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The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
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Lesson Plan 6: The Law and Politics of Jim Crow
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Learning Activities:
This activity will involve the viewing of extensive segments of the documentary THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW and should be carried out over two class periods.

Activity One
(one class period)

  1. Have students view the segments on the emergence of a new black middle class and on Ida B. Wells from THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW. The segment begins approximately 27:45 minutes into Episode One of the video series and lasts approximately 10:55 minutes. Students should be encouraged to consider the following questions and take careful notes. Following the video segment, discuss these questions:
    • What events brought about the end of Reconstruction?
    • How did the emergence of a new black middle class challenge white supremacy?
    • Why did whites demand that segregation be legalized during the 1880s?
    • How was political violence used to attack African American political power?
    • Ida B. Wells states that "I had firmly believed all along that the law was on our side and would give us justice." How did the Southern legal system respond to white violence?
  2. Have students view the segment on W.E.B. Du Bois and the NAACP from THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW. The segment begins approximately 35:50 minutes into Episode Two of the video series and lasts approximately 16:30 minutes. Students should be encouraged to consider the following questions and take careful notes. Following the video segment, discuss these questions:
    • What had been Booker T. Washington's attitude regarding political matters?
    • Why did the 1905 Atlanta riot convince many blacks that Washington's strategy would not work?
    • How did Du Bois and other black intellectuals challenge Washington's leadership?
    • What were the ideals of Du Bois' Niagara Movement?
    • In what ways did the NAACP engage in political activism?

Activity Two
(one class period)

  1. Have students view the segment on Charles Hamilton Houston from THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW. The segment begins approximately 41:00 minutes into Episode Three of the video series and lasts approximately 16:45 minutes. Students should be encouraged to consider the following questions and take careful notes. Following the video segment, discuss these questions:
    • Who was Charles Houston? Why did he believe education was a good place to focus the NAACP's legal battle to end Jim Crow?
    • How did Walter White's legal and political agenda differ from Houston's? How did the campaign to pass a federal anti-lynching statute challenge Jim Crow?
    • What did Charles Houston mean when he emphasized that "there is a difference between the law in books and the law in action"?
    • How did the University of Missouri Law School case set the stage for the legal battle against segregation?
  2. Have students view the final segment on the Truman administration and the Farmville, Virginia school case from THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW. The segment begins approximately 37:30 minutes into Episode Four of the video series and lasts approximately 18:30 minutes. Students should be encouraged to consider the following questions and take careful notes. Following the video segment, discuss these questions:
    • Upset over Truman's support for civil rights, some Southerners bolted from the Democratic Party during the 1948 presidential election. However, Truman won the election despite the lack of Southern support. Why did this signal the beginning of the end for white supremacists intent on maintaining Jim Crow laws?
    • What other evidence does the documentary give to show that Jim Crow laws and attitudes were losing strength?
    • Why was the local battle over equal education in Farmville, Virginia, of national significance?

Culminating Activity/Assessment:
(one class period)

  1. Divide students into nine groups and have each group read and discuss one of the nine following documents, which should be accessed online beforehand and printed out. Have students access the Timeline on THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW Web site so they can place these documents in the history of Jim Crow. Allow the groups 15 minutes to read and discuss their document.

    Testimony of Mrs. Selina Wallis, 1883
    http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1149.htm

    Testimony of Mrs. Violet Keeling, 1883
    http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1150.htm

    "New Orleans Mass Meeting, 1888"
    http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1151.htm

    "State Constitution of Louisiana, 1898, Suffrage and Elections"
    http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1154.htm

    "Niagara's Declaration of Principles, 1905"
    http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1152.htm

    "The Tenth Annual Report of the NAACP for the year 1919,"
    http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1153.htm

    "An act to prohibit the co-education of the white and colored races…" (Tennessee, 1901)
    http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1155.htm

    "Jim Crow Laws" (Alabama, 1923)
    http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/976.htm

    "Jim Crow" Laws (Selected laws from various states)
    http://www.nps.gov/malu/documents/jim_crow_laws.htm

  2. Have each group make a presentation about its document to the class. The students should give a brief description of the content of the document and discuss how it is related to the political and legal system of Jim Crow. Special attention should be given to the following questions:
    • What kind of a document is this? (i.e., testimony, a statement of principles, a law, etc.)
    • When was the document created?


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The JIM CROW
Intergenerational Discussion Guide
presents ideas and facts on the Jim Crow era.
  To download the Guide, you'll need the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Download Adobe Acrobat.  


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