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An unsung hero of the civil rights movement - Christina Greer

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In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington to nearly a quarter million people. None of it would have been possible without the march’s chief organizer – a man named Bayard Rustin. Christina Greer details his life of advocacy as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, and the challenges he faced as an openly gay black man.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Christina Greer
  • Director Anton Bogaty
  • Narrator Christina Greer
  • Animator Anton Bogaty
  • Music Bamm Bamm Wolfgang
  • Sound Designer Bamm Bamm Wolfgang
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-checker Eden Girma
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
1) The segregation and second class citizenship of Blacks in America was calcified in American society for centuries. Interactions in communities and even on public transportation were policed, sanctioned, and put in place to maintain a strict racial order where whites were on top and Blacks were not.

If you research the life of Bayard Rustin, he worked tirelessly to rectify the injustices surrounding Blacks in America. When Rustin was abroad, he learned the tools of non-violence to assist civil rights leaders and organizations in America. Rustin’s efforts were so important because they extended to other groups, like labor unions, which are not traditionally defined and thought of as pioneering civil rights institutions.

If a modern day Bayard Rustin were alive today, what do you think his primary agenda would be? Overt residential and economic segregation are not prevalent and the dehumanizing effects of segregated public transportation is no longer the norm. However, what other systems, institutions, and practices are currently being used to maintain unequal racial and economic orders?

2) Many people do not pay attention to history, politics, or what is going on with people outside of their own communities, because they don’t necessarily believe what has happened or what is happening to someone from a different group has much to do with their own lives.

Over the past few decades, race relations in America have gotten better. Although overt racism is not as prevalent as it once was, there are still much more work to be done to provide racial and economic equality. Why do you think so many different groups of people wanted to keep Blacks and homosexuals from incorporating into society? Why do you think Rustin chose the path of non-violence to combat such a violent system of oppression? What else could Bayard Rustin and his colleagues have done to more closely link the efforts of those fighting for racial justice and a better understanding of the rights of homosexuals.

If Rustin was not encouraged to hide his sexuality and maintain a personal lie in the shadows, what else do you think he could have accomplished? Have a conversation with someone of a different race or sexual orientation. What has been their experience living in the U.S.? How do they feel about overcoming hate and oppression with non-violence? Have your friends and relatives ever heard of Bayard Rustin? Do they know about the history of the civil rights March on Washington in 1963?

Imagine you were Bayard Rustin. What would you change about the discrimination faced by people who are not in the “dominant” racial category or sexual orientation in America? How would you ensure that Black Americans and homosexuals were given equal treatment for generations to come?

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Christina Greer
  • Director Anton Bogaty
  • Narrator Christina Greer
  • Animator Anton Bogaty
  • Music Bamm Bamm Wolfgang
  • Sound Designer Bamm Bamm Wolfgang
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-checker Eden Girma
  • See more