Media Tactics

From Women and Girls Lead, Vol. 2: African American Women Lead collection, lesson plan 2 of 2

Grade Levels: 9-12, College

Time: One to two 50-minute class periods (+ assignments and extensions)

Subject Areas: Social Studies, Civics, Political Science, Journalism, Language Arts, Women’s Studies, Media Studies, Primary Resources

Purpose of the Lesson:

During the 1950s, the new medium of television brought the struggle for civil rights into the homes of Americans, broadcasting dramatic images of clashes between nonviolent protesters and violent segregationists. Acutely aware of the power media coverage had to shed light on the nature of racism in the South, many civil rights leaders attracted media attention by staging newsworthy marches, demonstrations, rallies, and boycotts. During the 1956 desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, Daisy Bates — publisher, journalist, and president of the Arkansas NAACP — was thrust into the national spotlight as she skillfully used the media to rouse public opinion.

In this lesson, students will consider the media’s role during the desegregation of Central High School and the consequences of media coverage on the private lives of those involved. They will identify Daisy Bates’s media strategies and analyze the ways in which race and gender shaped the media’s portrayal of her. Lastly, students will describe how they would use the media accessible to them to voice opposition to a specific event, policy or practice in their community.

Objectives:

Students will: * Identify various forms of protest and civil disobedience and cite historical examples of women engaged in protest actions/movements * Analyze Daisy Bates’s media strategies during the 1956 desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas * Analyze the ways in which race and gender shaped the media’s portrayal of Daisy Bates * Evaluate the effectiveness of using the media to gather public support for a cause * Describe how they would use the media accessible to them to voice opposition to a specific event, policy, or practice in their community resources

Materials:

  • Film Module: Daisy Bates, First Lady of Little Rock: Media Spokeswoman [15:50]
  • LCD projector or DVD player
  • Teacher Handout: Social Justice Media Campaign Rubric
  • Student Handout A: Film Module Worksheet
  • Student Handout B: Launch a Social Justice Media Campaign
  • Pens and writing paper
  • Whiteboard/blackboard and dry-erase markers/chalk
  • Computers with Internet access

Writer: Tracee Worley is an educator and curriculum developer who loves to design student-centered learning experiences. Her work helps students, teachers, and organizations use the design process to develop curricula and environments that promote innovation and creativity. Her innovative curricula have been featured by NBC and The New York Times. She holds a B.A. in African American Studies from UC Berkeley, an M.A. in Education from Brooklyn College, and a M.S.W. from Columbia University.

Please note: Download teacher and student handouts in PDF format through "Download lesson materials" at left

PRE-SCREENING ACTIVITY

You will need: whiteboard/blackboard, dry-erase markers/chalk

Goal: In preparation for viewing the film module, students will brainstorm various forms of protest and discuss the connection between protest and the media in a democracy. They will then identify historical and contemporary examples of women protesters and consider how their actions challenge gender roles.

Procedures:

Step 1. To help set up the conversation about how people protest, ask students to briefly discuss what we mean by a “protest” by creating a working definition of the term for the class. Follow this by asking the class to identify some of the reasons why people protest.

Step 2. Ask students to brainstorm all of the ways that people can protest or express opposition to a specific event, law/policy, or practice. Record their responses on the board. Forms of protest could include: rallies, marches/street protests, picketing, sit-ins, lock-ins, singing protest songs, speeches, petitions, letter-writing, riots, self-immolation, hunger strikes, suicide attacks, boycotts, teach-ins, graffiti, culture jamming, book/flag burning, squatting, lobbying, and lawsuits.

Step 3. Once there is a comprehensive list on the board, ask students if they can think of any historical or contemporary media portrayals (i.e. photographs, television/video footage) of women engaged in any of the protest forms listed. Examples may include images of: Rosa Parks’s iconic mug shot, the protest at the 1969 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City where protesters threw bras, wigs, high heels, and girdles into the “Freedom Trash Can,” Angela Davis’ clenched fist salute while on trial in a California courtroom (1971), an armed Nicaraguan Sandinista breastfeeding her baby (1984), attacks on women protesters in Egypt in 2011, or video footage of a New York City police officer using his pepper spray on nonviolent female Occupy Wall Street protesters (2011). If possible, project images for the class to view.

Step 4. Ask students what effect these images of women protesting and demonstrating might have on viewers. Engage them in a discussion about how media representations of women as bold and forceful activists may challenge the traditional gender roles assigned to women. Ask students to identify who might be inspired by these images or who might feel threatened.

Step 5. Explain to students that the civil rights movement developed at a time when television was becoming a common fixture in many American homes. Aware that the news cameras were rolling, civil rights activists crafted specific strategies to maximize media attention, which included provoking southern white violence by staging campaigns in racially tense cities like Birmingham, Selma, and Little Rock. Graphic photos and television footage of nonviolent demonstrators being victimized by violent segregationists were circulated around the country and the world, resulting in national and international outrage. Show students images and videos of these demonstrations by going to PBS’s Eyes on the Prize Image and Video Gallery.

Step 6. Ask students why they think civil rights leaders would use such media tactics. What effect could television have that radio or newspapers could not? Initiate a discussion about the power of television images to circulate widely, influence public opinion, and place pressure on government officials.

Step 7. Inform students that they are going to watch a film module that features Daisy Bates, a journalist, president of the Arkansas NAACP, and skillful media strategist, who recruited and mentored nine African American students to enroll at Little Rock’s Central High School. Explain that at a time when women seldom appeared as key figures in the civil rights movement, Daisy Bates emerged as a outspoken leader, challenging many of the prevailing racial and gender stereotypes of the 1950s.

VIEWING THE MODULE

You will need: Pens and writing paper, LCD projector or DVD player, Film Module: Daisy Bates, First Lady of Little Rock: Media Spokeswoman [15:50], Student Handout A: Film Module Worksheet

Goal: Students will view a film module with a focus on identifying the tools and techniques used by Daisy Bates to rally public support during the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock and the ways in which race and gender shaped the media’s portrayal of her.

Procedures:

  • Distribute Student Handout A: Film Module Worksheet and review together before viewing the module. Explain to students that they should answer the focus questions on their worksheet. Tell students to keep the worksheet for reference during the post-screening activity.

Optional: Provide additional context for the film module by screening the trailer for the film. To acquire the full-length version of the film, visit daisybatesfilm.com. You also can download a discussion guide for the full-length film.

POST-SCREENING ACTIVITY

You will need: Pens and paper, LCD projector or DVD player, Teacher Handout: Social Justice Media Campaign Rubric, Student Handout A: Film Module Worksheet and Student Handout B: Launch a Social Justice Media Campaign

Goal: Students will review their film module worksheet to discuss Daisy Bates’s media strategies and the ways in which race and gender shaped the media’s portrayal of her. They will consider how media tactics have evolved today. Lastly, they will describe how they would use the media accessible to them to voice opposition to a specific event, policy, or practice in their community.

Procedures:

Begin by discussing the film module and ask for volunteers to share their notes on Student Handout A: Film Module Worksheet. Use the following prompts to guide the class discussion:

Post-Screening Discussion 1

  • Which media strategies did Daisy use?
  • What were her goals?
  • Who was her target audience?
  • What were the effects/impact of her media strategies?
  • How did the media portray Daisy? How do you think whites saw her? How do you think other blacks saw her?
  • Who was inspired by Daisy’s actions? Who was threatened?
  • Do you think it was necessary for a woman to take the lead as the spokesperson for the Little Rock Nine?

Engage the class in a discussion about how sexism limited the roles that women could play in the civil rights movement. Ask students to consider the gender roles and expectations present during the 1950s and 60s. What was a woman’s role in society? What was a man’s role? In what ways did Daisy Bates defy gender roles? What price did she pay for her activism?

Post-Screening Discussion 2

  • Tell students that while past civil rights activists brought attention to injustices by using television and print media, modern technology offers an array of new media that can be used to bring attention to social justice issues.
  • Ask students to provide examples of the media platforms they use today that did not exist in the 1950s. Suggestions should include the Internet, email, blogs, podcasts, wikis, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, texting, and cell phone cameras.
  • Divide the class into groups of four or five. Ask each group to discuss how the story of the Little Rock Nine might have been different if our modern media had been available in the 1950s. Questions could include:

What role would Daisy Bates have played? / What role would the children have had in telling their own stories? / Imagine if the nine students could have blogged about their experience on a daily basis how would that have changed the public’s understanding of the story? / How does the role of “leadership” and “spokesperson” change in a time when communities are able to represent themselves and tell their own stories? / What are the benefits and drawbacks of building a social movement via social media? A good article that raises questions around this topic can be found here / What leadership roles do women play in today’s social justice movements? Are the voices of women still marginalized? Would Daisy Bates be as controversial if she were to emerge as a leader today?

  • Explain that “citizen media” refers to forms of content created by regular people (e.g. website,YouTube video, blog, photo essay) to explore issues, voice concerns, and tell stories.
  • Show students examples of citizen media websites and campaigns, such as:

CNN iReport: ireport.cnn.com
Global Voices: globalvoicesonline.org
In the Life: itlmedia.org
An Inconvenient Truth: climatecrisis.net
Occupy Wall Street: occupywallst.org

  • Tell students that they will create their own campaigns to inform their communities about a social justice issue of concern. Place students into groups of four or five and distribute Student Handout B: Launch a Media Campaign and Teacher Handout: Social Justice Media Campaign Rubric. Review the elements that each campaign should include.
  • Once in groups, inform students that they will brainstorm a specific event, policy, or practice in their community. Explain that they will design a media campaign to voice their opposition to this event, policy, or practice. Have each student fold a piece of paper in half, open it, and label the left side “Brainstorm” and the right side “Candidates.”
  • Give them one minute to fill in the “Brainstorm” half of the paper with all the issues in their school or community that they are concerned about (examples can include: gender equality, bullying at school, the environment, the right to higher education/economic equality in education, students’ right to privacy, drugs, teen homelessness, etc.). When time is up, have students select two issues they feel most strongly about and list them in the “Candidates” column. Students will share their top candidates from the brainstorming activity with their team and the group will select one issue for the project.
  • When groups have completed their campaign plan, reconvene the class, and ask each group to share their plan.
  • Once you approve the plan, allow students to conduct a pilot or execute the full version of their campaign.
  • Encourage students to use the following websites as media tactic resources:

Animoto: animoto.com
Capzles: capzles.com
Weebly: education.weebly.com
iPadio: ipadio.com
Yodio: yodio.com
Dailybooth: dailybooth.com

Assessment: Use the Teacher Handout: Social Justice Media Campaign Rubric to review students’ completed campaigns. (Also allow the students to assess themselves). Consider whether students have a solid understanding of contemporary media tactics. Check to see whether they include all of the criteria outlined in the rubric.

Please note: Download teacher and student handouts in PDF format through "Download lesson materials" at left

  1. Many history textbooks write very little, if anything, about the role Daisy Bates and other women played during the civil rights movement. Have students examine the history textbooks at their school to see if Daisy Bates or other women activists (e.g. Ella Baker, Septima Poinsette Clark, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Vivian Malone Jones) are mentioned as movement leaders. Based on what they find, you can:

    • Hold a class discussion about how textbook publishers make decisions about what is included and what is excluded from history.
    • Assign students to write a letter-to-the-editor of the textbook company explaining why women who had key roles during the civil rights movement should be included in their textbook. In addition, students can write their own textbook entry, highlighting women who played key roles during the civil rights movement, and send it to the textbook publisher along with their letter.
  2. The Arkansas State Press was an example of independent media: a newspaper controlled by L.C. and Daisy Bates, independent from large corporations. Engage students in a discussion about why independent media content may be different from mainstream media content. Ask students to identify examples of independent media they know of today, then have them research the methods and impact of independent media. As a project, students can create their own independent media outlet (e.g. a podcast, zine, blog, etc.).

  3. Create a series of 140-character “tweets” that Daisy Bates would have sent out, starting with the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954 and ending with her service in President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s administration, working on anti-poverty programs.

  4. Have students research the racial demographics of their school or school district. Encourage them to consider how racial demographics have shifted over time and why. How was their school or school district affected by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision? Assign a position paper in which students compare and contrast the benefits and drawbacks of integration, citing evidence from their research.

  5. Hold a class debate on whether or not Daisy Bates deserved to receive the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal. Divide the class into two groups and assign half the class a position advocating for her inclusion in the prize (the “pro” group), and half the class a position that supports only the Little Rock Nine receiving the medal (the “con” group).

  6. Daisy Bates and other civil rights movement activists were just like the rest of us — complex and flawed. Often, role models are expected to have superhuman qualities, but in reality no one is perfect. Discuss if ordinary citizens can take a public stand against injustice. Do leaders have an obligation to be ethical? What if they make mistakes? Can you have weaknesses and character flaws and still be an effective activist? Using MyFakeWall, have students create a mock Facebook profile for Daisy Bates, capturing the complexity of her personality and accomplishments. Remind students that they should use evidence from the film to create her “friends” list, status updates, comments, and profile pictures.

Resources:

Books
Bates, Daisy, The Long Shadow of Little Rock: A Memoir. New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1962.
Jackoway, Elizabeth, Turn Away Thy Son: Little Rock, the Crisis That Shocked the Nation. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007.

Films
Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, Created and executive produced by Henry Hampton

Please note: Download teacher and student handouts in PDF format through "Download lesson materials" at left

  • Film module:
    Daisy Bates, First Lady of Little Rock: Media Spokeswoman

    http://cdn.itvs.org/daisy_bates-edu.jpgdaisy_bates-edu-1024.mov
Download lesson materials