We'll Never Turn Back: Relive a Day of Learning


Matt Griffing, NPS

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News Release Date: April 29, 2013

Contact: Sara Patton, 617-566-7937

Teachers and librarians from throughout New England gathered at the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on April 3 for We'll Never Turn Back: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement, a day-long conference on the Civil Rights Movement. The conference, co-sponsored by John F. Kennedy National Historic Site and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, featured remarkable individuals who played a part in the fight for civil rights during the1960s, as well as award-winning authors who have brought this pivotal chapter in American history to life for young readers. While snow forced postponement of the conference originally set for March 7, we were delighted to welcome all of our speakers, authors and attendees back on April 3!

Voices of the Movement

The morning began with two different panels of speakers. Barbara Henry (Ruby Bridges' teacher), Judy Richardson (SNCC activist and education director for the documentary Eyes on the Prize) and Bernard Lafayette (SNCC activist and Freedom Rider), captivated the audience with their personal stories from the Civil Rights Movement. One attendee wrote, "I was humbled in the presence of Mrs. Henry, Dr. Lafayette and Ms. Richardson. It was an honor to hear them speak." Following these riveting personal narratives, the audience heard from three authors who have written award-winning books about the Civil Rights Movement for children. Tonya Bolden, Larry Brimner, and Carole Boston Weatherford each spoke about the challenges of writing about complex subject matter for children, and the joy they receive from helping a new generation learn about these important struggles. Click here to read more about our featured speakers. The morning closed with a powerful performance of Civil Rights songs by the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School Chorus, directed by Sally Rogers (singer-song writer and master teaching artist).

Tools for the Classroom

The afternoon featured workshops from many of our presenters. Sally Rogers, Esther Kohn (education specialist at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library) and Bernard Lafayette taught teachers how to incorporate music into Civil Rights lessons. Exploring the importance of film, Judy Richardson shared strategies for using Eyes on the Prize in the classroom. Susan Zieger and Anne Marie Gleason of Primary Source presented an exciting set of resources about the Civil Rights struggle in Boston. A session for librarians about selecting books on the Civil Rights Movement completed our workshop offerings. Click here to download the annotated bibliography presented in this session. These sessions offered teachers tools and strategies to take back to their own classrooms, and many felt that, "the speaker's enthusiasm and knowledge of subject matter was contagious."

Behind the Book

Finally, attendees had the opportunity to meet one of the authors in a small group session. Teachers enjoyed hearing about each author's writing process as well as asking them questions about teaching and research. The intimate setting invited discussion, and one participant described her session with Tonya Bolden as, "Very real. I loved how she stressed the importance of voice in writing…Vibrant presenter." At the end of the day, teachers felt energized to bring new stories and techniques for teaching the Civil Rights Movement into their classrooms.

We are very thankful to our presenters and attendees for making April 3 such a memorable day, and we look forward to next year! If you have ideas for next year's conference, please email us your thoughts!


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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