An Audiovisual Resource on Michigan Civil Rights History (Planning Site)

Project Overview

At present we are in the planning and design phases for “From Resistance to Rights, An Audiovisual Resource on Michigan Civil Rights History.” Funded through the Institute for Museums and Libraries Services (IMLS) this is a multifaceted project that will be developed over the next 18 months. Project partners are Michigan State University, Detroit Public Television, and the Michigan Historical Center, who are joining together to develop a rich set of publicly available multi-media resources on African American history in Michigan and to train social studies teachers to bring the resources into Michigan classrooms. In practical terms, we aim that this project will result in:

  • Production of new online resources about African-American history accessible to a national audience
  • Production of a related exhibit or kiosk at Michigan Historical Center
  • Production of a related television program by Detroit Public Television
  • Use of the produced materials in history and social studies classrooms (grade 4 Michigan Social Studies, High School US History, and introductory college history courses)
  • Increased and/or more accurate knowledge of Michigan’s unique role in the Underground Railroad and in the African American struggle for civil rights among target Mid-Michigan teachers, Michigan history and social science teachers statewide, and public television viewing audience.
  • Increased understanding of civic engagement in public and legal processes – in short, what citizens in a democratic society can do when they believe a law is unjust.
  • Increased confidence among target teachers in using Internet video and streaming technology in their teaching.

Examining the Elements of Freedom—Our Concept So Far…

This project seeks to link the resources of the Michigan Historical Center and American Black Journal television programming to illuminate the connections between the anti-slavery movement of the Underground Railroad and the continuing history of civil rights struggle in Michigan.

Our goal is to provide informational resources and a thematic structure that will enable students to understand and appreciate the complexity of that struggle. We want students to learn to think in more complicated and nuanced ways about the fundamental concept of freedom. We also want to help students grasp more clearly the continuities between the long ago and the contemporary. We have begun our own conceptual thinking by proposing a tentative organizing concept for the project — The Elements of Freedom. This suggests from the beginning that freedom is not clear-cut and absolute but multifaceted and fluid. It also suggests an organizational structure for the presentation of materials from the Archives of Michigan and the American Black Journal video archive. In a tentative outline we have so far identified seven “Elements of Freedom.” Each is to be fleshed out with the stories of real Michigan people, sample documents from the Archives that illustrate the human experience of the issues involved, and video clips from the ABJ series that illuminate contemporary discussions of those issues.

Elements of Freedom

I. Freedom from Bondage

A. Abolitionism and the Underground Railroad

II. Political Freedom

A. Voting Rights

B. Access to Political Parties

C. Access to Public Office

III. Economic Freedom

A. Employment Opportunities

B. Business Ownership

IV. Social Freedom

A. Access to Public Facilities

B. Discriminatory Patterns in Housing

V. Educational Freedom

A. Disparities in Educational Opportunities

VI. Freedom and the Law

A. Access to the Legal System

B. Court Challenges to Discrimination

C. Constitutional Safeguards