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Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties

This list of resources may be used to help you and your students learn more about the historical events that inspired many of the artists in the Witness exhibition. Some of the resources are specific to an event, person, or piece of legislation represented in the exhibition, while other websites and books provide a more general look at social activism and artists working during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.

  • Books

    African American Art and Artists, by Samella Lewis. University of California Press, 2003. 
    This book provides a historical and art historical look at African American art and artists from 1619 to 2002.

    Witness Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties, by Teresa A. Carbone and Kellie Jones with Connie H. Choi, Dalia Scruggs, and Cynthia A. Young. Monacelli Press, 2014.
    Written in conjunction with the exhibition Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties, this catalogue has four scholarly essays plus a chronology of artists and events that occurred in the sixties around the struggle for racial equality.

    A Time for Justice: America’s Civil Rights Movement, created and compiled by Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
    This teaching package is free and can be ordered online. It comes with lesson plans and a film.

    Free at Last: A History of the Civil Rights Movement and Those Who Died in the Struggle, by Sara Bullard. Oxford University Press, 1993.
    This book, written and designed for ages 10 to adult, provides an illustrated history of the civil rights movement and includes a brief overview of black history in the United States, discussing the civil rights movement chronologically through stories and photos.

    Freedom on the Menu, by Carole Boston Weatherford and Jerome Lagarrigue. Penguin Group, 2007.
    Geared towards elementary school audiences and set in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960, this book tells a story of desegregation from the viewpoint of one little girl after Dr. Martin Luther King visits her town.

    My Soul is Rested: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South, by Howell Raines. Penguin Group, 1983.
    This book offers personal reflections and recollections of the civil rights movement by leaders and participants who fought for racial equality. It also includes the voices of those who supported George Wallace, Bull Connor, and the “traditions” of the Old South.

    Through My Eyes, by Ruby Bridges. Scholastic Press, 1999.
    This book is written for late-elementary-age students and offers an autobiographical account of integration through the eyes of Ruby Bridges, who became the first black student in an all-white school in 1960.

  • Websites


    This link will take you to a teacher packet written by Brooklyn Museum of Art educators in conjunction with the exhibition Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties.


    This site offers educational resources and information on prejudice, discrimination, multiculturalism, and diversity, with the ultimate goal of reducing the level of intolerance and bias in contemporary society.


    This website links to a curriculum from Facing History/Facing Ourselves and provides strategies for linking young people’s struggles today to young people’s activism during the Civil Rights Movement. The curriculum is organized around three critical moments in the Civil Rights Movement: the murder of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, the Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights in 1965, and the desegregation of Boston public schools in the 1960s and 1970s.


    This links to five video segments of the 1985 Frontline show dedicated to teacher Jane Elliott and her daring lesson in discrimination called Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes. Elliott developed this game for her all-white third-grade class in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The links include the third graders reflecting on their experience after the lesson and discussing the experience again fourteen years later.


    This website is geared toward K-12 teachers and offers video clips, lesson plans, and games that revolve around teaching about the civil rights movement in America in the 1950s and 1960s.


    This website is dedicated to promoting values, attitudes, and behaviors that encourage non-violent conflict resolution, respect for human rights, democracy, intercultural understanding, and tolerance.


    This online exhibition examines the historic turning point in the history of race relations in the United States through photographs, background information, and lesson plans.


    The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a large interpretive museum and research center in Birmingham, Alabama, that is devoted to the struggles of the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.


    The National Civil Rights Museum is dedicated to chronicling the key moments of the civil rights movement in the United States and inspiring participation in civil and human rights efforts globally. The website offers information about the museum’s collections and exhibitions, teacher resources, and more.


    This teaching resource for a 2010–11 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum discusses Norman Rockwell’s painting The Problem We All Live With, which was inspired by the story of Ruby Bridges, who in 1960 became the first African American child to attend an all-white elementary school in New Orleans.


    This online resource created by the National Archives provides teachers with resources to teach about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including legislative documents, background information, classroom activities, and additional resources.


    The website for the online exhibition Voices of Civil Rights documents events during the civil rights movement in the United States. The exhibition offers oral histories and photographs presenting diverse individuals’ experiences during the civil rights movement.


    This links to a PDF of Deborah Wiles’s Freedom Summer, which provides an account of segregation though the eyes of a child.

    The following three links are resources related to a 2003 National Gallery of Art exhibition, The Art of Romare Beardon. They include biographical information as well as a teacher’s guide and a children’s guide.

    http://www.nga.gov/feature/bearden/ http://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/teach... http://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/an-ey...