Created Equal: Image, Sound, Story is an interdisciplinary curriculum and professional development program supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The program aims to enhance the teaching of the Civil Rights era in middle school classrooms through integrating a history and media arts pedagogy that provides teachers with resonant primary media sources from the 1960s and the present. The Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) and the Jacob Burns Film Center (JBFC) collaboratively designed this program, which provides in-depth interaction with leading scholars, hands-on training in the project’s digital curriculum, and classroom support as teachers implement the lesson plans with students. The program is designed to inspire young people to learn the history of a seminal moment in the Civil Rights movement in America, understand the power of people and the media to advance social change, and share their own story about racial justice through the creation of multimedia arts projects. Students will be empowered as historians, storytellers, media makers, and social activists as they grow to understand how the past and the present are connected, shaped, and shared.
The Created Equal curriculum uses Stanley Nelson’s documentary film "Freedom Riders" as a jumping off point for students to make connections between contemporary and 1960s-era Civil Rights activists. As they juxtapose current events with a study of the goals, tactics, and strategies of 1960s-era activists throughout the American South and in Northern cities, students will gain an understanding of the broader context of the Black Freedom Movement in America. Along the way, students will build skills working with primary sources related to the Brooklyn chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and critically engage with contemporary media. Students will focus particularly on the struggle against school segregation in Brooklyn in 1963 and the New York City Schools Boycott in 1964 and continually reflect upon answering the question: "The story of Civil Rights is my story because..." The curriculum provides opportunities for students to create video, audio, photos, and a short documentary film and to develop critical thinking through discussion, reflection, and writing.
As media arts education partner, JBFC draws on its mission to equip and inspire students of all ages to become active viewers and inspired creators of visual media. BHS’s vision for student-as-historian programming and experience bringing school teachers and historians together complements and enhances JBFC’s approach for this Civil Rights-focused project. BHS’s archival primary sources from the Brooklyn chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) include photographs, flyers, internal memos, and press releases related to 1960s activism. These deeply resonant, approachable sources are paired with critical thinking strategies and context, to help students learn how to learn from them. Leading scholars of 20th century African American history and activism, Brian Purnell and Cornelius Bynum as well as the award-winning filmmaker, Stanley Nelson also contributed context and messages to the students which appear in the curriculum as video excerpts.
In the spring of 2016, seven teachers at three schools (Roosevelt School, Bridgeport, CT; East Flatbush Community Research School, NY; and Ebbets Field Middle School, NY) were part of the pilot initiative of Created Equal: Image, Sound, Story. In year three, during the spring of 2018, teachers from two schools in Brooklyn and one school in Mt. Vernon will participate in the program. The Brooklyn schools were selected through their participation in Turnaround Arts, a program of The Kennedy Center, in partnership with the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.