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The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
Jim Crow Stories
A National Struggle
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Teen Leadership
Introduction Lesson 1 Lesson 2
Overview Teacher Activities Extensions and Connections Student Materials

Lesson Plan 2: Ida B. Wells

Introductory Activity
1) Ask your students what individuals they think of when you say "the Civil Rights movement." (Students will most likely respond with names such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X). Ask your students if they can tell you WHEN the Civil Rights movement took place. (Student responses will vary; guide your students to realize that the Civil Rights movement is primarily identified with the 1950s and 1960s.) Ask your students when they think African Americans' struggle for equal rights began. (Student responses will vary; some students may point out that it may have begun with the work of abolitionists, others may even go further back into the past.)

2) On the board or overhead projector, draw a timeline. At the left end of the timeline, write "1863 -- Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation," and next to it, "1865 -- Civil War Ends." Under the right end of the timeline, write "1955 -- Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat," and "1963 -- Martin Luther King delivers his 'I Have a Dream' speech." Ask your students how many years the timeline you have created covers. (100 years.) Ask your students if they think African Americans' struggle for equality continued over the course of those 100 years. (Student responses will vary.) Ask your students if they can name any of the key individuals or events that occurred in the fight for equality between 1865 and 1955. (Student responses will vary.)

3) Tell your students that this time period is often referred to as the "Jim Crow" era. Ask your students if they can identify what "Jim Crow" means. (Student responses will vary.) Ask your students to log on to the bookmarked "What Was Jim Crow?" Web site at http://www.ferris.edu/news/jimcrow/what.htm. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking your students to read the first two paragraphs on the Web site, and determine what Jim Crow was. Allow your students 5 minutes to read the first two paragraphs on the Web site. Check for comprehension. (Jim Crow was the name of the racial caste system that existed in Southern and border states between 1877 and the mid-1960s. Along with characterizing a series of rigid anti-Black laws, Jim Crow was a way of life. Under Jim Crow, African Americans were relegated to the status of second class citizens. All major societal institutions reflected and supported this oppression.)

4) Ask your students if they think the laws and restrictions of the Jim Crow era were tolerated and accepted by everyone for that 100-year time period. (Students will hopefully say no). Tell your students that, during the course of this lesson, they will be examining some of the people and events that occurred during this time period, and then taking a more in-depth look at one individual.

5) Divide your students into three groups. Assign each group one of the following three online timelines: the African American World Timeline at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/aaworld/timeline.html, the Culture and Change: The Evolution of Black History Timeline at http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/bhistory/timeline/game.htm, and the Timeline of African-American History at http://memory.loc.gov.ammem/aap/timelin2.html. Distribute the "People and Events During Jim Crow" worksheet to your students. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking your students to examine the timelines between 1865 and 1963, and to record ten people and ten events that contributed to the fight for equal rights. Allow your students 15-20 minutes to complete their research.

6) Ask your students to share with you some of the people and events in the struggle for equality between 1865-1963. (Student responses will vary.) Add significant events and individuals to the timeline on the board or overhead projector.

7) Ask your students if, in fact, African Americans were fighting for civil rights between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the "modern" Civil Rights movement. (Students should emphatically say yes.) Inform your students that you will now be examining a significant figure from this time period.

Learning Activity
1) Insert THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW, Episode 1: "Promises Betrayed" into your VCR. FAST FORWARD the video to until you see color footage of a steam locomotive and train speeding across the countryside. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to determine how Jim Crow laws impacted the life of Ida B. Wells in 1884. PLAY the tape. PAUSE the tape when you see the engraving of Ida B. Wells, and you hear the words, "... for I am sorely, bitterly disgusted. Ida B. Wells." Check for student comprehension, asking your students how Ida B. Wells' life was impacted by Jim Crow legislation. (Ida B. Wells was asked to move into a "Jim Crow" car from the ladies' car on a Tennessee train in 1884. When she refused, she bit the conductor and was thrown off the train. She sued the railroad and initially won, but the verdict was later reversed.) Ask your students if there are any parallels in this story to a famous event of the "modern" Civil Rights movement. (Like Ida B. Wells on the train, Rosa Parks was asked to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama in 1955. Like Ida B. Wells, Parks refused.)

2) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to determine what career path Ida B. Wells took as a result of the railroad incident, and to determine what her philosophy was for obtaining equal rights. PLAY the video from the previous pause point, until you see the woman historian with short hair, and you hear her saying, "this is the beginning of a true time when she becomes an investigative journalist." PAUSE the video. Check for student comprehension. (As a result of the incident on the train, Ida B. Wells became an investigative journalist. Her philosophy was that justice was not on the side of African Americans, and that they would have to fight.) Remind your students that the historian said that Ida B. Wells "started earthquakes." What do they think the historian meant? (Student answers will vary; in essence, Wells was tapping into scandalous and controversial issues that white culture wanted to keep quiet.)

3) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to determine what the Tennessee legislature attempted to do in the late 1880s. PLAY the tape from the previous pause point until you see the engraving of the legislature, and you hear the male narrator say, "Wells lashed out." PAUSE the tape. Check for student comprehension. (The legislature attempted to take away voting rights, or disenfranchise, African-American voters.)

4) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to determine why Ida B. Wells was critical of some black leaders. PLAY the tape from the previous point until you again see the woman historian, and you hear her say, "she praises this, she praises this." PAUSE the tape. Check for student comprehension. (Wells was critical of some black leaders because they did not "fight back.") Ask your students to explain to you what happened in Georgetown, Kentucky that Ida B. Wells praised. (A number of people in Georgetown were lynched, and in retaliation, the African Americans in the community nearly burned the town to the ground. Several whites were also killed.) If necessary, REWIND the tape to the previous pause point and have your students watch it again to determine what happened in Georgetown.
Lynch Law in Georgia pamphlet
Cover from a pamphlet by Ida B. Wells on the lynching of nine men in Georgia.

5) Remind your students that a number of people in Georgetown were lynched. What does it mean to lynch someone? (To lynch someone is to kill an individual by hanging or other means through mob, rather than legal, action.) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify what Ida Wells' reaction was to the lynching of her two friends in 1892. PLAY the tape from the previous pause point, until you see the picture of Ida B. Wells, and you hear the male narrator say, "she organized a boycott of white stores and public transportation in protest." PAUSE the tape. Check for comprehension. What was Wells' reaction when her two friends were lynched? (She organized boycotts against stores and public transportation.) Ask you students why the death of Wells' two friends would qualify as a lynching. (The friends had committed no crime, they were attacked and killed by off-duty sheriff's deputies, and no legal action was taken against the widely known murderers.)

6) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify Wells' original belief of the reason behind lynching, and her later opinion of the real reason for it. PLAY the tape until you see the engraving of the lynched man being burned, and your hear a woman's voice say, ". . .and keep the niggers down." PAUSE the tape. Check for comprehension. (Wells originally believed lynching was done after black men raped white women; she came to conclude that the real reason was to retaliate against blacks who were gaining wealth and property.)

7) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking students to identify what the white press reaction was to Ida B. Wells' writings. PLAY the tape from the previous pause point until you see the black and white photograph of a train, and you hear a woman's voice say, "save our money and leave town." STOP the tape. Check for student comprehension. (The white press felt that the writer of Wells' articles should be branded, tortured, and maimed.) Ask your students what Wells crusaded against for the rest of her life. (Lynching.)

Culminating Activity
1) Ask your students to identify what Ida B. Wells' primary tool was in her fight against inequality. (Her writing and her newspaper articles.) Ask your students if they think that writing can be an effective tool at bringing about change. (Student responses will vary.)

2) Tell your students that they will now have the opportunity to read some of Ida B. Wells' writing, which she wrote shortly after her newspaper office was burned. Students will be reading an online version of her pamphlet "Southern Horrors." Tell your students that this pamphlet contains a preface, an introduction, and a series of six short chapters. Divide your students into six groups. Assign one chapter of the pamphlet to each of the six groups.

3) Remind your students that Ida B. Wells wrote "Southern Horrors" in 1892, and some of the language and terminology she uses may be unfamiliar to them. Students should feel free to use either hard copy or online dictionaries while examining their chapter of the pamphlet.

4) As a group, go to the online version of "Southern Horror" at http://womhist.binghamton.edu/aswpl/doc3.html. Scroll down past the Introduction and Preface to the letter to Ida Wells from Frederick Douglass. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to read the letter and determine what Wells' subject and purpose in the pamphlet was, according to Frederick Douglass' letter. Allow your students 5 minutes to read the letter. Check for comprehension. (In the letter, Douglass is praising Wells for her straightforward presentation on the problem of lynching in the South.)

5) Tell your students that one of the main justifications for lynching was the prevalent paranoia in the South that African-American men would rape white women, and that Wells refers to this as a "threadbare lie" in the pamphlet. Wells builds her case against lynching through 1) having a clear point or objective for each chapter of the pamphlet, 2) providing statistics (numbers), and 3) anecdotal evidence (stories).

6) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to read their assigned chapter of the pamphlet and record the 1) point or objective of the chapter, 2) specific statistics, or numbers, used to support the objective, and 3) anecdotal evidence, or stories, used to support the objective. This information should be recorded on the "People and Events During Jim Crow" worksheet. Allow students 15-20 minutes to complete this activity.

7) Check for student comprehension. Ask each group to present the objective, statistics, and anecdotes Wells presents for each chapter in the pamphlet. How does Wells build her case against lynching? (Student responses will vary.)

Assessment Activity
As an assessment of this lesson, ask your students to select a problem or issue that is facing your school, your community, or our country. Issues can range from students littering in school hallways to the dangers of drinking and driving to the need for tighter security at our nation's airports. Ask students to create a brief 1-2 page persuasive essay or pamphlet articulating their position on this issue. In their 1-2 page essay, students should be clear to 1) state their point or objective, 2) provide reality-based statistics to support their position, and 3) provide anecdotal evidence to support their position.



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