To truly help the cause, one must understand what is truly at stake. We asked Assistant Professor of African American History Hettie Williams, Ph.D., what resources she would recommend to anyone looking to learn more about the history of the civil rights movement and the ongoing struggle for Black equality. Here is what she recommended.
Eyes on the Prize (PBS documentary): This multipart film, composed of archival footage and interviews of some of the most important historical figures in the history of the struggle for Black equality, is the definitive documentary on the American civil rights movement.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (PBS documentary): This film documents the Black Panther Party and its role in the larger struggle for Black equality and includes discussion of the impact the Black Panthers had on the civil rights movement.
Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) by Keisha N. Blain: In this award-winning text, Blain reconceptualizes the history of Black nationalism by placing women—including such pivotal figures as Amy Jacques Garvey, Amy Ashwood Garvey, and Mittie Maude Lena Gordon, co-architects of the Garvey movement— at the center of the narrative.
At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance—A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010) by Danielle L. McGuire: Stunning and compelling, this groundbreaking work defines the American civil rights movement as a woman’s movement, tracing the history of women’s activism from the work of Rosa Parks, who investigated the sexual assault of Black women in the 1940s for the NAACP, through to the early 1970s.
“The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past,” Journal of American History (2005) by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall: This pivotal journal article by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall chronologically reconceptualizes the civil rights movement as a “long movement” that has occurred beyond the parameters of the 1955 to 1968 narrative. It is essential reading for understanding the struggle for Black equality as a whole.
A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History (Beacon Press, 2018) by Jeanne Theoharis: Theoharis demonstrates how the popular histories or “fables” of this event get used to denounce contemporary protests and downplay current movements for social justice.