The Civil Rights Era in U.S. History courses is commonly framed as a purely national event; a continuation of the democratic experiment which began in the late 18th century. However, civil rights have a long time frame and broad context that extends beyond national temporal and spatial boundaries. For example, ideas regarding equality, human rights, and citizenship which impacted the experiences of U.S. citizens and the society they lived in came from sources within and without the U.S. Nation. Historian Kevin Gaines reminds us that “worldwide news coverage of of desegregation crises in (U.S.) cities…helped forge unexpected and often tension filled alliances between movement leaders and a foreign policy establishment.”
Perspectives on the Civil Rights Era in U.S. history from non-American voices included in this module provide insights for comparative approaches to the national narrative. These global voices of the mid-20th century emphasize that ideas experience fusion and flow across nations and continents. Ultimately, resources provided in this module contextualize the Civil Rights era of the U.S. as an example of a Human Rights movement which was motivated by and drew inspiration from people, ideas, and places around the globe.
- How are US Civil Rights related to the concept of Human Rights expressed by the United Nations?
- What are the advantages of framing the US Civil Rights Era as a global event?
- To what extent to domestic realities impact foreign policy and the global image of a nation?
- How does the U.S. experience with civil rights equality compare to other nations’ experiences?
- Scholar Screencast, by Greg Adler
- Part 1: 12 Minutes
- Part 2: 8 Minutes
- “By adjusting our teaching of US History to include a few global perspectives, we are starting to cultivate in our students a natural habit of the mind rather than simply the proverbial “thinking outside the box” to thinking outside our borders. It is the global approach that our students will need to take as they face the different challenges of 21st Century .”
- C3 Inquiry Lessons
- Secondary Sources/Informational Texts
- Susan Waltz, Reclaiming and Rebuilding the History of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Third World Quarterly Vol. 23, No. 3 2002
- Video Series: Freedom of a Lifetime – South Africa’s Struggle (2008)
- Podcast, “Worth a lot of Negro Votes: Black Voters, Africa, and the 1960 Presidential Campaign” (2008). From the Journal of American History.
- Kevin Gaines paper presentation “African-American Expatriates in Ghana and ‘The Long Hot Summer of the 1960s'” at Southern Oral History Program (2009).
- Steve Spence, Cultural Globalization and the US Civil Rights Movement (excerpt) in Public Culture (2011).
- Video Series: Freedom Now – The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi (2012).
- Book Review – Race, Ethnicity, and the Cold War (2013).
- Podcast -15 Minute History from UTexas: Episode 36, Apartheid (2013).
- Matt Guterl – The Irish Rebellion Resonated in Harlem (2016).
- Primary Sources
- Martin Luther King Jr. Interview by Etta Moten Barnett in Accra, Ghana (1957).
- U.S. Memo Summarizing Soviet Communication about U.S.Civil Right Issues (1963).
- Statement by Comrade Mao Tse-tung Supporting the Afro-Americans in Their Just Struggle Against Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism. Peking Review No. 33, (1963).
- Soviet Union Poster: Shameful Brand of American Democracy (1963).
- Malcolm X’s Speech at the Founding Rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (1964).
- Malcolm X’s Speech at the University of Ghana (1964).
- Martin Luther King Jr. Speech on Segregation, Civil Rights, and Apartheid in South Africa. Given in London (1964).
- Dr. King’s “Massey Lectures: Conscience for Change” delivered in Canada 1967.
- Dr. King’s “Massey Lectures: Conscience and the War in Vietnam” delivered in Canada 1967.
- Political Cartoon: “The odd thing about assassins, Dr. King, is that they think they’ve killed you.” The Chicago Sun-Times (April 1968).
- Statement by Comrade Mao Tse-tung Supporting of the Afro-American Struggle Against Violent Repression Peking Review (1968).