The Long Walk To Freedom DVD and Video civil rights

Reviews by: Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo | Video Librarian | Educational Media Reviews a

©Matt Herron/TAKE STOCK

Long Walk to Freedom is a richly textured, deeply moving account of the civil rights movement that awakens viewers to the power and dignity of collective nonviolent action. The DVD, containing a thirty minute-long historical documentary, supplemental biographies of twelve movement veterans, supporting text, music and visual images, and student reflections on the movement and its legacy, is an indispensable resource for school libraries and classrooms. This remarkable collection, including a forty-three-page teacher’s guide, is user-friendly, interactive, and easily adapted to various grade levels (junior high-college undergraduate) and academic schedules.

Today’s young people, confronting a host of complex, interconnected and seemingly insurmountable threats to their individual and collective well being, often retreat from civic engagement into hopelessness and despair. For them, Long Walk to Freedom provides a powerful antidote to alienation, cynicism and apathy, and a compelling invitation to become part of the solution. In the documentary, twelve veterans of the civil rights movement speak directly to high school students about the moral convictions and idealism that inspired their activism, the ability of ordinary people to transform society, the thrill and excitement of making history, the momentous power of nonviolent direct action, and the personal rewards of being part of something greater than oneself. 

The activist’s stories, supplemented with archival film footage, music, and photographic images, do more than inspire hope. They are skillfully interwoven to create an eight-chapter chronological history of the civil rights movement—a history that expands the standard textbook narrative to include material on women and gender, the philosophical foundations of nonviolent struggle, and the role of music in sustaining the movement.

In addition to the documentary, the DVD contains separate biographical interviews with each of the twelve activists, historical text, music and visual images that correspond to each chapter of the documentary, and a sampling of student responses to the activist’s stories. The accompanying teacher’s guide, including lesson plans, discussion questions, worksheets, quizzes, suggested classroom activities (for ESL and non-ESL students), grading rubrics, and links to text and web-based sources, further enhances the value of the collection. As a package, Long Walk to Freedom is an invaluable resource for teachers who wish to inspire civic involvement, critical thinking, values clarification, and active engagement with the past. The collection, while designed for high school students, can be adapted to younger and older audiences, and used in a wide variety of courses including U.S. history, African American history, social studies, U.S. government, and civics.

Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo, professor of history at Saint Mary’s College of California, teaches U.S., African American, American women’s, and civil rights movement history. Her publications include Abiding Courage: African American Women in the East Bay Community (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), and Contested Visions: A History of California (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004).