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Separate and Unequal in 1963: How Can We Create A Fair Society? (DMC Issue Guide)

Separate and Unequal in 1963: How Can We Create a Fair Society?, is a 22-page historical issue guide developed in 2014 by the David Mathews Center for Civic Life, Alabama Public Television (APT), and additional partners for use in a classroom setting. Download the Issue Guide PDF here.

DMC_1963_guideIn Separate and Unequal in 1963, students are asked to place themselves in 1963 Birmingham, Alabama to deliberate together through the difficult choices faced by those working to address segregation and inequality. Additionally, students are encouraged to consider the ways in which their own civic engagement shapes the communities of today. The issue guide includes an opening essay from Dr. David Mathews, a Civil Rights timeline, a fictional editorial on inequality in Alabama, three framed approaches, two classroom activities, a glossary of terms, and a list of helpful primary and secondary sources.

This historic issue guide is an accompanying resource for Alabama Public Television’s electronic field trip series entitled Project C: Lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement. The issue guide was named and framed by a diverse group of Alabamians. More information about the naming and framing process of this unique guide is available here. APT’s entire Project C electronic field trip series and accompanying resources can be found at www.aptv.org/project-C/.

In introducing this issue guide, Dr. David Mathews asks students to carefully weigh the challenges faced by Birmingham residents during this historic period:

“[T]ry to imagine yourself and your classmates have traveled back to 1963 and are looking at the options people were considering then. How would you weigh the three options that are presented in this issue book? Can you give each of them a “fair trial,” even the options that you don’t like? You’ll need to say what you think and listen closely to what others say. (Deliberation requires both.) This exercise will strengthen your ability to deliberate; and, in addition, it will teach history in a way that will allow you to experience it.”

The issue guide outlines the following three approaches to addressing the historical issues of segregation and inequality in 1963 Birmingham:

Approach One: “Take a Legislative and Legal Stand”
We can achieve lasting equality only through laws that ensure fairness and justice. If the United States is the land of the free, then we must do more to make sure that everyone is treated fairly. To honor our founding principles of freedom and equality, we need to aggressively change laws to get rid of segregation. Lawmakers must enact and enforce federal laws prohibiting segregation and discriminatory practices. Federal courts must require states and cities to respect court rulings, then lawyers must work to ensure equality through lawsuits.

Approach Two: “Build and Strengthen Relationships”
Inequality is a serious problem, but we must be very cautious not to disrupt relations in our community as we work to deal with it. Rapid change would lead to a disordered society that threatens everyone regardless of race. We must work together in our communities to improve relationships between black and white citizens. We must study the issue, learn to work together, and push for change at the local level. We must search for common ground to unite us and work to eliminate fear. Cities, states, and local communities should work peacefully on policies that guarantee equality and fairness for all citizens.

Approach Three: “Take Direct and Immediate Action”
We cannot wait for gradual change. It has been 100 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, and segregation is still being practiced in communities across the country. People are being treated unfairly, and Washington D.C. and state capitols are not moving fast enough. We cannot expect legislation and lawsuits alone to create equal opportunities. If we want to make real change, all citizens must take direct action now. Rapid change in the community may lead to positive changes across the country and the world. It’s urgent that we protest, boycott, and educate immediately. We must be willing to risk jail, injury, and perhaps even death.

About DMC and the Issue Guides
The David Mathews Center—a non-profit, non-partisan organization—authors deliberative frameworks for people to carefully examine multiple approaches, weigh costs and consequences, and work through tensions and tradeoffs among different courses of action to current and historic issues of public concern.

David Mathews Center issue guides are named and framed by Alabamians for Alabama Issues Forums (AIF) during a biennial “Citizens’ Congress” and follow-up workshops. Alabama Issues Forums is a David Mathews Center signature program designed to bring Alabamians together to deliberate and take community action on an issue of public concern. Digital copies of all AIF issue guides, and accompanying post-forum questionnaires, are available for free download at http://mathewscenter.org/resources. For further information about the David Mathews Center or this publication, please visit http://mathewscenter.org/ or contact DMC Executive Director, Cristin Foster, at cfoster[at]mathewscenter[dot]org.

Follow DMC on Twitter: @DMCforCivicLife

Resource Link: https://mathewscenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/PDF-9-Project-C-Issue-Guide.pdf

This resource was submitted by Cristin Foster, the Executive Director at David Mathews Center for Civic Life, via the Add-a-Resource form.

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