Teaching "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" in South Carolina Schools

By Diane Raschke

Vol. 22, No. 2, 2000 p. 16

On June 14-15, SRC consultant and former education programs director Marcia Klenbort conducted an in-depth workshop for teachers from across South Carolina on using "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" in grades 6 through 12. Following the workshop, the article below, entitled "Distant Voices to Recount South's Civil Rights Clashes: Key Civil Rights Voices Come Alive for Local Students in a New Documentary" appeared in The State newspaper.

More than 250 new voices will help some Columbia, South Carolina, students learn about the Civil Rights Movement this fall.

They belong to the men and women, both famous and ordinary, who shaped civil rights history in the South from 1940 to 1970. Framed by narrative and period music, they speak through an award-winning audio documentary that will soon be heard in four Columbia schools.

Educators from all over the state, including four from Columbia, will pilot a new curriculum that complements the Southern Regional Council's "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" civil rights documentary. A June workshop at the South Carolina Archives and History Center taught educators how to use the 13-hour series in the classroom.

Gussie Tucker, a member of the WA Perry Middle School Task Force, said first-person narratives make the series outstanding.

"The emotions when they're talking are something you can't see in a movie because other people are playing the part," Tucker said. "This is a primary source. You can hear and actually know what they were feeling, being part of the Civil Rights Movement"

Teachers from A.C. Flora High School, Keenan High School, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, and Joseph Keels Elementary School will pilot the program in Columbia, and Tucker hopes to sell WA Perry teachers on it as well.

The documentary has won several honors, including the prestigious Peabody Award in 1998.

The full title of the series is 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken? An audio history of the Civil Rights Movement in five Southern communities and the music of those times."

The communities are Montgomery, Alabama; little Rock, Arkansas; Jackson, Mississippi; Atlanta. Georgia; and Columbia, South Carolina. Four of the series' twenty-six half-hour segments focus on the Midlands region of South Carolina.

The series includes the work of the Richland County United Citizens' Committee in integrating Columbia's schools; the Clarendon County segregation case, Briggs v. Elliot and the "Orangeburg Massacre," the 1968 incident in which state troopers fired op protesters at South Carolina State University, killing three.

This local connection is important, said Lalitha Shastri, a social studies teacher at Heathwood Hall.

"That's away of saying to the kids that it happened on your doorstep," she said. "You're walking the streets where this happened, you're living in the area where this happened, you're living the legacy of this."

Co-sponsors of the program with the Southern Regional Council are the South Carolina Humanities Council and the state Department of Education.

Diane Raschke wrote this article for The State newspaper based in Columbia, South Carolina.