1) Divide the class in groups of 2-3. Distribute the “Jim Crow Timeline” Activity Cards, giving one card to each group.
2) Let students know they are now going to have 15 minutes to find out information about the topic listed on their card and then work with the other groups to place the cards in order from earliest event to most recent. Ask students to find out information about the event/law on their card, write a 1-2 sentence summary about it and record the date(s) when it occurred.
Note: Encourage students to use classroom and online resources, including the “A Century of Segregation” interactive timeline, on the Rise and Fall of Jim Crow website.
3) Once students have concluded their research, ask them to write the corresponding dates on the front of their cards and tape them to the wall or place them on a long, flat surface (counter, floor, table, etc.) to create a timeline, with the earliest event on the left and the most recent event on the right.
4) Once the students have placed all the items in chronological order, ask each group to share its findings. Refer to the “Jim Crow Timeline” Activity Cards Answer Key for details about each of the items featured on the cards.
5) Ask students to describe what they know about Jim Crow. (Accept all answers.) Explain “Jim Crow” refers to laws that restricted rights of nonwhites in the U.S., especially in the South from the 1860s to the 1960s.
6) Explain that this lesson focuses on African American experiences in the Jim Crow South during the 1940s and 50s, using video segments from the PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a program which explores the history of the United States through the family stories of well-known Americans. This lesson uses segments from a Finding Your Roots episode featuring actor Samuel L. Jackson, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Brown University President Ruth Simmons, and series host Henry Louis Gates, Jr., all of whom grew up in the Jim Crow South.
LEARNING ACTIVITY 1
1) Distribute the “Life in the Jim Crow South” Student Organizer. Ask students to work in the groups they formed in the previous activity.
2) Assign each group to view one of the following segments from Finding Your Roots (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.
Note: If you do not have multiple computers, this activity could also be conducted by having the entire class view all of the segments and record their information in their organizers while viewing each one.
3) Ask each group to view its assigned clip and record information from the segment (including information about the city/state featured and how the laws affected the featured guest) in the “Life in the Jim Crow South” Student Organizer.
4) Once all groups have viewed their assigned clips, ask each group to share its information with the rest of the class. As each group presents, instruct the other groups to record the new information in their student organizers.
Note: After all groups have shared their information, all students should have filled in all four of the rows on their Student Organizers. Refer to the “Life in the Jim Crow South” Student Organizer Answer Key for information about the content presented in each segment.
5) Ask students to compare and contrast the experiences of all four guests. Ask students to discuss the ways in which the Jim Crow rules affected their lives, as well as the ways in which the black communities in Piedmont, WV, Chattanooga, TN, Birmingham, AL and Grapeland, TX coped during this period.
LEARNING ACTIVITY 2
1) Ask students to go to the Interactive Map on The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow website.
2) Instruct them to select “Jim Crow Laws, ” click on “education, ” and then select one of the following states:
Alabama Louisiana Tennessee
Arkansas Mississippi Texas
Florida North Carolina Virginia
Georgia Oklahoma West Virginia
Kentucky South Carolina
3) Ask students to review and summarize the information about Jim Crow laws governing education for their assigned state.
4) Ask students to click on the remaining categories, one at a time (“hospitals & prisons,” “miscegenation,” “public accommodations,” “transportation,” and “other”) to find out more information about the Jim Crow laws in their assigned state.
Note: If a category is empty, it means that the state didn’t have specific Jim Crow laws pertaining to that topic.
5) Once students have gathered the information pertaining to their assigned state, ask them to share their information with the other groups.
6) Ask students to reflect upon their own lives and compare their own experiences to the realities of life during the Jim Crow era. Encourage students to reflect upon laws and policies that exist today surrounding the categories discussed in this activity (education, transportation, etc.) and compare and contrast them to those which existed in the Jim Crow era.
1) Lead a discussion about the different Jim Crow laws in each of the states. Ask students to compare and contrast the rules that existed in the different states. Encourage student to think about the information presented about Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Condoleezza Rice, and Ruth Simmons and their experiences growing up in the Jim Crow South.
2) Ask students to write a reflection essay on one of the following topics:
- In the segment, “Growing up under Jim Crow in Birmingham, AL,” Condoleezza Rice says, “In some ways, because it was so segregated, racism was both everything and nothing at all.” What do you think she means by that? Reflect upon that statement in light of what you have learned in this lesson about life in the Jim Crow South and write down your thoughts.
- In the segment “Growing up under Jim Crow in Grapeland, TX,” Brown University President Ruth Simmons states, “I would not have thought it possible for a person of my background to become president of Brown University.” In addition to their own personal skills, talents and accomplishments, much has changed in U.S. policy and attitudes since Ruth Simmons, Samuel L. Jackson, and Condoleezza Rice were children. Select one of these three guests, and describe policies and laws that have been enacted and movements that have taken place since that person was born (Ruth Simmons in July 1945; Samuel L. Jackson in December 1948; and Condoleezza rice in November 1954) to make it possible for them to rise to the pinnacles of their professions.
- Reflect upon and write about the similarities and differences between the childhood experiences of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Condoleezza Rice, and Ruth Simmons. Include details learned from this lesson about life during Jim Crow in West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Texas to compare and contrast the environments in which each of these individuals spent their childhoods.
3) Ask students to share their reflections with the class.