Teachers in the Movement

A civil rights oral history project

Educators were often at the forefront of social activism, yet their role and participation in the Civil Rights Movement has been largely ignored.  

These teachers participated in a wide range of efforts to promote democracy, reform curricula, organize communities, and mentor young civil rights activists.  Their engagement, both in the public sphere and behind the scenes, has shaped and influenced the Civil Rights Movement.

Many educators involved in the Civil Rights Movement are advanced in age while others have sadly passed on.  Their stories must be captured, collected, and archived for future generations.  It is critical that these stories be collected as soon as possible.

If the stories of these educators are not systematically collected, much of this history will be lost, and with it, a significant dimension of the Civil Rights Movement.

See more of this important story here in the UVA publication Illimitable.

The Project

The project focuses on oral history interviews with elementary, secondary, and university teachers and educators about their participation in and efforts during the Civil Rights Movement.  The Civil Rights Movement was not racially monolithic. The project embraces a multicultural mindset to conduct interviews with educators of different races, ethnic backgrounds, class and social backgrounds.

In the project's first few months, the team of researchers have conducted more than 20 interviews. The team hopes to have recorded 50 by the first year's end and 100 by the end of 2016. Sponsored by the Jefferson Trust with support from the School of Education and Human Development, the project is laying the foundation for an ambitious videotape oral history repository on teachers in Virginia and throughout the South.

'Teachers played very important roles in the movement,' said Alridge. 'What drives our research team is our desire to bring their stories to light. We intend to put the project on par someday with other major oral history projects that cover the Civil Rights Movement, such as The Behind the Veil Project at Duke University and the Southern Oral History Project at the University of North Carolina.'

​Research Team

Dr. Derrick P. Alridge
Project Director/Principal Investigator

Dr. Danielle Wingfield-Smith
Associate Project Director