Mrs. Jackson’s Letter
- National Archives Education Team
- Focusing on Details: Spotlight
- Historical Era:
- Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
- Primary Historical Thinking Skill:
- Historical Analysis & Interpretation
- Bloom's Taxonomy:
In this activity, students will focus on a letter written to Congress about Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. Students will determine that, due to television coverage, the author, Mrs. Jackson, was very aware of the events that day even though she was in a different part of the country: Brooklyn, New York. Students will also look at the author’s tone and word choice to discern the kinds of images shown on television.
Students will analyze a primary source document referring to Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, when people were attacked while marching to support voting rights for African Americans. Students will learn that events from the Civil Rights Movement, including Bloody Sunday, were televised and that this produced emotions and, in some cases political action, on the part of the television audience.
This activity may be used to introduce the events of Bloody Sunday and reinforce the study of the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle for equal voting rights for African Americans. For grades 7-11. Approximate time needed is 10 minutes.
Begin the activity in a full-class setting and ask students to determine what happened in Alabama and why this author was writing. Ask students to focus on the details to answer questions such as Who wrote this letter?, Why?, and To whom? to teach effective document analysis. Share details about Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama.
Ask students to focus on the spotlighted parts of the letter. Point out the author’s address and ask them to hypothesize why she is so concerned about events happening so far away. Lead students to conclude that Mrs. Jackson saw the events surrounding the march on television when she wrote “watch the shocking events.”
Click on the magnifying glass to reveal the full document and its details. Now ask students to consider the tone of the letter and the author’s word choice. Ask students to respond to:
- What emotions does this author have?
- What is her motivation for writing?
- What can you speculate about how much and what kind of attention the media gave to Bloody Sunday?
For more information about the featured document and what happened in Selma, follow the link below.