This year, 2018, marks fifty years since several watershed moments in American History. Senator, Presidential candidate, and former Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, 1968. In August 1968, anti-Vietnam war protesters converged on the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Then Mayor, Richard J. Daley responded to protesters by summoning over ten-thousand police officers along with active U.S. Army Troops, U.S. National Guardsmen, and Secret Service Agents. The protest and riots lasted 5 days.
However, there were two other history changing moments in 1968. First, April 4, 2018 commemorates 50 years since the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Civil Rights Leader was slain in Memphis, Tennessee on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. The assassination sparked riots across the country including Chicago. In the midst of all the civil unrest and uprisings that began the night on April 4th and the morning of April 5th, another lesser known historical moment unfolded.
Jane Elliott, an Iowa school teacher, decided to use the solemn moment of King’s assassination to teach her 3rd grade class about racial prejudice and inequality. Elliott used eye color as a segregator with her students, giving blue-eyed students positions of privilege while relegating the brown-eyed student to experiences of exclusion and social subordination. By 1970, Elliott was using her Blue-Eye Brown-Eye experiment as the basis for pioneering Diversity and Inclusion training. Jane Elliot continues her social justice work to this day, well in to her 80s.
Here are additional resources for 1968: Fifty years since King, Kennedy, Clash, and Classrooms
Bland, K. (2017, November). Blue eyes, brown eyes: What Jane Elliott’s famous exercise says about race 50 years on. The Republic. azcentral.com.
Bloom, S. G. (2005, September). Lesson of a Lifetime: Her bold experiment to teach Iowa third graders about racial prejudice divided townspeople and thrust her onto the national stage. Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian.com.
Chicago Public Media. (2018, April). Sorrow, Then Rage. WBEZ.org
Corporation, C. F. (Producer), & Guru-Murthy, K. (Director). (2009). The Event: How Racist Are You? with Jane Elliott [Motion Picture]. You Tube.
Elliot, J. (2016, May). Jane Elliott on The Rock Newman Show. (R. Newman, Interviewer) YouTube. PBS: WHUT.
Elliott, J. (2017, September). Educator Jane Elliott Talks Trump, Kaepernick and Fixing Racism. (C. T. Whitfield, Interviewer) NBCNews.com.
Films, Y. U. (Producer), Peters, W. (Writer), & Peters, W. (Director). (1985). A Class Divided [Motion Picture]. Fontline.
George, A. (2018). When Robert Kennedy Delivered the News of Martin Luther King’s Assassination. Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian.com.
Gibson, C. (2016, July). What happened in Chicago in 1968, and why is everyone talking about it now? WashingtonPost.com:
Gitlin, T. (2018, January). Rage Against the Machine: A short story reimagines the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the chaos that shocked the world. Smithsonin Magazine. illustrations by Shane L.: Smithsonian.com.
Johnson, H. (2008). 1968 Democratic Convention: The Boss Strikes back. Smithsonian Magazine. Smithsonian.com.
Katz, J. (2018, January). Where RFK Was Killed, a Diverse Student Body Fulfills His Vision for America. Smithsonian Magazine. photography by Gregg Segal: Smithsonian.com.
Museum, N. C. (2018, April). National Civil Rights Museum Home Page. National Civil Rights Museum Home Page at the Lorraine Motel
New York Times. (2018, April). 50 Years Later, Remembering King, and the Battles That Outlived Him. nytimes.com
Small, A. S. (2018, April). ‘This was like a war’: Witnesses remember day MLK was shot. foxnews.com:
Tillet, S. (2018, April). Seeing Martin Luther King Jr. in a New Light. nytimes.com: