On Monday, 3/11/13, Brooklyn Connections had the pleasure of welcoming 28 educators from throughout the City for a teacher workshop on the Civil Rights Movement in Brooklyn. The day started with a lecture from Dr. Brian Purnell, an Assistant Professor at Bowdoin College who has just published Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings, a book examining the impact of the Brooklyn Chapter of Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE). The Brooklyn Collection has been fortunate enough to have had Dr. Purnell come and speak at similar events several times before, and it is always a pleasure to hear him. As one educator wrote on their post-workshop “Dr. Purnell is the best!” We at the Collection wholeheartedly agree.
Dr. Purnell’s lecture focused primarily on the effectiveness of CORE within Brooklyn, and the idea that we should not necessarily teach the Civil Rights Movement as a ‘finished’ topic that ended in victories all around, but rather as a continuous struggle that is far more complex and interesting for students to interact with. Additionally, it happened in our “backyards” and offers students an opportunity to make a tangible connection to their local history.
Throughout the lecture, questions from our attending educators prompted discussion of such diverse matters as urban renewal, gentrification, Robert Moses, geographic differences within the national Movement, red-lining and ghettoization. Several shared their own memories with the movement and observations on how Brooklyn has changed within their lifetimes.
After a quick lunch, our librarian Ben Gocker took all of the teachers on a tour of the Collection, including our small but impressive map room and a trip down to the “Morgue” – the archived newspaper clippings from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
The Brooklyn Collection has a great selection of primary source documents (photographs, emails, oral histories…) on the Civil Rights Movement, and we have assembled a select few on different protests for teachers to use in their own lesson planning. The binders also include suggested readings of books contained within the Collection and example activity sheets for source analysis as well as some suggested lesson plans for teachers to use with their classes.
We ended our day with educators sharing different ideas and activities they had tried with students in the past. Dr. Purnell took advantage of the time with us to ask teachers about their experiences teaching the Civil Rights Movement in their classrooms, and the give-and-take nature of the discussion was so interesting that we ran over time, and could easily have prolonged the day further.
Feedback from the event was extremely positive, and many of the educators felt that they had learnt a lot throughout the day, both from Dr. Purnell and from the other teachers in the room.
We had a wonderful day with everyone, and really appreciated the highly dynamic group of educators who were assembled in our collection. We’d like to extend a hearty thank you to everyone involved and hope to see them again for another workshop in the near future!