Later in life, Mr. Kates became a public school teacher, a nonviolence trainer, a poet, and a literary translator. Mr. Kates is prime example of what it means to be a responsible citizen. He, along with his fellow “snick” volunteers, saw a terrible injustice in the world. Banding together through non-violent means, their actions helped shift the flow of power in America away from its racist and segregated practices and towards a country bent on fulfilling its promise of liberty and justice for all.
Following the presentation our 8th grade students then reflected upon the ideas of social justice, equity and civic engagement in social studies classes. In these reflections students were asked if the ideas presented confirmed, contradicted or added to their own understandings. Below are some of the student reflections:
- "When Mr. Kates started his presentation, people were looking at each other and giggling, because he was singing. I actually thought it was really interesting and smart to start off the speech with that, because it brings everybody together. People felt more open to asking questions after he had belted out some of the songs the people of the Civil Rights Movement used to sing. This is meaningful to me because music has brought me closer to many people. I am better friends with the people in my band because we all have a common goal, and me and my friends like dancing and singing along with songs together. Music helps bring people together because it gives them a common interest, and a common thing to do together when they don't know each other well yet."
- " It was a serious honor to meet Mr. Kates and hear his experience in being apart of the civil rights movement and also being apart of freedom summer. I really enjoyed hearing what he had to say because before, to be honest i did not know anything more than just whites being against blacks. So it was touching to hear that whites and blacks actually came together to help not just blacks but like help each other. I remember Mr.Kates saying that whites were not treated differently than the blacks. The blacks and the whites became close and I feel came to understanding eachother and their differences while aslo bringing down the tension."
- "Mr. Kates experience with Freedom Summer has connected with my experience with joining a new school. We both went to somewhere new which we both thought would be better. Jim Kates learned many things including making friends, being kind, listening to one another, being respectful and doing the right thing which is similar to what I have learned from when I moved to a new school. In the end of Jim Kates’ adventure he had become a better person like I have from making friends and a better change being with different kids."
- "After hearing Mr.Kate’s speech about civil rights I connected to one very important idea he lectured apron which was 'Racism is an attitude…….and segregation is institutional'. I had deeply thought and questioned this philosophy in my head throughout the duration of the speech. this had left me starstruck upon of which side of this philosophy I had leaned towards to . After the speech I began to reminisce my child upbringing by my parents and found a middle ground caught between yes racism is and attitude and no it is not . I asked my dad his opinion about the quote and he agreed but also contradicted that Racism can be brought through your upbringing."
- "I was surprised that so many African Americans were scared to register to vote. With the election cycle this year, I have had many discussions with my parents on the importance of voting. Voting is so important yet back in the 1950s and 1960s, southern African American were so afraid of what would happen to them or their families that they didn’t want to vote. Listening to Mr. Kates speak passionately about the right to vote and the struggle that he was part of made me look forward to voting in years to come. Voting is a right which must be protected."
- "The speech was powerful because it showed that people are really just afraid of differences, and all they want is connection. We are not that different, and segregation was a bad attempt to keep whites from acknowledging the truth. They drove blacks away rather than learning from them and making connections. This connected to my life because I am guilty of being prejudiced and racist towards others that are different, and have distanced myself from them out of fear rather than trying to make connections and learn. I also learned it is hard to make connections with those that are different when you are under the pressure of social norms that are against them."
Thank you very much to Mr. Jim Nagle, the JGMS Silver Team social studies teacher for organizing this event for our students and to Facing History and Mr. Jim Kates!