This blog will serve as a portfolio of my research project for Dr. S. Fernsebner’s History 471: History of Childhood course at the University of Mary Washington during the Spring 2017 semester. My other research conducted at UMW is available at here.
From Where, Oh Where to Why, Oh Why:
Explaining the Motives, Goals, Interests, and Discoveries of “Moved to the Movement”
As the recipient of both the James Farmer Scholarship and the Hamlin B. Caldwell, Jr. Scholarship, once tasked with picking an aspect of youth in the 20th century to research, I began to consider looking into an aspect of social justice. 1 Scouring between Simpson Library and Google, I ran across an article discussing sit-ins in the Civil Rights Movement that linked back to the Chattanooga History Center. The article focused on the involvement of high schoolers in the Chattanooga sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement, both as protesters and counter-protesters. 2 This led me to my research questions: Was there a significant amount of youth involvement in the Civil Rights Movement? Where were youth involved in the Civil Rights Movement? What were they doing? Additionally, as a student in the College of Education at UMW, I have tried to research subjects that will tie into my teaching career. Ultimately, my research would show that youth of all ages participated in the Civil Rights Movement across the United States and for many reasons, they were treated no differently than adults participating, and information on youth involvement in the Civil Rights Movement is not available in one collective place.
Before researching ‘youth’ involvement in the Civil Rights Movement I needed to define what ‘youth’ was. Scholarly research lacks consensus on the matter; therefore, there are three reasons I have chosen to cover all ages below twenty. First, everyone’s experiences are different and there is no agreement on when or why a person’s childhood ends. To answer if a person’s childhood ended due to what they saw or did during the Civil Rights Movement was out of the scope of this research project and not of use in a future history classroom where that question is not part of the current curriculum. Second, though most states consider sixteen and above an age of consent or adulthood, these are still teenagers and today’s ideas of youth and adulthood are unlikely to have been the same in the mid-1900’s, let alone in every state. Third, many teenagers became involved in the Civil Rights Movement once they or their siblings attended college. Though I found significant evidence of high school, middle school, and even elementary school children participating in the Civil Rights Movement, it would have been a disservice to the narrative of this project to remove such a key aspect of childhood, maturity, and growth in this era when this experience led many to continue to be activists for the rest of their lives.
Many discussions with my peers in the History of Childhood course revolved around the treatment of children throughout history. There was an expectation from the majority of the class that children should be protected and that throughout history there were significant failures to do so. 3 Research showed that youth involved in the Civil Rights Movement would be no different; however, the evidence shows that there was no particular bias to youth protesters or youth counter-protesters in some locations. For example, youth in Chattanooga, Tennessee were arrested, regardless of their stance. 4 Meanwhile, there is no record or mention in interviews of punishment for the high school students attacking and harassing the famous SNCC protesters at the famous Jackson, Mississippi Woolworth sit-in on May 28, 1963.5 As you will see through exploration of the site and its many pages, there was evidence across types of protests and the years of the Civil Rights Movement that regardless of age, youth in the Civil Rights Movement were motivated to participate on their own, attacked and arrested by police, and participating in multiple ways. However, it was this very diversity that made this project so difficult.
At its inception, the scope of this project was to include every state’s Civil Rights Movement events involving youth and pages making connections to current movements around the world where youth are participating. The issue lies in the fact that though the information exists, there is very little organization of the youth involvement. For example, many books on the sit-ins and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) mention youth involvement, periodically include names or ages, but even more rarely discussed where these people were traveling from, be it cities or schools. Therefore, much of the work was to research names, which often turned up interviews, and calculating their ages to verify that they were teenagers during their involvement. Many details of actual locations, such as what schools student protesters and counter-protesters were from came out of newspapers discussing the protests. 6 Consequently, this has motivated me to extend this research project beyond the end-of-term goals. As is visible through my initial proposal,
As is visible through my initial proposal, my intention was to provide teachers with a timeline of sources and a time map of events. The timeline would allow students and teachers to see the growing interest in the Civil Rights Movement and the shift in arguments over time. The downside of this option was that scholarly articles are not always available to the public and textbooks vary in reading level and lack accessibility options for our students with vision impairments or English language barriers. The shift to correct this issue is twofold. First, the site now has a bibliography to provide citations of books, sites, and scholarly articles as well as the multimedia across the entire site on one page for it to be clicked through at the viewer’s leisure. My long-term goal is to provide a resources page as well. This will include texts with reviews and available links. A means of correcting the literacy and “wall of text” issue was to break up the pages with chronological events with mini-slideshows and small synopses of the events, videos, and audio as available with mentions of their accessibility options. Second, the time map, which would have displayed the events overlaid on a map, was limiting the multimedia options to one picture or video, lack of location clarity, very slow to load, and not accessible to students with hearing and visual impairments. The current model of the state pages may change with some time; however, it allows for more options and accessibility for teachers and students.
In summary, this project is a working project that will expand over time to include more events of youth involvement, both in the Civil Rights Movement and other events around the world that can be used for comparison. “Moved to the Movement” presented several challenges, particularly in adjusting the site to be more useful to teachers and students, as well as collecting the scattered sources. However, overall this site will provide an educational resource for teachers that simply does not exist in one digital space. As you and your students will discover through exploration of the site and the subsequent sources youth were involved in the Civil Rights Movement both as leaders and participators, protesters and counter-protesters; and though it can be difficult to find the voice of those who participated their voice is out there and they are very vocal about their agency to participate in the Civil Rights Movement. Moreover, there are clear connections between the Civil Rights Movement, current movements – such as Black Lives Matter, and past movements. Therefore, the long-term goal is to expand the site to include current U.S. events like BLM and DAPL, global events such as Venezuela’s economic and political protests, as well as add books and scholarly article dois and to expand on the state events.
- James Farmer was a key leader in the Civil Rights Movement and professor at the University of Mary Washington. Dr. Caldwell was a History professor at UMW that was also passionate about social justice.
- Alex Q. Arbuckle, “February 1960 Chattanooga Sit-ins: Courageous High Schoolers Take on Angry Mobs and Fire Hoses,” Retronaut via Mashable, February 19, 2017, accessed April 14, 2017, http://mashable.com/2017/02/19/chattanooga-sit-ins/#dNiaRz5jD8qr.
- Some examples in the United States included child labor and the creation of life insurance for children; For visuals on child labor visit: Lewis Hine Collection. National Archives. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/523064.; The reading we discussed on life insurance for children: Viviana Zelizer, “The Price and Value of Children: The Case of Children’s Insurance,” in The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 86, No. 5 (March 1981): 1036-1056.
- “Chattanooga News-Free Press Collection, February 5-February 26, 1960, Catalog No. 2016.004.004.a-aa.” Chattanooga History Center. Accessed April 14, 2017. http://chattanooga.pastperfectonline.com/archive/4CDE5151-C2C1-438A-888C-512417512147.
- The Woolworth sit-in is one of the most analyzed and discussed sit-ins by both participants and scholars. A lengthy discussion of the event took place in the Library of Congress’ interview with Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, who participated in the event. My primary source analysis is of one of the many interviews with Ms. Trumpauer Mulholland and available on this blog; Civil Rights History Project, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, and John Dittmer. Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Oral History Interview Conducted by John Dittmer in Arlington, Virginia. Video. The Library of Congress. Accessed February 19, 2017. https://www.loc.gov/item/2015669178/.
- These examples are found throughout the various state pages, particularly in Alabama with the Children’s Crusade in Birmingham and Tennessee with the various newspaper articles from the Chattanooga History Center Archives.