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Kentucky Civil Rights History, 1960-64: Two Scenes to Play

Author: Randolph Hollingsworth

Getting Ready - Learning the Local History

Before beginning the simulation, review the history of Kentucky during the civil rights movement. The most useful resource is the following text:

Fosl, Catherine and Tracy E. K'Meyer. Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 2009.

Another task to undertake is to become familiar with particular historical terms from the above text in order to get to know the local and state history. The terms and their definitions can be found in the next next section. The term definitions were created by a group of first-year Honors Program students at the University of Kentucky as part of their course on the History of Kentucky Women in the Civil Rights Era (see more at KYWCRH.org)

Historical Terms

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Source: Created by University of Kentucky students in the Honors Program.

SCENE ONE: LOUISVILLE, February 1960

The first scene is set in the front steps of the courthouse in Louisville where the groups will argue the role of the Board of Aldermen in addressing the enforcement of integration in public settings. The Board of Aldermen have just passed the famous 1960 Resolution asserting property owner rights over the rights of oppressed minorities to have equal and fair access to public places in the city of Louisville (see Historical Terms for full text of this resolution).

The learners are placed in two groups: one group meets in Anne and Carl Braden's home in the early spring of 1960 with Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) members to plan trainings on how to use non-violence tactics while conducting a sit-in or street march. The other group meets in the City government offices with the Aldermen, local downtown business owners and other prominent citizens.

Each individual is given a particular role - and a handout that helps them prepare in their respective groups for the discussion on the courthouse steps where they will meet the other group and debate their point of view about the 1960 Resolution. Depending on the level of background understanding of the historical terms they are expected to use while in their roles, this preparatory meeting could take 30-50 minutes. The groups should be reminded to review the historical terms and to try out the quotations in their smaller groups to collaborate on what these particular individuals can say and how best they can participate in the upcoming meeting on the courthouse steps.

Make sure each group has a facilitator who does not have a role to play, but is given a summary sheet with all the different roles included.  The facilitator should help to make sure each participant contributes something from their handout.

For younger students, roles may need to be modified, especially in the position of facilitator. 

 

Scene One - Handout for Facilitator in the Civil Rights Activists Group

The facilitator helps the group prepare for their meeting with the other group on the courthouse steps. If the group doesn't know where to start, the facilitator can call on individuals to share what they have on their handout.

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Scene One - Handouts for the Civil Rights Activists Group

Each student in the group should be given a specific role. Here are 4 individual roles for each group - students may share a role or similar roles can be added to the group.

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Scene One - Handout for Facilitator in the Louisville Board of Aldermen Group

The facilitator helps the group prepare for their meeting with the other group on the courthouse steps. If the group doesn't know where to start, the facilitator can call on individuals to share what they have on their handout.

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Scene One - Handouts for the Louisville Board of Aldermen Group

Each student in the group should be given a specific role. Here are 4 individual roles for each group - students may share a role or similar roles can be added to the group.

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Debrief Scene One

The facilitators share their observations about how the participants used the historical terms (or not) and whether the quotations were included (or not). Who (or what) was missing from the conversation?

Students should be encouraged to describe whether there was a clear understanding of the two different sides in the discussion - did the groups rely on stereotypes to dissuade the other side from making their arguments in a logical manner? How well did the two groups support a common goal of justice? of fairness?

The educator should then give a brief summary of the actual events in Louisville following the 1960 Resolution (including the successful voter registration drive that removed most all the existing Board) and in the rest of the early 1960s, including the mass protests and boycotts.

Scene Two: Frankfort, March 1964

This scene is set in Kentucky Governor Breathitt's office. Have the learners prepare for the meeting with the governor in two groups:

  1. one group prepares for the meeting in the Allied Organizations for Civil Rights offices with members of the represented groups, and
  2. the other group (including the governor, key legislators and KY Commission on Human Rights officials) meets with federal marshals as a coordinating committee in the KCHR office.

Scene Two - Handout for Facilitator in the AOCR Group

The facilitator helps the group prepare for their meeting with the other group in the Governor's office after the March. If the group doesn't know where to start, the facilitator can call on individuals to share what they have on their handout.

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Scene Two - Handouts for the AOCR Group

Each student in the group should be given a specific role. Here are 4 individual roles for each group - students may share a role or similar roles can be added to the group.

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Scene Two - Handout for Facilitator in the Governor's Coordinating Committee Group

The facilitator helps the group prepare for their meeting with the other group in the Governor's office after the March. If the group doesn't know where to start, the facilitator can call on individuals to share what they have on their handout.

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Scene Two - Handouts for the Governor's Coordinating Committee Group

Each student in the group should be given a specific role. Here are 4 individual roles for each group - students may share a role or similar roles can be added to the group.

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Debrief Overall - 1960s Mass Protest Movements in Kentucky

The simulation should help participants understand that the local levels of the Civil Rights Movement is where change was happening (or not) during this important watershed in U.S. History.

Here are some general questions the educator can use to spur participants to think more deeply about both scenes together:

  • How did the Civil Rights Movement impact Americans' concepts of democracy?
  • Why do we remember the famous men of the Civil Rights Movement and tend to forget about the grassroots efforts by ordinary citizens who were working to end racial injustices in the U.S.?
  • What were the different roles of men and women and of blacks and whites in the Civil Rights Movement? Did these gendered and race/ethnicity-based roles impact decision-making historically (and in the participants' own groups)?
  • How much of these attitudes and beliefs you learned from the quotations of historical people in these scenes do you believe remains intact today?
  • Now that you have relived the past, even if for just these few minutes, what is our still unfinished work today?