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ERIC Number: EJ1043158
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 5
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0037-7724
From Freedom Riders to the Children's March: Civil Rights Documentaries as Catalysts for Historical Empathy
Buchanan, Lisa Brown
Social Education, v78 n2 p91-95 Mar-Apr 2014
Historical documentary film usually offers content in a format that students find more engaging than traditional historical texts. In the classroom, documentary film can be positioned within a historical thinking framework to study a broad concept like civil rights while facilitating students' source work and skill development. While social studies scholars have previously explored the value of using documentary film to study controversial issues or explore multiple perspectives, this article emphasizes how to join documentary film and historical thinking to elicit and develop historical empathy. The article identifies four progressive civil rights documentaries, and outlines how to use the films together with multiple discussion and writing exercises to examine the U.S. civil rights movement and cultivate empathy in the classroom. The documentaries selected by this author ("Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks," "Freedom Riders," "Four Little Girls," and "Mighty Times: The Children's March") present well-crafted historical accounts of four key events during the civil rights movement. They use primary source interviews to illustrate the counter-narratives of the movement that are often missing from textbooks, popular film, and trade books. Each of the documentaries presents interview footage, still images, and original historical footage or reenactments. The storytelling format offers multiple opportunities for learners to engage in historical empathy. Together, the films present a continual theme of everyday citizens collectively engaged in civic action. The films are practical for teaching social studies in grades 4-12, and can be used to explore four NCSS Standards: (1) Time, continuity, and change; (2) Individual development and identity; (3) Individuals, groups, and institutions; and (4) Civic ideals and practices.
National Council for the Social Studies. 8555 Sixteenth Street #500, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Tel: 800-683-0812; Tel: 301-588-1800; Fax: 301-588-2049; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A