After the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Georgetown University Assistant Professor of History Marcia Chatelain started the #FergusonSyllabus Twitter hashtag as a space for educators to share resources and ideas. Engaging these issues can be difficult to navigate for even the most experienced teachers. The POV films Every Mother’s Son, Two Towns of Jasper and Revolution ’67 provide a framework for conversation. Find the POV #FergusonSyllabus below with resources from these films.
In the late 1990s, three victims of police brutality made headlines around the country: Amadou Diallo, the young West African man whose killing sparked intense public protest; Anthony Baez, killed in an illegal choke-hold; and Gary (Gidone) Busch, a Hasidic Jew shot and killed outside his Brooklyn home. Every Mother’s Son profiles three New York mothers who unexpectedly find themselves united to seek justice and transform their grief into an opportunity for profound social change.
- Lesson Plan: Every Mother’s Son: The victims’ stories are told from the perspective of the men’s mothers, who fight for justice and accountability for their sons’ deaths, and seek systemic reforms that will help prevent such deaths from happening in the future. After watching and discussing the film, students will research their local police department and work to improve its effectiveness in the community.
- Every Mother’s Son Discussion Guide
- Web Features: Best Practices in Community Policing and Excerpt: The NYPD Patrol Guide
- Every Mother’s Son Delve Deeper Reading List
In 1998 in Jasper, Texas, James Byrd, Jr., a black man, was chained to a pick-up truck and dragged to his death by three white men. The town was forever altered, and the nation woke up to the horror of a modern-day lynching. In Two Towns Of Jasper, two film crews, one black and one white, set out to document the aftermath of the murder by following the subsequent trials of the local men charged with the crime. The result is an explicit and troubling portrait of race in America, one that asks how and why a crime like this could have occurred.
- Lesson Plan: Examining White Privilege: The film is a nuanced view of the subtleties of race relations in America and the different viewpoints forged by racial identity. The lesson will guide students to a better understanding of privilege — one of the pervasive causes behind racism — and, more specifically, the impact of “white privilege” on racism against non-white Americans. An exploration of the concept of privilege can also help students understand the societal factors that contribute to other “ism’s”: sexism, ethnocentrism, classism and heterosexism.
- Lesson Plan: Examining Prejudice: Viewing Two Towns of Jasper will provide students with a starting point to research and discuss diversity in our culture and the impact intolerance has on a variety of groups in our society. In this lesson students will take a hidden bias test to uncover the existence of hidden biases, research the struggles faced by certain people living in the United States, and reflect on how they arrived at their own convictions and how firmly they are committed to their beliefs.
Revolution ’67 is an illuminating account of events too often relegated to footnotes in U.S. history — the black urban rebellions of the 1960s. Focusing on the six-day Newark, N.J., outbreak in mid-July, Revolution ‘67 reveals how the disturbances began as spontaneous revolts against poverty and police brutality and ended as fateful milestones in America’s struggles over race and economic justice. Voices from across the spectrum — activists Tom Hayden and Amiri Baraka, journalist Bob Herbert, Mayor Sharpe James, and other officials, National Guardsmen and Newark citizens — recall lessons as hard-earned then as they have been easy to neglect since.
- Lesson Plan: Root Causes of Urban Rebellion: By the end of this lesson, students will use viewing skills, note-taking strategies and class discussion to determine the causes of Newark’s 1967 urban rebellion. They will describe modern conditions in Newark and form an opinion about whether or not riots could happen in the city today, as well as identify lessons learned from Newark and write about how those lessons could be applied toward positive changes in your community or state.
- Revolution ’67 Delve Deeper Reading List
- Revolution ’67 Discussion Guide
- Borrow the Film: This film is available for free community screenings through the POV Community Network.
Let us know how the conversation plays our in your classroom using the #FergusonSyllabus hashtag and including @POVengage.