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Episode 1: “Awakenings” – This program concentrates on the period from 1954 to 1956, highlighting the events that began the modern black freedom struggle. Prior to 1954, racism was rationalized under a "separate but equal" doctrine. It was during this time that existing organizations, local leaders and ordinary citizens became involved in the black freedom struggle. The murder in Mississippi of 14-year-old Emmett Till led to a trial that caught the attention of the national news media. The Montgomery (AL) Bus Boycott was motivated by the arrest of Rosa Parks, who refused to relinquish her bus seat to a white person.
Episode 2: “Fighting Back” – Public schools became a battlefield when blacks rejected the notion of "separate but equal" education. This episode explores the critical 1954 Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka decision; the story of nine black teenagers who integrated Little Rock's Central High School in 1957; and James Meredith's enrollment at the University of Mississippi in 1962. The program identifies the national organizations involved in the struggle to integrate schools and how they affected the freedom struggle.
Episode 3: “Ain’t Scared of Your Jails” – In 1960, large numbers of college students and young people began to get involved in the black freedom struggle. The focus of black protest changed from legal battles to personal and group challenges against racial inequities. This program focuses on four related stories: the lunch counter sit-ins of 1960; the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; the impact of the movement on the 1960 presidential campaign; and the freedom rides of 1961.
Episode 4: “No Easy Walk” – In Albany, GA, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s strategy of nonviolence was tested by Police Chief Laurie Pritchett. In Birmingham, AL, schoolchildren filled the city's jails after they marched against Bull Connor's fire hoses. In the nation's capital, marchers captured national and international attention. This program places the civil rights phenomenon in a broad historical context, describing the growing commitment of activists to nonviolent tactics. In the period between 1962 and 1966, the civil rights struggle became a "mass movement."
Episode 5: “Mississippi: Is This America?” – In 1961, Mississippi became a testing ground for constitutional principles as the Civil Rights Movement concentrated its energies on the right to vote in this state. This program focuses on the extraordinary personal risks faced by ordinary citizens as they assumed responsibility for social change, particularly in the 1962-1964 voting rights campaign. By 1964, conflicts between movement leaders and liberals became apparent as the newly formed Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party challenged the Democratic Party Convention in Atlantic City.
Episode 6: “Bridge to Freedom” – Ten years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man and 11 years after the decree that "separate but equal" was unconstitutional, millions had joined the fight, and thousands of blacks and whites came together to march 50 miles for freedom in Selma, AL. This program highlights this historic march as the last great gathering of the Southern-based movement and provides an opportunity to examine the gains made by the civil rights protests.