Norton Digital History Analysis Worksheet
Sample Media Worksheet. "Remembering the Sit-Ins"
Who or what company produced the audio?
Greensboro News & Record
How would you classify this audio? (Ex. Documentary, personal narrative, song?)
These audio interviews are primarily personal narratives and oral histories of the Greensboro sit-ins.
What is the intended meaning or goal of the audio?
These interviews are meant to relate the personal stories of several people involved with the Woolworth's sit-ins. Through these pieces it is possible to gain an interesting portrait of the days leading up to the sit-in, as well as what happened as soon as the store made the decision to allow African Americans to sit at the lunch counter.
Does the audio communicate its message effectively? (Support your answer)
The stories effectively portray what it was like to be at Woolworths during this event. While it would be easy to just show one side of the story, these stories show the complexities of the issue. In one of the interviews, Jibreel Khazan (Ezell Blair Jr.) relates how when he and the three other students sat at the counter for the first time, the white customers avoid them or get up and leave, but the person that takes them to task is actually an African American waitress, telling them something to the tune of, "it is people like you that give our race a bad name." With this one comment, this situation becomes much more interesting - we are able to see how some are willing to take a stand and fight for their Constitutional rights, while others such as the waitress remain more cautious and are not willing to challenge the status quo. While there might be very good reasons for this, fear of losing her job, for one, it still effectively shows how the African American community was just as splintered over the issue as other communities.
Also important to note here is though Blair's and Geneva's stories are interesting and engaging, they seem to sugarcoat the incidents. Spivey's recollections, on the other hand, really show the danger of what these men and women were facing. Her young daughter was frightened by what they believe was the Ku Klux Klan over the phone one evening. Spivey downplays the threats made to her on behalf of the Klan, but when her daughter is threatened, she relates that this is what frightened her and made her angry above all else.
What does this audio tell you about life in the United States at the time of its production? What lasting messages does if have for our country today?
These audio clips tell us many things about life in the U.S. at this point in time. Most importantly they show that these African Americans from the South were involved in a movement that was attempting to transform the situation of African Americans throughout the country. The sit-in at Woolworths is only one example of the events going on throughout the country that challenged the segregation of African Americans.
These clips do give a good contextual background to the issue. From Blair we understand that he and his fellow students were followers of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and believed in a nonviolent movement. They were also inspired by the civil disobedience of Rosa Parks. Therefore, when listening to these clips, one gains a sense of how ordinary activists in the movement listened to the leaders of this movement and tried to act upon their principles such as non-violence.
Another point that Franklin Eugene McCain brings up is that the reason they decided on Woolworths: a dichotomy existed in the company itself. In the northern U.S. states, an African American could walk into a Woolworths and be served at the lunch counter; it was only in the south were they were segregated. This exposes a kind of basic hypocrisy that seems to run through the country at the time. It wasn't that Woolworths was universally segregated, just in the southern states. Another clip that relates this is Geneva's story about how Miss Holt (obviously the manager of the lunch counter) wanted the first African Americans to sit at the counter after the ban was lifted to be "her girls," i.e. her waitresses. Thus, this woman who probably actively supported the segregation policy at the lunch counter previously now intends her African American waitresses to be the first to sit at the counter.
One of the most important messages for listeners today is that sometimes it is important to fight for your Constitutional rights. This situation reminds us how important it is for the average citizen to understand and be aware of what the Constitution means for everyone. This is extremely important since the events of 9/11, when in times of war or emergencies some of those rights are changed or altered because of the threat of terrorism. While opinions differ on whether this is a positive or negative thing, what is significant is that any discussion of freedoms or loss thereof is a discussion about the U.S. Constitution and what it means to be a citizen of the United States. Would the Woolworth sit-in have occurred if Blair and others had not been willing to challenge their rights as citizens? It would have happened eventually, but it was the understanding of this founding document that led these young men to show the community of Greensboro that they were also U.S. citizens, who should have all of the same rights and freedoms as the men and women who were able to sit and eat at the Woolworth's lunch counter.