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Kentucky Civil Rights History, 1960-64: Two Scenes to Play

Kentucky Civil Rights History, 1960-64: Two Scenes to Play

Description:

The 1950s and 1960s were tumultuous times in Kentucky, a former slave state and proud proponent of what the Louisville newspaper editor Henry Watterson called "The New South." While the nation struggled to address the demands for integration by civil rights groups, Kentucky faced its own internal chaos with confusing changes in gendered traditions and race-based violence. Expectations from World War II veterans who had fought for American freedom and democracy fueled confrontations at local soda fountain counters, movie theaters, public transportation stations, restaurants, and government offices. Where did the civil liberties of a privately owned business, open to the public, end and the civil rights of oppressed minorities begin? What was the role of local, state and national government in keeping the peace and in assuring the rights of its citizens? This module allows learners to explore these important questions within the context of two historical events in Kentucky: the 1960 public accommodations mass protests in Louisville and the March on Frankfort 1964.
 

Educators who use hese materials should, depending on the experience and level of knowledge readiness of the participants, plan to spend the following percentages of time in these general activities for each of the two scenes. Ideally the two groups should switch to the opposite sides for the second scene (e.g., the civil rights activists in Scene One should then become the Governor's Coordinating Committee members in Scene Two).

15% - Reviewing historical terms and orienting students to collaborative roleplay/simulation principles

5% - Review the main goals of the learning experience:

  • Participants can "walk in the shoes" of an historical person and use the selected historical terms in a meaningful and consistent manner during a reasonably natural conversation with other historical persons.
  • By living in the historical moment of these important times, participants can better understand the complexities inherent to civil rights activism and the imperative to seek a status quo during the chaotic times of U.S. segregation and white supremacy.
  • In the midst of extreme differences, participants can discover how best to negotiate a common understanding and by experiencing first hand the difficulties in these negotiation processes, better understand how American democracy works.

5% - Choose two groups from among the participants (counting off even/odd or drawing names from a "sorting hat");  remember to identify a facilitator for each group; and allow the groups to introduce each other through their given roles

10% - The facilitator should help each group prepare for their meeting with the other group - reminding them that the upcoming discussion should be difficult and may involve passion, however, the simulation should not stop because someone is offended - the expectation is that other group members should attempt to heal any rifts so as to continue to reach an agreement to which both sides can agree.

50% - The simulation itself takes place with little intervention by the educator except in urging the facilitators to assure everyone in the group participates in a meaningful and consistent manner according to their role. The facilitators should also take notes on what is happening (or not)

15% - Debriefing the simulation, led by the 2 facilitators.  This should include specific references to the statements that the participants made or non-verbals observed. The educator should ask these kinds of thought-provoking questions:

  • Did the team sufficiently address the topic in an organized, historically accurate and consistent manner?
  • Did the group cooperation in discussing the issues at hand - did they demonstrate respect for each other and for those in the other group?
  • What was left out of the discussion and why?
  • How has this experience led to a better understanding of social/political/economic issues involved?

This learning experience allows students to discover the local contexts in which the Civil Rights Act of 1964 developed.

Educators who are interested in the National Social Studies Standards might be able to show how the students participating in this learning experience address Historical Thinking Standard 3 in which "The student engages in historical analysis and interpretation."

Therefore, the student is able to:

  • Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas, values, personalities, behaviors, and institutions by identifying likenesses and differences.
  • Consider multiple perspectives of various peoples in the past by demonstrating their differing motives, beliefs, interests, hopes, and fears.
  • Analyze cause-and-effect relationships bearing in mind multiple causation including (a) the importance of the individual in history; (b) the influence of ideas, human interests, and beliefs; and (c) the role of chance, the accidental and the irrational.
  • Draw comparisons across eras and regions in order to define enduring issues as well as large-scale or long-term developments that transcend regional and temporal boundaries.
  • Distinguish between unsupported expressions of opinion and informed hypotheses grounded in historical evidence.
  • Compare competing historical narratives.
  • Challenge arguments of historical inevitability by formulating examples of historical contingency, of how different choices could have led to different consequences.
  • Hold interpretations of history as tentative, subject to changes as new information is uncovered, new voices heard, and new interpretations broached.
  • Evaluate major debates among historians concerning alternative interpretations of the past.
  • Hypothesize the influence of the past, including both the limitations and opportunities made possible by past decisions.

(http://www.nchs.ucla.edu/Standards/historical-thinking-standards-1/3.-historical-analysis-and-interpretation)

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Tutorial

Getting Ready - Learning the Local History

Before beginning the simulation, review the history of Kentucky during the civil rights movement. The most useful resource is the following text:

Fosl, Catherine and Tracy E. K'Meyer. Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 2009.

Another task to undertake is to become familiar with particular historical terms from the above text in order to get to know the local and state history. The terms and their definitions can be found in the next next section. The term definitions were created by a group of first-year Honors Program students at the University of Kentucky as part of their course on the History of Kentucky Women in the Civil Rights Era (see more at KYWCRH.org)

Historical Terms

Full Screen

Source: Created by University of Kentucky students in the Honors Program.

SCENE ONE: LOUISVILLE, February 1960

The first scene is set in the front steps of the courthouse in Louisville where the groups will argue the role of the Board of Aldermen in addressing the enforcement of integration in public settings. The Board of Aldermen have just passed the famous 1960 Resolution asserting property owner rights over the rights of oppressed minorities to have equal and fair access to public places in the city of Louisville (see Historical Terms for full text of this resolution).

The learners are placed in two groups: one group meets in Anne and Carl Braden's home in the early spring of 1960 with Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) members to plan trainings on how to use non-violence tactics while conducting a sit-in or street march. The other group meets in the City government offices with the Aldermen, local downtown business owners and other prominent citizens.

Each individual is given a particular role - and a handout that helps them prepare in their respective groups for the discussion on the courthouse steps where they will meet the other group and debate their point of view about the 1960 Resolution. Depending on the level of background understanding of the historical terms they are expected to use while in their roles, this preparatory meeting could take 30-50 minutes. The groups should be reminded to review the historical terms and to try out the quotations in their smaller groups to collaborate on what these particular individuals can say and how best they can participate in the upcoming meeting on the courthouse steps.

Make sure each group has a facilitator who does not have a role to play, but is given a summary sheet with all the different roles included.  The facilitator should help to make sure each participant contributes something from their handout.

For younger students, roles may need to be modified, especially in the position of facilitator. 

 

Scene One - Handout for Facilitator in the Civil Rights Activists Group

The facilitator helps the group prepare for their meeting with the other group on the courthouse steps. If the group doesn't know where to start, the facilitator can call on individuals to share what they have on their handout.

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Scene One - Handouts for the Civil Rights Activists Group

Each student in the group should be given a specific role. Here are 4 individual roles for each group - students may share a role or similar roles can be added to the group.

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Scene One - Handout for Facilitator in the Louisville Board of Aldermen Group

The facilitator helps the group prepare for their meeting with the other group on the courthouse steps. If the group doesn't know where to start, the facilitator can call on individuals to share what they have on their handout.

Full Screen

Scene One - Handouts for the Louisville Board of Aldermen Group

Each student in the group should be given a specific role. Here are 4 individual roles for each group - students may share a role or similar roles can be added to the group.

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Debrief Scene One

The facilitators share their observations about how the participants used the historical terms (or not) and whether the quotations were included (or not). Who (or what) was missing from the conversation?

Students should be encouraged to describe whether there was a clear understanding of the two different sides in the discussion - did the groups rely on stereotypes to dissuade the other side from making their arguments in a logical manner? How well did the two groups support a common goal of justice? of fairness?

The educator should then give a brief summary of the actual events in Louisville following the 1960 Resolution (including the successful voter registration drive that removed most all the existing Board) and in the rest of the early 1960s, including the mass protests and boycotts.

Scene Two: Frankfort, March 1964

This scene is set in Kentucky Governor Breathitt's office. Have the learners prepare for the meeting with the governor in two groups:

  1. one group prepares for the meeting in the Allied Organizations for Civil Rights offices with members of the represented groups, and
  2. the other group (including the governor, key legislators and KY Commission on Human Rights officials) meets with federal marshals as a coordinating committee in the KCHR office.

Scene Two - Handout for Facilitator in the AOCR Group

The facilitator helps the group prepare for their meeting with the other group in the Governor's office after the March. If the group doesn't know where to start, the facilitator can call on individuals to share what they have on their handout.

Full Screen

Scene Two - Handouts for the AOCR Group

Each student in the group should be given a specific role. Here are 4 individual roles for each group - students may share a role or similar roles can be added to the group.

Full Screen

Scene Two - Handout for Facilitator in the Governor's Coordinating Committee Group

The facilitator helps the group prepare for their meeting with the other group in the Governor's office after the March. If the group doesn't know where to start, the facilitator can call on individuals to share what they have on their handout.

Full Screen

Scene Two - Handouts for the Governor's Coordinating Committee Group

Each student in the group should be given a specific role. Here are 4 individual roles for each group - students may share a role or similar roles can be added to the group.

Full Screen

Debrief Overall - 1960s Mass Protest Movements in Kentucky

The simulation should help participants understand that the local levels of the Civil Rights Movement is where change was happening (or not) during this important watershed in U.S. History.

Here are some general questions the educator can use to spur participants to think more deeply about both scenes together:

  • How did the Civil Rights Movement impact Americans' concepts of democracy?
  • Why do we remember the famous men of the Civil Rights Movement and tend to forget about the grassroots efforts by ordinary citizens who were working to end racial injustices in the U.S.?
  • What were the different roles of men and women and of blacks and whites in the Civil Rights Movement? Did these gendered and race/ethnicity-based roles impact decision-making historically (and in the participants' own groups)?
  • How much of these attitudes and beliefs you learned from the quotations of historical people in these scenes do you believe remains intact today?
  • Now that you have relived the past, even if for just these few minutes, what is our still unfinished work today?