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LESSON TITLE: Realities of Life in the Jim Crow Era
GRADE LEVEL: Grades 8-11
TIME ALLOTMENT: Two 45-minute class periods
The 2012 series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the complex tapestry of American history through the stories of celebrity guests. This hands-on, media-enhanced lesson explores life in the Jim Crow South, using video segments from Finding Your Roots, Episode 7, highlighting the childhood experiences of Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., actor Samuel L. Jackson, former U.S. Secretary of State Rice, and Brown University President Ruth Simmons.
In the Introductory Activity, students are given cards featuring the names of major events, laws or court cases from the 1860s through the 1960s, related to Jim Crow laws and the civil rights movement. Students are challenged to find out information about the items on their cards and place the cards on a timeline.
In Learning Activity 1, students view segments highlighting the childhood experiences of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in Piedmont, WV; Samuel L. Jackson in Chattanooga, TN; Condoleezza Rice in Birmingham, AL; and Ruth Simmons in Grapeland, TX. Each individual grew up under the code of Jim Crow in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Students use student organizers to record information about how the laws affected the featured guests and their communities. [This activity can either be conducted as a jigsaw activity (where the class is divided into groups and each group views one segment and students then share their information with the other groups) or with the entire class, having all the students view all three segments.] In Learning Activity 2, students use the Interactive Map of Jim Crow Laws featured on the Rise and Fall of Jim Crow website (listed in the Websites section below) to explore the realities of the Jim Crow laws in various southern states.
In the Culminating Activity, students compare and contrast the Jim Crow laws in the different states, and reflect upon the experiences of Gates, Jackson, Rice, and Simmons. The Culminating Activity concludes with students writing a reflection paper, focusing on themes presented in the lesson.
American History; Language Arts; Social Studies
After completing this lesson, students will be able to:
- Name significant moments in the African American civil rights struggle.
- Describe what Jim Crow laws were.
- Discuss specific ways in which Jim Crow laws affected African American communities in Piedmont, WV, Chattanooga, TN, Grapeland, TX and Birmingham, AL.
- Discuss the similarities and differences between the rules and environments that existed in different parts of the South during the Jim Crow era.
- Key Ideas and Details:
- Grades 6-8: RH.6-8.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions. Grades 9-10: RH.9-10.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text. Grades 11-12: RH.11-12.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
- Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
- Grades 6-8: RH.6-8.7. Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts. Grades 11-12: RH.11-12.7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
- Grades 9-10: RH.9-10.9. Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources. Grades 11-12: RH.11-12.9. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
United States History Content Standards for Grades 5-12
- Era 7: The Development of the Industrial United States (1870 to 1900s):
- Standard 2B: The student understands “scientific racism”, race relations, and the struggle for equal rights. Therefore, the student is able to:
- Analyze the role of new laws and the federal judiciary in instituting racial inequality and in disfranchising various racial groups.
- Analyze the arguments and methods by which various minority groups sought to acquire equal rights and opportunities guaranteed in the nation’s charter documents.
- Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s):
- Standard 4A: The student understands the “Second Reconstruction” and its advancement of civil rights. Therefore, the student is able to:
- Explain the origins of the postwar civil rights movement and the role of the NAACP in the legal assault on segregation.
- Evaluate the Warren Court’s reasoning in Brown v. Board of Education and its significance in advancing civil rights.
- Explain the resistance to civil rights in the South between 1954 and 1965.
- Analyze the leadership and ideology of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X in the civil rights movement and evaluate their legacies.
- Assess the role of the legislative and executive branches in advancing the civil rights movement and the effect of shifting the focus from de jure to de facto segregation.
- Evaluate the agendas, strategies, and effectiveness of various African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, and Native Americans, as well as the disabled, in the quest for civil rights and equal opportunities.
Historical Thinking Standards for Grades 5-12
- Standard 1: Chronological Thinking: The student thinks chronologically. Therefore, the student is able to:
- Interpret data presented in time lines and create time lines by designating appropriate equidistant intervals of time and recording events according to the temporal order in which they occurred.
- Reconstruct patterns of historical succession and duration in which historical developments have unfolded, and apply them to explain historical continuity and change.
Finding Your Roots, Episode 7, selected segments
Access the video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.
Clip 1: “Growing up under Jim Crow in Piedmont, West Virginia and Chattanooga, Tennessee”
A look at life under Jim Crow in Piedmont, WV during Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s childhood and in Chattanooga, TN during Samuel L. Jackson’s childhood.
Clip 2: “Growing up under Jim Crow in Birmingham, Alabama”
A look at life under Jim Crow in Birmingham, AL during Condoleezza Rice’s childhood.
Clip 3: “Growing up under Jim Crow in Grapeland, Texas”
A look at life under Jim Crow in Grapeland, TX during Ruth Simmons’s childhood.
This companion website to the PBS series The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow features information and activities for teachers and students focusing on life during the Jim Crow era. The following features on the site are used in this lesson:
This interactive timeline is suggested for student use during the Introductory Activity.
The Jim Crow Laws Interactive Map featured in this section is used in Learning Activity 2 and provides information about laws and policies that existed throughout the U.S. in the Jim Crow era.
For the Class:
- Computer, projection screen, and speakers (for class viewing of video clips).
Note: This lesson can be conducted with one main computer for the class and/or with multiple computers so that students, in groups of 2-3 students each, can view segments on individual computers.
For each student:
- “Jim Crow Timeline” Activity Cards (Note: one card is needed for every group of 2-3 students. There are 14 cards on the downloadable document.)
PREP FOR TEACHERS
Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:
Preview all of the video segments used in the lesson. Prepare to watch them using your classroom’s Internet connection.
Bookmark all websites you plan to use in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Using a social bookmarking tool such as del.icio.us or diigo (or an online bookmarking utility such as portaportal) will allow you to organize all the links in a central location.
Print out one copy of the “Life in the Jim Crow South” Student Organizer for each student. Print out one copy of the “Jim Crow Timeline” Activity Cards Answer Key and one copy of the “Life in the Jim Crow South” Student Organizer Answer Key. (See the Materials section above.)
Print out the “Jim Crow Timeline” Activity Cards and cut out the cards along the dotted lines. Print out enough copies so that each group of 2-3 students gets one of the individual cards.
Proceed to Lesson Activities.