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The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement

A Film by Gail Dolgin and Robin Fryday

26 Minutes

Scene Selection • Closed Captioned

Grades 6 – Adult
Item #:BAR-1094

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Academy Award-nominated The Barber of Birmingham movingly portrays the unsung "foot soldiers" of the civil rights movement through the personal story of 85-year-old barber James Armstrong, who carried the American flag in the epic 1965 "Bloody Sunday" Selma voting rights march, and spearheaded efforts to integrate public schools in Alabama.

Armstrong was one of thousands of average Americans who risked jail and their lives in the fight for racial equality and the right to vote. "The worst thing a man can do is nothing," says Armstrong in the film.

An Army veteran, he was the proprietor of Armstrong's Barbershop, a political and cultural hub in Birmingham, Alabama, for more than 50 years. Every inch of wall space in his shop was covered with inspirational clippings and photographs of his heroes, including Martin Luther King, Jr., who had his hair cut by Armstrong.

In addition to participating in the Selma march and being jailed in other protests, Armstrong filed a ground-breaking lawsuit in 1957 that challenged school segregation and led to his two sons enrolling as the first black students at previously all-white Graymont Elementary in 1963. One of his sons reflects back on what it was like as a child during those difficult days.

Notably in the film, Armstrong celebrates an event he never believed he'd see in his lifetime -- the election and inauguration of the first African-American president. "This is what I went to jail and marched for," he says.

The Barber of Birmingham vividly illustrates the history and impact of the voting and civil rights movement through James Armstrong’s journey, supplemented by commentary from prominent civil rights veterans as well as historical footage from the 1965 Selma march, Armstrong's campaign for school integration, and Dr. King's famous "I've been to the mountain top" speech.

ALSO FEATURED IN THE FILM:

•Amelia Boynton Robinson, Voting rights activist credited with initiating the Selma march

•Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette, co-founder of SNCC and an early leader in Selma for voting rights

•Rev. C.T. Vivian, ally and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



FREE DOWNLOADABLE GUIDES PREPARED FOR THE NATIONAL PBS BROADCAST

LESSON PLAN: EXPLORING THE HEROES OF SOCIAL JUSTICE MOVEMENTS
Aligned with Common Core Standards for grades 6-12.
Developed by Cari Ladd, M.Ed., former PBS Interactive director of education.

COMMUNITY EDUCATION & DISCUSSION GUIDE
25 page guide with background info on the civil rights struggle, James Armstrong, resources and discussion questions.

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement

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