Topic: Civil Rights

Article Racial Justice Black Lives Matter

Ways to honor Black History Month at school and home
February is Black History Month

On February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln approved a joint resolution to submit the proposed 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, to the state legislatures. While the history of Black Americans involves so much more than slavery, it is imperative that students fully understand the institution of slavery, its dissolution and the aftermath in order to understand today’s racial inequity.

We have compiled some meaningful collections of resources for Black History Month. These resources may be of interest to educators in the classroom, unions, and families and communities.


Teaching hard history: American slavery

AFT’s Share My Lesson

Here are some lesson plans to work with children from pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade to teach the history of slavery in America to better understand racial inequity. In response to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center showing schools are failing in teaching about slavery, this collection includes lessons about Juneteenth and the Gettysburg Address, with a podcast from SPLC as well as the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which reframes the legacy of slavery. 

Virtual events at Smithsonian celebrate Black History Month

The Smithsonian

The Smithsonian celebrates Black History Month with virtual programming this year. There are offerings for all ages, including a social media campaign on uplifting the Black family, Joyful Fridays with art for children, an African Americans In STEM Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, and a program on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the economy and the African American community.

The African American mosaic at the Library of Congress

Library of Congress

This resource guide to the Library of Congress’ African American collection offers access to the collection’s materials on colonization, abolition, migrations, and the Works Progress Administration. Included are ex-slave narratives, personal stories of colonization, histories of important abolitionists, and writers and artists of the federal projects in the 1930s documenting the move north. 

Learn about a preeminent labor unionist and civil rights activist

A Philip Randolph Institute

This site provides biographical information and other resources about Randolph, who organized the first predominantly African American union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. His activism led to Franklin D. Roosevelt issuing an executive order to ban discrimination in the defense industries in World War II, and Randolph also helped plan and organize the 1963 March on Washington.

Black workers, unions, and the labor movement

UC Berkeley Labor Center

This site includes African American labor history guides, articles, books, and films. Topics covered included how unions have brought gains for workers of color, immigrants and women in California, the impact of the Great Recession on public employment, the job losses in the public sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing fight for a decent minimum wage.

6 elementary school lessons on civil rights and labor


Here’s an elementary school curriculum — Civil Rights and Labor: Joint Struggles for Justice — with six lessons on the similarities and differences between the fight for labor rights and for civil rights. Students will discuss and write about the role of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the U.S. labor movement and examine some parallels between the country in the 1960s and today.

4 DVDs on Black labor history and civil rights

California Newsreels

DVDs from California Newsreel offer a way to learn about different aspects of labor history and the civil rights struggle.

  1. Oh Freedom After While is about the1939 interracial sharecroppers strike in Missouri.
  2. A. Philip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom chronicles labor activist Randolph’s efforts to make society more equitable.
  3. Randolph is also featured Miles of Smiles, about the first Black trade union — the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which he fought for more than a decade.
  4. The hour-long documentary, At The River I Stand, chronicles the fight for working people, highlighting the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers strike and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

3 books about Black workers, race and labor 

  1. Black Freedom Fighters in Steel 
    Ruth Needleman’s book tells the story of five black organizers, long-distance runners who were indispensable to building the steel workers union as well as the civil rights movement in northwest Indiana.
  2. Servitude to Service: African-American Women as Wage Earners 
    Teachers can access Rita G. Komen’s book as a download from the OAH Magazine of History. The book examines the employment position of African-American women in the South.
  3. For Jobs and Freedom: Race and Labor in America since 1865
    Robert H. Ziegler’s book analyzes the position of African American workers in the U.S. economy and social order over the past century and a half in this comprehensive study focusing on black workers’ efforts to gain equal rights in the workplace. It deals extensively with organized labor’s complex and tumultuous relationship with African Americans.

10 historic Black teachers who revolutionized the system


These educators, who fought white supremacy and helped change society, include Septima Poinsette Clark, who Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “Mother of the Movement for her work in literacy and for voting rights as well as to get Black teachers hired at universities. There’s also psychology professor Edmund Gordon, who founded the federal Head Start program and the Institute for Urban Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and Fanny Jackson Coppin, the first African American principal and school superintendent who advocated higher education for women.


26 little-known Black history facts you may not have learned in school

Oprah Magazine

This list of Black history facts covers literature, history, sports, and entertainment with items like the first Black woman to get a college degree in 1850 from Oberlin, Phyllis Wheatley being the first African American to publish a book of poetry in 1773, and that from 1810 to 1850, an estimated 100,000 enslaved people escaped to the North on the Underground Railroad.

10 podcasts that bring me happiness as a Black listener

Marie Claire

Here are 10 podcasts with Black voices offering connection, humor and resources. There’s everything from finding a sense of peace and creating stillness with Black Girl in Om, to The Friend Zone where they explore mental health, because “who the hell wants a musty brain?” to two New York Times reporters discussing news and culture in Still Processing.

14 African American inventors to remember this Black History Month

Oprah Magazine

You may have heard of some of the inventors here like George Washington Carver, who not only invented peanut butter (for which we offer a heartfelt thank you), but also created new products from peanuts and sweet potatoes including ink, dye, and soap, and Madame CJ Walker, the first Black woman millionaire, who created a line of hair products. But there are lots of others including the chemist who gave us a drug to treat glaucoma, an ophthalmologist who invented a a device to remove cataracts, and a telecommunications researcher whose work led to the touch-tone phone, fiber optic cables, and caller ID. 

44 of the best books by Black authors you should read in your lifetime

Oprah Magazine

This list of books by includes Ta-Nehisii Coates’ 2015 National Book Award winner, Between the World and Me, a letter to his son about being Black in America, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, where a young woman in 1976 Los Angeles is transported to a Maryland plantation during the Civil War, and the best-selling book of 2018, Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, where she writes about her marriage and life in the White House and out of it.

8 ways to celebrate Black History Month from the New York Times

New York Times

The author lists a series of cultural events to honor Black History Month. Among them is Atlanta honoring the memory of Representative John Lewis,  a giant in the civil rights movement with a living memorial made up of shrubs, daffodil fields and more than 300 blooming trees. She mentions two movies by Black directors about important moments in history, “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “One Night in Miami,” and the books, “The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip-Hop,” by Clover Hope, and “Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019,” where 90 writers each examine a five-year period in history.

Article Coronavirus

New working groups align UC-AFT with nationwide racial justice efforts
Hardship fund helps members in need due to pandemic, wildfires

By Mia McIver, UC-AFT President 

Contingent teaching faculty and librarians at the University of California recently voted to create three new working groups to combat racism and support each other with mutual aid. With the firm conviction that Black Lives Matter, UC-AFT members aim to align our union’s efforts with those of activists fighting for racial justice nationwide.

“Let’s have our voices count!” urge CFT Black leaders
Avalanche of protests call for racial justice following murder of George Floyd

For days, hundreds of thousands of people have filled the streets of 160 cities across the country, even during the coronavirus pandemic, expressing their outrage and grief at the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Two Black leaders of the CFT, with long histories of fighting for racial equity, say they could not help being profoundly moved by the murder itself, and the outpouring of rage in response.

Article Coronavirus Immigration DACA

Undocumented students more vulnerable than ever during pandemic
How faculty can make a difference

By Jessica Silver-Sharp, San Mateo Community College Federation of Teachers

When I first wrote about undocumented students in October 2017, I couldn’t have foreseen how things could change so much in less than three years. Two out of three of our campus Dream Centers in the San Mateo Community College District were established during this time when young “Dreamers” were forming a national youth movement and “coming out” across the country. Then, a majority of the hundreds of undocumented students on campus enjoyed legal protections under DACA.

Article CalPERS

CalPERS bails out of private prisons
Drops $12 million investment in GEO Group and CoreCivic

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, CalPERS, recently rattled the cages of the for-profit prison industry by divesting nearly $10 million of stock in the country’s two biggest private jailers.

The August sell-off came on the heels of the California State Teachers Retirement System, CalSTRS, dropping its $12 million investment in GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America).

Article Up Front Civil Rights

Union work is social justice work

By Jeffery M. Freitas, CFT President

When I was elected CFT President in March, I said in my speech to Convention delegates: “I believe that when we fight for education, we also fight for social justice, racial justice, gender equality, LGBTQ rights, and climate justice.”

To be a social justice union, we must not only consider the complex lives of our members and the challenges they face, but look beyond the doors of the schoolhouse to consider the ways our campus communities intersect with our larger communities. When we fight for labor, we must fight for our communities, too.

Article Immigration

Support union families torn apart in Mississippi ICE raids
Know how to support immigrant students and families

The CFT and AFT join other progressive groups in condemning the ICE raids in Mississippi – the largest immigrations raids waged in a single state. Immigration and Customs Enforcement swept up nearly 700 undocumented workers from several food processing plants last week, leaving as many families scrambling for support. 

The plant workers of Koch Foods in Mississippi were union members of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1529.

California Teacher CFT Convention

Erwin Chemerinsky: Constitutional scholar brings delegates to their feet
Convention 2018

If you get a case on the Supreme Court, make your brief a shameless attempt to pander to Justice Anthony Kennedy, said UC Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, keynote speaker at the CFT Convention. Why? Because Kennedy has been in the majority 97 percent of cases this year, and 98 percent the year before.

Facebook Gallery: Members in Motion

California Teacher Up Front

Sexual misconduct revelations demand changes in the workplace and society

By Joshua Pechthalt, CFT President

The daily revelations of sexual misconduct by men in authority seem like a turning point in the struggle for gender equality. While this appears to be a sea change, we must remember that Donald Trump’s claim he could grab women inappropriately without their consent failed to derail his run for the White House. That, however, may have been the opening salvo.

California Teacher Immigration DACA Safe Havens

Being an UndocuAlly
How to create a safe campus for undocumented communities

Four days before President Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Sarah, a young student who commutes an hour each way to attend classes, emailed me that she was dropping my class.

She believed the impending end of DACA meant she would lose her source of income, her DACA driver’s license, and access to financial aid. She was also afraid she and her family would be deported. Her fears were real, however the information she received was incorrect.

Oaxacan teachers challenge the test

Last year an AFT resolution declared that U.S. public schools are held hostage to a “testing fixation rooted in the No Child Left Behind Act,” and condemned its “extreme misuse as a result of ideologically and politically driven education policy.” AFT President Randi Weingarten proposed instead that “public education should be obsessed with high-quality teaching and learning, not high-stakes testing.”

California Teacher Gender Equity

Six “Aha! moments” from the Women’s March on Washington

By Katharine Harer

My flight out of SFO was delayed and I nearly missed my connecting flight. But this time it wasn’t just me running from one end of an airport to the other. It was a posse of determined women — many in pink hats with ears — a teenager, a college student, a few of us in that indeterminate age between 40 and 70, including two grandmothers. I ran ahead to make sure they’d hold the flight with one of the grandmothers right behind me. When we got to D.C., the city was teeming with marchers. You didn’t need to see a pink hat with ears to know who we were.

Article Racial Justice By Paul Karrer

Were You a Racist?

On the Friday before Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I asked my fifth-graders if they knew why we had the day off. One suggested, “To celebrated MLK’s birthday.”

To be honest, for a ten-year-old that wasn’t bad.

“No,” another piped in, “It’s cuz he fought for blacks’ rights.”

“Good and you’re 100 percent correct.” I replied. Let’s call the child who piped up with that answer Isaiah. He’s perceptive and often sees the big picture.

California Teacher

The woman who helped California women win the vote
Immigrant, suffragist, reproductive rights pioneer never gave up


Hillary Clinton’s historic run for U.S. President and popular vote victory didn’t just come out of nowhere. She and all the other women who are so much a part of our politics stand on the shoulders of the bold, creative organizers who came before them — women who never let a few losses stop them. Women with names we should know but probably don’t. One of these is Frances Nacke Noel.


AFT steps up support for Native American educators

Robert Chacanaca and about 20 other AFT members from Hawaii, Alaska, the Midwest and Southwest attended the recent National Indian Education Association convention and trade show in Reno, Nevada.

The convention included scores of professional development workshops, as well as a timely presentation on the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s historic fight to stop construction of an oil pipeline across North Dakota.

Classified Conference 2016: Black Lives Matter conversation engages, unites

“When we say Black Lives Matter, we’re saying that we need an agenda that puts our lives right up there with everyone else’s,” said Christopher Wilson, from Alliance San Diego, a group mobilizing for change in low-income communities and communities of color.

Wilson spoke at the Classified Conference on October 8, before attending the funeral for Alfredo Olango, a black man killed by police in nearby El Cajon.