BFI logo











Screenonline banner
KS4 History: TB - Ku Klux Klan revived in the southern states of the USA (1921)

How might civil rights leaders in the 1960s have used this footage?

Main image of KS4 History: TB - Ku Klux Klan revived in the southern states of the USA (1921)
AuthorRakesh Pathak, Felsted School
TopicUSA: the KKK and Civil Rights Movement
Key Words USA, Ku Klux Klan, NAACP, Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Stokeley Carmichael
Show full lesson spec

Footage of the revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the USA in the early 1920s, showing the induction of new members

A useful piece of footage for looking at the techniques used by the KKK to win over white supporters and considering how the activities of the KKK have been viewed by different strands of the civil rights movement. There is also scope to explore how archive footage can be used by historical documentary makers.

This lesson idea initially uses the footage to analyse the KKK and the techniques it used to appeal to white Americans. The main body of the lesson invites students to consider how the actions of the KKK shown in the clip might have been viewed by the NAACP, and the impact that this might have had on the written captions shown to a cinema audience and concludes with a consideration how the original footage such as this might be edited and/or cut to be used in modern historical documentary.

Students will need to have some previous knowledge of the Ku Klux Klan as well as an understanding of the differences of opinion and approach within the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Lesson Objective

  • What can be learned from this footage about the activities of the KKK?
  • How might the NAACP and various civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King have responded to the scenes shown in this clip?
  • How could this footage be made use of by historical documentary makers?


Divide your students into small groups, giving them the following questions to discuss after watching the extract:

  • Why is the US flag displayed during this KKK induction ceremony?
  • Why might the KKK have permitted this footage to be taken?
  • What can we learn about the KKK from this film?

After the groups have discussed their ideas, invite a spokesperson to report back their ideas to the whole class.


Main Attraction

Ask students to work in pairs to come up with a new set of inter-titles (written captions) for the newsreel, writing from the perspective of an official at the NAACP. Encourage students to think about how the NAACP might have exploited this footage decades later to appeal to black members of the audience as well as sympathetic white cinema goers. What kind of language might they use? What events, individuals, concepts might they mention?

After hearing some examples, watch the newsreel again. Divide the class in three, with each section writing from one of the following civil rights leaders' points of view:

  • Martin Luther King
  • Malcolm X- before or after his visit to Mecca
  • Stokeley Carmichael

Ask students to write a short speech, in character, which:

  • condemns the scenes witnessed in the film
  • highlights the continuing challenge to the civil rights movement
  • suggests what should be done to remedy matters

The proposals put forward should result in a broad range of political solutions, enabling students to better understand some of the differences between the various civil rights leaders.

At least one speech from each of the three political perspectives can then be read out to the rest of the class as a means of exploring the differences between the political outlooks of these men further.


End Credits

How might students make use of this archive footage today? What different historical topics and themes does it link to? Can they brainstorm a short trailer for an historical documentary that uses this footage alongside other extracts? Or perhaps their film would fit into a different genre entirely?


External Links

Video Clips
Complete film (1:00)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Baldwin's Nigger (1969)Baldwin's Nigger (1969)

Read more about this film

Thumbnail image of Topical Budget 527-1: Ku Klux Klan Revived In Southern States USA (1921)Topical Budget 527-1: Ku Klux Klan Revived In Southern States USA (1921)

Read more about this film

Thumbnail image of Topical Budget 593-1: Ku Klux Klan for England? (1923)Topical Budget 593-1: Ku Klux Klan for England? (1923)

Read more about this film

See also