Citizens Fighting for Civil Rights: Cases, Places, and Faces that Changed a Nation
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Citizens Fighting for Civil Rights: Places, Cases, and Faces that Changed a Nation

This virtual summer institute offers grade 7-12 teachers the type of deep learning about civil rights that will change the way they teach about that topic and, by extension, impact their students in important ways. Alabama is the heart and home of the Civil Rights Movement, but it was also the site of several landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases. Teachers will investigate civil rights through the lens of legal history and apply their findings to current controversies.

Summer institute teachers will learn about the historical and social context associated with the Scottsboro Boys and the Court’s ruling in Powell v. Alabama (1932) that set forth the necessity of effective legal counsel in the American criminal justice system. The Civil Rights Movement would not have been possible without First Amendment protections for the freedom of association which the Supreme Court formally recognized in NAACP v. Alabama (1958) after Alabama tried to compel the NAACP to reveal its membership. Alabama was also the site of Frontiero v. Richardson (1973), which saw the Court strike down a federal law on the basis of gender discrimination for the first time in American history. The Court reaffirmed the right to a meaningful vote in Gomillion v. Lightfoot (1960) when it struck down a plan to gerrymander the city boundaries of Tuskegee, Alabama to exclude nearly all Black voters.

Participants will learn from constitutional scholars, historians, and teacher educators. They will then develop lessons relevant to their own coursework and continuing controversies related to the right to counsel, freedom of association, gender equality, and gerrymandering.

Those who attend the institute will leave with an enhanced capacity to teach their students about more than just these cases. They will also have a better understanding of how the protection of those constitutional rights came about, what those rights mean to them and their individual students, and the importance of those rights today. By so doing the institute will help these teachers and their students become more informed, effective, and responsible citizens.


July 11-23, 2021


Because of concerns about covid19, this institute will be delivered remotely.



Other Resources

Attendees will receive approximately $400 of relevant books and supplies.

Institute Faculty

Dr. Jada Kohlmeier
Institute Co-Director

Auburn University
Department of Curriculum and Teaching

Dr. Steven P. Brown
Institute Co-Director

Auburn University
Morris Savage Endowed Chair in Political Science

Dr. Michael J. Perry

Emory University School of Law
Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law

Dr. David Carter

Auburn University
Hollifield Associate Professor of Southern History

Dr. Melissa Blair

Auburn University
Associate Professor of History

Mr. Joseph J. Levin

Civil Rights Attorney and Cofounder of the Southern Poverty Law Center

Mr. Frye Gaillard

University of South Alabama

Dr. Robert Poch

University of Minnesota
Morse-Alumni Distinguished Teacher and Researcher

Dr. Jesus Tirado

Auburn University
Department of Curriculum and Teaching

Mr. Nick Phillips

Auburn University
History Teacher and Ph.D. Candidate


Auburn University
Social Studies teacher and Ph.D Candidate

This project is being funded by The National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this institute do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Last modified: May 6, 2021