Texts about the civil rights movement

Letter from Birmingham Jail

Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter was written following protests in Birmingham and in response to reproaches made against the protestors by a group of clergymen. One of the main topics of the text is non-violent activism and resistance. In the letter, King explores the importance and necessity of protests and demonstrations against segregation and discrimination.

I Have a Dream

The speech was delivered at a high point in the civil rights movement. The speech received a lot of visibility – it was broadcast by national and international media and discussed in various newspapers. Even today, it is one of the most known speeches in history. Overall, "I Have A Dream" was aimed at promoting and supporting racial equality.

I've Been to the Mountaintop

The speech focuses on the general topic of the Memphis sanitation strike, talking about unity, economic boycotts, and peaceful protests as means to achieve African-American civil rights. You should also note that the speaker mentions receiving death threats and, in a way, he unknowingly foreshadows his murder the day after the speech.

The Ballot or the Bullet

Malcolm X's speech explores the topics of the civil rights movement and Black Nationalism. Constant themes in the speech are the discrimination and oppression African Americans are subjected to, the corruption and bias of the government, and the need for unity in the fight for equal civil rights.

Barack Obama's Selma Speech

Obama’s speech is intended to honor the Selma to Montgomery march that happened 50 years before the speech. The speaker touches on subjects such as the American values of freedom and equality, the civil rights movement, and police brutality against African Americans.

Below are further suggestions for texts and movies that may be relevant when working with the civil rights movement. We do not currently have study guides for these titles, but maybe you can be inspired to look for some of them yourself.

Dove, Rita - On the Bus with Rosa Parks (poetry)

DuVernay, Ava - Selma (2014 movie)

Field, Connie - Freedom on My Mind (1994 documentary)

Kennedy, John F. - 1963 Civil Rights Speech (speech)

King Jr, Martin Luther - Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech (speech)

Kunhardt, Peter - King in the Wilderness (2018 HBO documentary)

Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird (novel)

Malcolm X - The Autobiography of Malcolm X (autobiography)

Stockett, Kathryn - The Help (novel)

Taylor, Tate - The Help (2011 movie)