TITLE OF MOVIE:                                    Mississippi Burning

HISTORICAL PERIOD:                           1960s Civil Rights Movement

WHO’S IN THE FILM:                              Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, FrancesMcDormand,
                                                                      Brad Dourif, R. Lee Emery, Gailard Sartain, Michael Rooker,
                                                                      Park Overall

DIRECTOR:                                                Alan Parker

DATE MADE:                                            1988
 

RUNNING TIME:                                     127 minutes - color

PLOT SUMMARY:                                   Mississippi Burning recounts the murder of
                                                                     three civil rights workers in Mississippi in
                                                                     1964 and the subsequent investigation, trial
                                                                     and outcomes.  This film is based on actual
                                                                     events, however characters names and some
                                                                     details are fictionalized.

LEARNING STANDARDS:  The learning standards for this film include, but are not limited to:

#1    Learners will be able to understand and analyze the complex nature of cause and
        effect, questioning what factors cause events to unfold as they do.

#3    Learner will develop an understanding of people in other times, both on their own
        terms and in terms of present perspectives.

#4    Learners will analyze how and why some things change, while others persist.
        They evaluate factors that lead to change, the pace of change, and its impact.
        They organize time periods defined by patterns and turning points.

#5     Learners will learn about themselves and other historical context by assessing their
         roles as inheritors of the past, players of the present, and shapers of the future.

#11   Learners will define many types of power by analyzing how it is distributed,  managed,
         and negotiated, both legitimately and illegitimately.

#23   Learners will explain how events that occur and decisions that are made in one place
         have an impact on other people and places throughout the global community.

ACTIVITIES:

I. BEFORE VIEWING THE FILM:

SECTION 1:  HISTORICAL INFORMATION:

                     1.      What was the Civil Rights Movement?
                     2.     What caused the Civil Rights Movement?
                     3.     When did the Civil Rights Movement begin?
                     4.     What were the results of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and
                              today?

SECTION 2:  SETTING THE STAGE:

A.     CHARACTERS: (List the main characters in the film.)

         Mr. Andersen
         Alan Ward
         Sheriff Ray Stuckey
         Deputy Clinton Pell
         Mayor Tillman
         Clayton Townley
         Frank Bailey
         Lester Cowens
         Floyd Swilley
         Wesley Cooke
         Agent Bird

B.     PLACES: (List the important places mentioned in the film.)

         Mississippi
         Jessup County
 

C. TERMS AND CONCEPTS: (List the terms/concepts students need to know.)

         Martin Luther King                  Ku Klux Klan
         Freedom Riders                      Grand Wizard
         Civil Rights Workers               Grand Cyclops
         NAACP                                 Segregation
         Dry County                             Burning Cross
         Prejudice

II. VIEWING THE FILM:

A.      VIEW THE FILM IN SEGMENTS:  We suggest that the instructors preview
          the film and select breaks in the film that are appropriate to the class.

NOTE:  You may want to pause the film at times for clarification when the story line
becomes confusing or when a pivotal event occurs.
 

B.     RECAP:  RECAP THE EVENTS OF THE SEGMENT YOU HAVE JUST
         SHOWN BY USING QUESTION PROMPTS:

         1.         What is happening, or what just happened?
         2.         What do you think about what you saw?
         3.         What do you think is going to happen next?

C. ACTIVITIES BETWEEN SEGMENTS:  (May be done during or after class)

         1.         Make and document predictions about what’s going to happen next.
         2.         Word search activities
         3.         Map activities - find Mississippi
         4.         Fill in a timeline for the events of the Civil Rights Movement in
                     the 1960s.
         5.         Fill in timeline of the events in the segment you just saw.

III.  PUTTING IT TOGETHER

A. THE 5Ws AND MORE:  Suggested questions for which MISSISSIPPI  BURNING
     which may be asked during the viewing of the film and during teacher facilitated
     discussion after viewing the film.

     1.         Where did the film take place?
     2.         When did the film take place?
     3.         How did the beginning of the film make you feel?  What techniques did
                 the filmmaker use to make you feel that way?
     4.         Why were the three young men being chased?  By whom did you thin
                  they were being chased?  Why did the boys stop?
     5.         What was the attitude of the men who stopped the three boys?
     6.         What is the Ku Klux Klan?
     7.         Where was Mr. Anderson from?  Who did Anderson and Ward work for?
     8.         What was the police department’s attitude toward Mr. Anderson and
                 Mr. Ward?
     9.         What was the relationship between Anderson and Ward?
     10.       In the restaurant, what mistakes did Mr. Ward make?
     11.       Why did the black man Ward was talking to move his seat?
     12.       Why did the Civil Rights workers go to Mississippi?
     13.       Why was the church burned?
     14.       Why wouldn’t the local black people talk to the FBI?
     15.       What two incidents occurred that showed the feeling of the local whites
                  toward the two FBI agents?
     16.       The Barbershop: Explain the Mississippi thinking toward “Colored people”.
     17.       The Hairdressing Salon: Who was the hairdresser’s husband?
     18.       Who was the person that got dumped in the street?
     19.       What did the agents find in the swamp?  In what condition?
     20.       How did the whites retaliate to the increase in FBI agents?
     21.       What was the attitude of whites toward the missing boys?  (TV interviews)
     22.       The Reporter’s scene: What was the Sheriff’s attitude toward the NAACP
                 and Civil Rights?
     23.       Where did Aaron tell Anderson and Ward to start investigating?
     24.       How did you think Anderson felt towards Mrs. Pell?
     25.       What did the 3 fingers in belt mean?  Who held their fingers in this way?
     26.       Why did Mr. Anderson go back to talk to Mrs. Pell ?
     27.       The Church scene: Who was waiting for the congregation when they left the
                 church?  Why did you think they attacked them?  What did they threaten
                 to do to Aaron and why?
     28.       How did the white people in the TV interviews stereotype the blacks?
     29.       The Clayton Townley interview: What is his attitude toward Jews, Catholics,
                 Negroes?  Why don’t white Mississippians accept these groups?
     30.       What was the social club?  What did Frank admit he would do?
     31.       The March:  What do you think Mrs. Pell told Mr. Anderson?
     32.       What did the little boy witness when the blue pickup truck pulled up in
                  front of the house?  Why was the boy wearing a box?  What was the result
                  of their trial?  How did the blacks react to the verdict?
    33.        What two things did Mrs. Pell tell Agent Anderson when he went to visit her
                  at night?
     34.       Why did Mrs. Pell get beaten?  Who did it?
     35.       What was the turning point in the film for Anderson and Ward?
     36.       How did Anderson and Ward get the truth about the murders and from whom?
     37.       What charges did the FBI bring against the white men?
     38.       Who called the meeting in the church?  Who do you think will talk?
     39.       How did they get Lester to cooperate?  Name two incidents.
     40       What did Anderson do to Deputy Pell?
     41.       What were the results of the trial of the seven murderers?
     42.       What did Mrs. Pell say she would do?  Why?

B.     THEMES AND CONCEPTS:  Teacher may initiate discussion from the
         areas listed below contingent upon learner interest.

     1.         Discuss prejudice, segregation, racism, hate crimes
     2.         Discuss stereotypes and incidents in the film
     3.         Civil Rights Movement - What civil rights did Afro-Americans want?
     4.         Relate the events in the film to present day examples of discrimination,
                 racism, hate crimes

IV. THE FUN STUFF:

The following activities may be used at any point during this unit.

     1.         Research topics using the library: KKK, Civil Rights Movement,
                 Freedom Rider, Martin Luther King, FBI, James Meredith,
                 J. Edgar Hoover.

     2.         Create a word search using words from the film:  segregation, Klu Klux Klan,
                 Civil Rights, Mississippi, Cross, etc.

     3.         Write news article about the events in the film.

     4.         Create a timeline for the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement.

     5.         Using the encyclopedia, multi-media encyclopedia, Time-Life or othe
                 appropriate resource, find information about men and women of the
                 Civil Rights Movement.

     6.         Research gospel music and singers.

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