This lesson examines some of the obstacles to equal education that African Americans faced in the 20th century, the segregation that triggered the Civil Rights Movement, and the different strategies people used to effect change.
Students begin by reviewing the basic tenets of the U.S. Constitution that guarantee equal rights for all people, specifically, the Fourteenth Amendment, which was used to argue the case for school desegregation in the courts. Next, students work in small groups to study the impact of segregated schools and how individuals and communities responded. Each small group focuses on a specific response or strategy. Finally, students come together to present what they learned, the advantages and disadvantages of the strategy they examined, and what they might do in that situation and in a similar situation today.
- Identify examples of racial discrimination
- Analyze the impact of discrimination
- Identify and examine strategies used to overcome discrimination
- Understand the advantages and disadvantages of different strategies
Grade Level: 6-12
- Two class periods
- Simple Justice 4: Arguing the Fourteenth Amendment QuickTime Video
- The Road to Brown QuickTime Video*
- Documenting Brown 2: Plessy v. Ferguson PDF Document
- Brown: A Landmark Case QuickTime Video*
- Hyde County School Boycott Flash Image
- Getting an Education QuickTime Video
- Bus to the Burbs QuickTime Video
- Boston Desegregation QuickTime Video
* These two videos have expired. We are in the process of making them available again.
Before the Lesson
- Arrange computer access so students can work in four small groups.
- Examine the media-rich resources to familiarize yourself with the lesson content.
- Read the background essay for each resource, and add any of the questions for discussion that relate to the people and events your class may be studying.
- Print and copy the PDF documents for students.
Part I: Examining Inequality
1. Begin by reviewing The Fourteenth Amendment PDF Document, the legal basis used to argue for equality in the courts. Show theSimple Justice 4: Arguing the Fourteenth Amendment QuickTime Video and The Road to Brown QuickTime Video and discuss the following:
- What did the Fourteenth Amendment establish?
- When and why was the Fourteenth Amendment added to the U.S. Constitution?
- What did the Fourteenth Amendment imply for education?
- Why did the Fourteenth Amendment have limited impact?
Part II: Examining the Responses to Inequality
2. Divide the class into four small groups:
- Legal action
- Direct action
Ask each group of students to use the following resources to examine the different responses to inequalities in education.
- Group 1: examine legal action, using Documenting Brown 2: Plessy v. Ferguson PDF Document and Brown: A Landmark Case QuickTime Video.
- Group 2: examine migration, using Getting an Education QuickTime Video and Julian the Trailblazer HTML Document.
- Group 3: examine direct action, using Hyde County School Boycott Flash Image.
- Group 4: examine busing, using Bus to the Burbs QuickTime Video and Boston Desegregation QuickTime Video.
As they watch or read the resources, ask students to think about the conditions that triggered activism, and the strategies that were used to combat discrimination.
3. Ask students to read the background essays, discuss the following questions, and write down their answers to present to the class. Ask students to divide up the questions so that each student writes and/or presents the response to at least one question. Describe the people and events studied, and when they took place.
- What triggered the action? What were the conditions like for African Americans?
- What action did people take?
- How did they go about it?
- What obstacles did they face?
- What was the outcome? Did the strategy work? Why or why not?
- What were the advantages and disadvantages of using this strategy?
- Might this strategy have appealed to you personally? Why or why not? Would you use this strategy in an unfair situation today? Why or why not? Discuss and list different responses.
Check for Understanding
- Ask each group to present what it learned. As each group presents its work, create a chart that documents the events, strategies, and outcomes for each resource.
- As a class, discuss the different strategies that were used, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
- Next, discuss the strategies that students suggested both for situations in the past and if such events were to happen now, and the expected outcomes. Encourage students to respond to each other's ideas and offer constructive feedback as to why certain strategies may or may not work.