The three passengers complied, but Rosa did not. She refused to give up her seat. She was arrested and fined $10. This sparked a movement. Everyone was tired of giving up their seats to white people, so they decided to boycott the buses. For a whole year, African Americans refused to ride the bus. This was bad for white people because most of their help was African American, and without the buses they couldn’t get to their jobs. The boycott ended when the African Americans won a court case to sit wherever they wanted on the bus, and not have to give up tear seats for white people.

Another aspect of this unit was writing a reflection on our blog. This reflection had to compare an event we learned about in this unit to a contemporary event. When we did this post, we had only learnt about the movement in the 50’s, so I chose to compare and event to Emmett Tills murder. This post was a great way to get me thinking about how important the civil rights movement was for today. It has helped lessen racism all over North America, but it is still a huge problem that we need to solve. You can read my reflection post here.

The 1960’s was when the civil rights movement really started to pick up. Martin Luther King was the leader of the movement, and he was a great leader. He thought that the best way to fight would be to do it non-violently. This meant that instead of physically fighting and having violent riots, the movement consisted of marches and sit ins. MLK felt that the movement had to be non-violent because it needed to show that African Americans didn’t have to be feared and that they just wanted equality. Also, when the white people were violent to the people of the movement and they didn’t fight back, it made the white people look like the villains, which they were. Here are some key events of the movement in the 60’s if you would like to read about them.

In 1961, racism was supposed to have been not as much as an issue on the bus. The Montgomery Bus Boycott allowed African Americans to sit wherever they wanted, but it wasn’t the same on interstate buses. There was still a lot of racial segregation on interstate buses, so a movement was started to end that. In May of 1961, a group of people called Freedom Riders, decided to bus into the deep South. They were trained to face brutal racism and not react to it at all, but nothing could prepare them for what they would face. The freedom riders were attacked at bus stops all along their trip. One bus was even set on fire while passengers were on it. Luckily no one was killed. The first group of riders were too beat up to finish their trip, so another group was sent to finish what they started, and this time they knew what to expect. Mobs of people continuously attacked the riders. At the end of their journey, the riders were arrested for no good reason. They were sent to a horrible prison to try and stop more freedom riders from coming. The riders kept coming and coming. They refused to stop. The riders finally got what they were asking for, and all the Jim Crow laws were abolished.
On August 28, 1963, a march that was a pivotal part of history happened. This was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This march was organized by all of the great leaders of the civil rights movement. The march happened because President Roosevelt proposed a bill that would end all discrimination in the work place. This was exactly what the African Americans wanted, so they had to do something to get it. A lot of organization went into this march, and they wanted as many people to come as possible. On the day of the march 200,000-300,000 people showed up to Washington D.C. There were celebrities, politicians, and many other important people. The march was a huge success. Way more people than any was even expedition showed up. This is also the march where Martin Luther King made is famous “I Have a Dream Speech.” The speech was seen all over the world and it made a huge impact. The march resulted in a catalyst to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights act of 1965.

After years of hard work and many lives lost, the movement finally started to get some of the rights they were fighting for. Throughout the movement segregation was ended, African Americans were able to go to school, they were able to get more jobs and paid more fairly, they gained the right to vote, they abolished the Jim Crow laws, and many, many more amazing things happened. But they didn’t get complete equality and we still live in a world full of racism. Throughout this unit we saw many different examples of how an individual can change a system. We then had the knowledge to answer the driving question in our final project for this unit.

For our project everyone in the class was partnered up, then had to make a video about a Canadian issue. This is the video that you watched at the beginning of this post. We also had to answer the driving question and come up with our own question for our video. I was partnered up with Alex, which I was very happy about because he is very intelligent, and I knew that we would work very well together. The issue we focused on for our issue was the history of discrimination Chinese Candians have had to face. Here is a pitch form with all of the detail of work we had to do for this video.

Alex and I spent a ton of time on this video. The first draft was full of information but was quite boring. We knew we had som work to do for the final draft. We wanted it to have our own creations in it so Alex made animations on Explain Everything, and I made the background music on GarageBand. The rest of our editing was done in iMovie. This video was really interesting to make. It really showed how much I learned throughout the unit, and how easy it was for me to answer the driving question by the end.

I really enjoyed working through this unit. Learning about the civil rights movement was very eye opening. I had no idea how awful the racism was in America. It was also amazing to see how much impact a single person could have on a system. MLK is a great example of this. He had such an impact that he had private meetings with the president at the time demanding that he do something to help. I feel like I have a completely different view on American history now.




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