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  • The Civil Rights Movement: Singing Freedom

    Albany native Rutha Mae Harris recalls life in the segregated town of Albany. In 1961 activists like African-American activists like Harris and Charles Sherood organized marches in the streets and were arrested for it. They protested those arrests and when they were not protesting, they were in churches organizing and planning. Harris explains how Albany churches were filled with people singing about freedom and how singing empowered her.

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. Why did singing help during the Civil Rights marches?

    2. Why did many African Americans stage protests during the 1960s?

    3. What were some of the ways in which African Americans protested for civil rights in the 1960s?

    4. Were the 1960s protests a success? Why or why not?

    Expansion

    1. Class Discussion: Make a class list of all the “injustices” in our country today. Decide on 1-3 of them that your class agrees are the major ones. Beside each one, list the most effective ways of publicly protesting to get these corrected. Discuss how this would make a difference.

    2. Dig deeper and learn more about the Freedom Singers from Albany and what they did to advance the Civil Rights movement.

    Vocabulary

    civil rights: rights with which we are born (e.g., personal freedom, pursuit of happiness) 
    Communist: a person who believes in communism or is a member of a political party that supports communism (Communism is a way of organizing a society in which the government owns the things that are used to make and transport products and there is no privately owned property.)
    desegregation: ending of the separation of groups, especially races
    discord: general unrest and anger between people
    integration: allowing different groups to mix together and interact as equals
    picketing: a peaceful form of organized protest where picketers (who often hold signs that express their frustrations) gather outside a place where they feel injustice is occurring
    sit-ins: a form of direct action that involves one or more people occupying an area for a protest, often to promote political, social, or economic change
    SNCC: "Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee"; created in 1960 as a means for college students to protest racism and social injustices in America

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. Why did singing help during the Civil Rights marches?
    It kept up spirits. Protestors were together in this fight against injustice.

    2. Why did many African Americans stage protests during the 1960s?
    African Americans wanted to have the same civil liberties as those enjoyed by whites. In short, they called for an end to segregation. African Americans wanted to be allowed to attend the same public schools and churches as whites, and to be able to eat at the same restaurants as whites. There were many forms of discrimination present in the 1960s, and blacks wanted to see an end to all of these.

    3. What were some of the ways in which African Americans protested for civil rights in the 1960s?
    Protests took a myriad of forms. Some combated segregation on a political front, encouraging black voter turnout in elections. Others took a more confrontation approach, staging "sit-ins" (wherein protesters literally sat in places segregated as whites only). Others picketed (marching, often with signs, in front of businesses or establishments who supported racist policies).

    4. Were the 1960s protests a success? Why or why not?
    Answers will vary. Segregation has been eradicated as a means of acceptable public policy, thanks undoubtedly to those who fought in the Civil Rights Movement. Other forms of racism still linger, however, and may take a long time to fade. But we have come a long way from 1960, when two African-American college students took a seat at white's only diner counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and ushered in an era of peaceful protest.

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