Dates: July 17-28, 2023
Hours July 17-21: 12pm EDT to 5pm EDT (virtual)
Hours July 24-28: 9am EDT to 5pm EDT (in-person)
Host Institution: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library, New York City, New York
Location: Virtual & In-person
Application Deadline: March 3, 2023
Stipend: $2,200
Eligibility Requirements Here

Over the past twenty years, historians have constructed a rich, multi-faceted, and expansive view of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement across the twentieth century and the nation. Yet in their K-12 education, students often encounter a version of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement that has less depth and variety than this recent scholarship. Most curricula follows a traditional, southern-based historical narrative that typically begins in the 1950s with the Brown v. Board of Education decision and continues through the 1960s. These narratives regularly emphasize the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and singular moments of southern school desegregation. This institute expands and revises that narrative through a focus on Harlem’s rich, varied, and enduring struggle for educational justice.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “Bird’s eye view of West 125th Street, Harlem, looking west from Seventh Avenue, 1943” New York Public Library Digital Collections.

From the perspective of these events in Harlem, a new narrative emerges: a movement often led by women, not just the celebrated male leaders; a movement employing a wider range of political frameworks — including, but not limited to integrationaism — in the struggle for access to and equity in schooling; a movement as strongly situated in the North as in the South; and a movement that sought and developed rich educational experiences, not just formal schooling. It is also a movement that begins earlier and ends later than most know. The typical Civil Rights Movement narrative emphasizes the battles in the 1950s and 1960s but more than a decade of “long Civil Rights Movement” scholarship has challenged that framing. By extending the time frame back to the 1930s and forward to the 1970s, participants in this institute will consider long-standing continuities and points of change or rupture in the efforts of Harlem parents, teachers, and students to meet their educational needs.

Although many northern cities were home to important movement efforts, the famed neighborhood of Harlem was a profoundly important site in the quest to end educational disparities. Not only is Harlem distinct in the duration, variety, and richness of its Civil Rights Movement stories, but those stories are particularly well-documented within the collections of the Schomburg Center. Many movement veterans who personally participated in these historic events will participate as guest speakers, providing an important and distinctive resource for this institute.

The institute’s focus on education recognizes that popular narratives of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement often include schools as sites of contestation, such as Brown v. Board of Education. The role of schools and learning in the movement extends far beyond this one court ruling, however, and include the important teaching practices of leaders like Arturo Schomburg and Ella Baker, who conceptualized their work as building local citizens’ capacity for democratic action. Moreover, a focus on education as a key element of the Civil Rights Movement creates new opportunities in the K-12 curriculum. School is an institution that young people know well, which allows them to make direct connections from historic events to their current experiences. Schools, and the questions they embody and that were central to Civil Rights Movement struggles, thus make a compelling starting point for historical investigations in the classroom.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “Civil rights activist Ella Baker (standing third from right) with a group of young and teenage girls at a fair sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, circa 1950s” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1950 – 1959.

Harlem’s Education Movements will allow for in-depth inquiry as well as space for participants to imagine and work individually and collaboratively on adapting the core ideas of the institute to their individual classroom context. During the institute, teachers will engage in primary source-based, inquiry-driven approaches to learning and the judicious use of historical evidence — and therefore the institute itself at times models teaching approaches that are engaging and appropriate for students in grades six through twelve. The daily structure of the institute will mix seminar-style discussions of secondary literature, inquiry activities with primary materials in various Schomburg Center archival divisions, and guest lectures with leading scholars and with movement veterans. Recognizing that teachers will be encountering new history that may shift how they think about teaching the Civil Rights Movement in their classrooms, the schedule includes space for brainstorming, collaboration, and planning teacher-generated curricular materials.

Outcomes/Takeaway for Teachers

Over the course of the institute, participants will create and/or revise curricular materials related to the Civil Rights Movement.

To support this work, participants will use:

  • Archival materials from the Schomburg Center
  • Selected books and readings that expand the current Civil Rights narrative beyond the traditional southern-based narrative
  • Shared resources provided on the institute’s website, which will be continually updated throughout the institute

All participants will be asked to complete a final evaluation survey to help the institute director’s assess the program’s learning goals and outcomes.