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Teacher's Guide: Suggestions for Active Learning

Fans Celebrating Joe Louis Victory 1937 The Fight offers insights into topics in American history including the events leading to World War II, the rise of Fascism in Europe, race relations in America in the first half of the twentieth century, sports and boxing history, the relationship between the individual and his or her government, the early years of broadcast media, African American migration to the north, the cultural and social milieu of Harlem, the nature of role models and heroism, and more. Use the film or this Web site to learn more, either in a classroom or on your own.

The following activities are grouped into 4 categories: civics, history, economics, and geography. You can also read a few helpful hints for completing the activities.


History | Economics | Civics | Geography

  1. To explore the rise of Nazism and its effects on the world, divide the class into four groups and assign each group one of the following time periods: 1933-1936, 1937-1939, 1940-1942, and 1943-1945. Each group should research the main developments concerning Nazi Germany during its assigned time period. Then, as a class, use the information gathered by the groups to prepare a detailed timeline of the 1933-1945 period.

    Now have the entire class read Nazis in the News, which contains excerpts from American newspapers on events in Nazi Germany, and review the excerpts as a class. Which excerpts seem to reflect an understanding of the Nazis' potential for aggression and evil? Which do not reflect such an understanding? Do you think an American who relied on these stories for his information about Nazi Germany would have had an accurate picture of the regime?

  2. Read about Black Boxers and the Idea of a "Great White Hope." Unlike the managers of the white 1920s heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, who played up Dempsey's rough image, Joe Louis's managers presented Louis as non-threatening -- a so-called "good Negro" -- in order to win his acceptance by white Americans.

    Choose one of the following two activities: (a) Copy the poem "We Wear the Mask" by Paul Laurence Dunbar onto a sheet of paper. Below the poem, explain in your own words what Dunbar is saying in each of the poem's three stanzas. Finally, write a paragraph explaining how the poem relates to the strategy of presenting Louis to the public as a "good Negro." (b) Write a newspaper column of 500 to 750 words expressing your view on whether African American athletes (and other African American celebrities) today are still judged by different and harsher standards than white ones. Include specific details to support your argument.


History | Economics | Civics | Geography

  1. Read a profile of Joe Louis. Like Louis, some other former boxing champions ended up broke despite their winnings in the ring. (Mike Tyson is a recent example.) Others, like Max Schmeling and George Foreman, proved to be successful businessmen. Select a well-known boxer -- Louis, Schmeling, Foreman, Tyson, Muhammad Ali, or someone else -- and research his life to find out how he handled his wealth. Share your findings with the class. Are there lessons that can be drawn from the stories you researched?

  2. Find out how much money, in salary and endorsements, a favorite athlete of yours makes each year. Then create at least two graphics that put these earnings in perspective. For example, you might create a bar graph that compares the athlete's earnings to the annual earnings of some other person (such as an average American household, a full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage, or the President of the United States) or show how many and what kinds of goods the athlete could purchase with these earnings.


History | Economics | Civics | Geography

  1. Read and listen to Ringside Radio. As the feature states, more than 70 million Americans -- over half the country -- listened to the 1938 Louis-Schmeling fight. Later that year, some 40 million Americans tuned in to hear the historic horse race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral. Write a description of an occasion in which you "attended" a major event -- either in person or through television or radio -- that was seen or heard by large numbers of Americans. Did participating in this event make you feel more connected to other people? Did you discuss it with friends and family afterwards?

    After volunteers have read their descriptions to the class, hold a class discussion on whether the government and/or private groups should try to hold public events that bring together the entire nation at a specific time each year for a common purpose, such as honoring national heroes, cleaning up the community, or helping the needy.

  2. Read a profile of Joe Louis. When the United States entered World War II, Joe Louis enlisted in the U.S. Army, helped raise funds for the war effort, and made his own financial donations as well. During the Vietnam War more than two decades later, another legendary boxing champion, Muhammad Ali, was drafted by the Army but refused to report for service on the basis of his religious beliefs. As a class, investigate the controversy surrounding Ali's decision -- which cost him his heavyweight title and led to a court case that eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court -- and prepare two editorials on the issue, one supporting Ali's decision and one criticizing it.


History | Economics | Civics | Geography

  1. Take the Online Poll on whether sports figures should be role models. Both Lewis and Schmeling were "adopted" by their respective countries as symbols of national and ethnic pride. Did either fighter have any control over this process? Form two-person groups and assign each person one of the two fighters. Then answer these questions for the fighter you have been assigned: Could he have refused to become a symbol of his group or nation? If so, how? If not, why not? Do you think he should have refused to become such a symbol? Why or why not? Write up your conclusions and present them to the class.

  2. Read about Joe Louis in Harlem. Select one of the artists or organizations mentioned in the reading that are associated with the "Harlem Renaissance" and research that person or group. Use the information you have gathered to prepare a five-minute oral presentation on that topic for the class.

page created on 9.22.04
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