Mapping the Civil Rights Movement

precious gem John Lewis at the impeachment hearings, 2019

For my digital project I’d like to map the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. I’ve been interested in African American history since my sophomore year of undergrad when I took a class from my mentor professor who is an African American historian. I took a Civil Rights centric class during a Maymester (a short 3 week semester in May after spring classes end). Because this class was so short, I felt like I didn’t get to spend as much time dedicated to the topic as I would have liked. I’ve studied the Civil Rights Movement in numerous classes but it only amounted to several weeks. This would be a great opportunity to work more with the topic and would be beneficial for myself and others who are interested in the topic to have a geographic visualization of what the Civil Rights Movement was like.

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Integration of Little Rock Central High School, 1957

I’d like to focus my years on 1954-1982. Most often, I see the movement ending in 1968 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, but this leaves out much of the Black Power movement and the Black Panther Party, so I’m choosing to end in 1982 with the official dissolution of the Black Panthers. For the digital method, I am conflicted between using Google maps or HistoryPin or maybe even another mapping tool, but I’m leaning toward Google maps in order to make the events chronological. If anyone has suggestions about what you think is best for this particular project, I’d love some advice!

Selma to Montgomery march, 1965

I plan to include important events to tell this story including things such as laws being passed (Brown v. Board, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, etc.), assassinations/murders (Emmett Till, Malcolm X, MLK, Fred Hampton), speeches and protests (Selma to Montgomery, Memphis Sanitation Strike, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, etc), etc. With each event I will include photos found from various archives, and a summary of the event and why it was important and/or what influenced it to happen. I want to focus more on the how and why things happened with the Civil Rights Movement by including these descriptions, instead of just the who, what, when, and where, although those will also be crucial aspects of understanding this movement as well.

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Memphis Sanitation Strike, 1968

With this project, I’d like to create a medium where people can learn about the Civil Rights Movement visually and geographically. Many comprehensive stories of the Civil Rights Movement come in the form of academic books or journals which are certainly wonderful, but they are ultimately not accessible to the general public in the way this and other online projects and exhibits are. By using a digital method such as Google maps or another mapping tool, it will make learning about Civil Rights more interesting and interactive.

2 Replies to “Mapping the Civil Rights Movement”

  1. Hey Sarah! In some of my undergrad studies of the Civil Rights Movement, we looked at some similar digital maps. It might be cool to use these a jumping-off point to see what is excluded (either accidentally or deliberately) and which areas/events/time periods are prioritized by others as compared to what you’d like to focus on! This could make your work an interesting intervention in these current/previous projects.

    Civil Rights Trail: https://civilrightstrail.com/interactive-map/
    NPS: https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/civilrights/mainmap.htm

  2. Hi Sarah and Sarah! I think this is a great idea. I think you could have multiple layers in your map to designate different kinds of event. For example, bills/laws passed could be in green and speeches/protests could be in blue! This would serve multiple purposes, allowing people to narrow their focus/research and serve as a great visual.
    I would also emphasize a timeline before and after 1968 and the Civil Rights Act. That is a great way to distinct your work from what other people have worked on.

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