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United States History in Streaming Documentary Films: Civil Rights Movement 1954–1968

Civil Rights Movement 1954–1968

All Power to the People
"Opening with a montage of four hundred years of race injustice in America, this powerful documentary provides the historical context for the establishment of the 60's civil rights movement. Rare clips of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, and other activists transport one back to those tumultuous times. ...."

At the River I Stand
"Memphis, Spring 1968 marked the dramatic climax of the Civil Rights movement. At the River I Stand skillfully reconstructs the two eventful months that transformed a strike by Memphis sanitation worker into a national conflagration, and disentangles the complex historical forces that came together with the inevitability of tragedy at the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..."

America in the 20th Century: The Civil Rights Movement
"This documentary features the Civil Rights Movement in America."

The Barber of Birmingham
"...movingly portrays the unsung 'foot soldiers' of the civil rights movement through the personal story of 85-year-old barber James Armstrong, who carried the American flag in the epic 1965 'Bloody Sunday' Selma voting rights march, and spearheaded efforts to integrate public schools in Alabama..."


Eyes On the Prize "... tells the definitive story of the civil rights era from the point of view of the ordinary men and women whose extraordinary actions launched a movement that changed the fabric of American life, and embodied a struggle whose reverberations continue to be felt today. .."

  1. Awakenings (1954-1956) "Individual acts of courage inspire black Southerners to fight for their rights: Mose Wright testifies against the white men who murdered young Emmett Till, and Rosa Parks refuses to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama."
  2. Fighting Back (1957 - 1962) "States' rights loyalists and federal authorities collide in the 1957 battle to integrate Little Rock's Central High School, and again in James Meredith's 1962 challenge to segregation at the University of Mississippi. Both times, a Southern governor squares off with a U.S. president, violence erupts — and integration is carried out..."
  3. Ain't Scared of Your Jails (1960 - 1961) "Black college students take a leadership role in the civil rights movement as lunch counter sit-ins spread across the South. "Freedom Riders" also try to desegregate interstate buses, but they are brutally attacked as they travel."
  4. No Easy Walk (1961-1963) "The civil rights movement discovers the power of mass demonstrations as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. emerges as its most visible leader. Some demonstrations succeed."
  5. Mississippi: Is This America? (1963-1964) "Mississippi's grass-roots civil rights movement becomes an American concern when college students travel south to help register black voters and three activists are murdered. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party challenges the regular Mississippi delegation at the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City."
  6. "Bridge to Freedom (1965)  "A decade of lessons is applied in the climactic and bloody march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. A major victory is won when the federal Voting Rights Bill passes, but civil rights leaders know they have new challenges ahead."
  7. The Time Has Come (1964-66)  "After a decade-long cry for justice, a new sound is heard in the civil rights movement: the insistent call for power. Malcolm X takes an eloquent nationalism to urban streets as a younger generation of black leaders listens. In the South, Stokely Carmichael and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) move from 'Freedom Now' to 'Black Power!' as the fabric of the traditional movement changes.'"
  8. Two Societies (1965-68) "Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) come north to help Chicago's civil rights leaders in their nonviolent struggle against segregated housing. Their efforts pit them against Chicago's powerful mayor, Richard Daley. When a series of marches through all-white neighborhoods draws violence, King and Daley negotiate with mixed results..."
  9. Power! (1966-68) "The call for Black Power takes various forms across communities in black America. In Cleveland, Carl Stokes wins election as the first black mayor of a major American city. The Black Panther Party, armed with law books, breakfast programs, and guns, is born in Oakland. ..."
  10. The Promised Land (1967-68) "Martin Luther King stakes out new ground for himself and the rapidly fragmenting civil rights movement. One year before his death, he publicly opposes the war in Vietnam. His Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) embarks on an ambitious Poor People's Campaign. In the midst of political organizing, King detours to support striking sanitation workers in Memphis, where he is assassinated. King's death and the failure of his final campaign mark the end of a major stream of the movement."
  11. Ain't Gonna Shuffle No More (1964-72) "A call to pride and a renewed push for unity galvanize black America. World heavyweight champion Cassius Clay challenges America to accept him as Muhammad Ali, a minister of Islam who refuses to fight in Vietnam. Students at Howard University in Washington, D.C., fight to bring the growing black consciousness movement and their African heritage inside the walls of this prominent black institution. Black elected officials and community activists organize the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana, in an attempt to create a unified black response to growing repression against the movement."
  12. A Nation of Law? (1968-71) "Black activism is increasingly met with a sometimes violent and unethical response from local and federal law enforcement agencies. In Chicago, two Black Panther Party leaders are killed in a pre-dawn raid by police acting on information supplied by an FBI informant...."
  13. The Keys to the Kingdom (1974-80) "In the 1970s, antidiscrimination legal rights gained in past decades by the civil rights movement are put to the test. In Boston, some whites violently resist a federal court school desegregation order. Atlanta's first black mayor, Maynard Jackson, proves that affirmative action can work, but the Bakke Supreme Court case challenges that policy."
  14. Back to the Movement (1979-mid 80s) "Power and powerlessness. Miami's black community — pummeled by urban renewal, a lack of jobs, and police harassment — explodes in rioting. But in Chicago, an unprecedented grassroots movement triumphs. Frustrated by decades of unfulfilled promises made by the city's Democratic political machine, reformers install Harold Washington as Chicago's first black mayor."

The Freedom Train
"The National Negro Labor Council, formed in 1951, was a forerunner of the civil rights movement that followed in the '60's. It grew out of the auto factories of Detroit, the packinghouses of Chicago and the sweat of black laborers across the country. Its mission was to advance blacks in the workplace and eliminate racism inside the unions...."

The Long Walk to Freedom
"...this 30-minute documentary is about how 12 ordinary people, from very different backgrounds, came to accomplish extraordinary deeds; deeds which changed the face of the nation. Together with tens of thousands of other Americans, they joined the Civil Rights movement to protest racial inequality, segregation, and discrimination in the 1960s..."

Love and Solidarity
" an exploration of nonviolence and organizing through the life and teachings of Rev. James Lawson. Lawson provided crucial strategic guidance while working with Martin Luther King, Jr., in southern freedom struggles and the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968. Moving to Los Angeles in 1974, Lawson continued his nonviolence organizing in multi-racial community and worker coalitions that have helped to remake the LA labor movement...."

The Promised Land
"This program sets out to portray the current tensions and frustrations, hopes and fears, of this divided city that was at the center of the civil rights struggle in the '50's and '60's. Here is where it all started in 1955 with the famous bus boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ten years later, Montgomery was the symbolic goal of the march from Selma to protest restrictions on black voters, when many marchers were beaten by police. Images of those years are interwoven with the experiences of Montgomery's black citizens today..."

Standing on My Sisters' Shoulders: Women of the Civil Rights Movement
"In 1965, when three women walked into the US House of Representatives in Washington D.C., they had come a very long way. Neither lawyers nor politicians, they were ordinary women from Mississippi, and descendants of African slaves. They had come to their country's capital seeking civil rights, the first black women to be allowed in the senate chambers in nearly 100 years..."  (Kanopy)