Schoolchildren to learn about Civil Rights movement in Derry

Local people pictured at a sit in in the Guildhall
Local people pictured at a sit in in the Guildhall

Hundreds of school children from the across the council area will be gathering in the Guildhall on Thursday for a special event commemorating the Civil Rights movement.

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Duke Street march of 5th October 1968, which is now heralded by many as the start of the Troubles.

One of the posters urging people to lend their support to the Civil Rights campaign

One of the posters urging people to lend their support to the Civil Rights campaign

The planned workshop will feature speakers from the academic world and contributions from some of those who were actually on the ground during the original civil rights activism of the late 1960s.

The students will hear from local academic and historian Dr Emmet O’Connor, who will be asking the question – ‘For unity or rights? What was the civil rights movement?’

On the day the Nerve Centre will also present curriculum mapped resources from their Teaching Divided Histories Project, including those charting civil rights both locally and internationally.

In the afternoon session, Dr O’Connor will chair a Q&A session with civil rights activists who were some of the most prominent figures involved in the movement at the time. On the panel will be Eamonn McCann, Aidan McKinney and Anne Devlin, and pupils will have the opportunity to put their questions about the civil rights struggle in Northern Ireland.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh, said the event would give a unique insight into the era.

“This is a great opportunity for young people to find out more about a movement which had a major impact on the lives of local people. To hear the story from some of the protagonists themselves will be fascinating and a unique opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of some of the events which changed the course of history at that time.”

Looking ahead to the commemoration, Jim McBride, local historian and teacher on the organising committee for this event, said: “The content of the programme has been designed to meet the learning needs of the pupils studying the GCSE History curriculum, local study, Option 2: Changing Relations: Northern Ireland and its Neighbours, 1965–98. It is a unique opportunity for the students to question people about events 50 years ago.”

Emma McGarrity, Learning and Engagement Officer for the Speeches, Strikes and Struggles project at the Tower Museum, will be on hand to show those attending some original artefacts from all three collections in the project related to the civil rights movement. Pupils will also have the opportunity to design their own murals as a form of active protest.

“The day promises to provide the pupils with active learning that will encourage them to engage with the content being delivered in the classroom. It’s so fitting that this workshop is being hosted in the Guildhall, as it has been the site of many active protests in the pursuit of civil rights over the years.”