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Best Instructional Videos: American Civil Rights Movement

The fight for civil rights in America is an ongoing one. When honoring Dr. Martin Luther, King, Jr., or anytime throughout the year, teach students about the history of the civil rights movement to put in context race-related issues we continue to face today. Education World has compiled some great videos that examine the past, present and future of the movement, as well as some of the American icons who struggled to end discrimination. For each video, we include a description and grade level. We also note the video’s capacity for engagement (“cool factor”).

American Civil Rights Movement

Source:  Crash Course History

Grade level:  Fourth grade and up

Run time:  11:58

Description:  The video is aimed at students, and the host acts very much like a teacher. Archival photos are interspersed with colorful transition and plenty of explanation.

Cool factor:  The video is useful, despite its slightly dorky vibe.

History of the Civil Rights Movement


Grade level:  Sixth grade and up

Run time:  5:53

Description:  The video strings together photos and archival footage to (quickly) tell the story of the civil rights movement. It's not very in-depth, but provides a nice introduction to the topic.

Cool factor:  It's neither flashy nor un-cool—just a pretty straight story.


Freedom Riders (A Documentary on Nonviolent Civil Right Movement in the U.S.)

Source:  American Experience Films

Grade level:  High school

Run time:  1:51

Description:  This is a full-length film that covers the non-violent civil rights movement in the United States. The very well-done piece features extensive interviews, impressive footage and a large budget (compared to other educational films).

Cool factor:  It’s hard to not be moved by some of the personal stories told here.


Civil Rights Movement U.S. History Music Video

Source:  Koreancoffee (a YouTube user)

Grade level:  Sixth grade and up

Run time:  3:14

Description:  A quick pictorial history of the civil rights movement is set to “A Change Is Gonna Come,” by Sam Cooke. The video offers a nice scene-setter for a lesson on civil rights.

Cool factor:  Kids may not know who Sam Cooke is, but his cool factor is undeniable.


Article by Daniel Kline, EducationWorld Contributing Editor
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