American Masters
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Paul Robeson: The Renaissance Man
Overview Procedures for Teachers Oranizers for Students

Paul Robeson was an exceptional athlete, actor, singer, cultural scholar, author, and political activist. His talents made him one of the most recognized men of his time, yet his commitment to his social conscience all but erased him from history. In this lesson, students will explore the accomplishments of this decorated athlete, sought after actor, renowned singer, and political activist. They will research and debate Paul Robeson's most significant roles and contributions to the cultural history of the United States. Which was most important to American culture -Robeson's work as a scholar, a performer, an athlete, or a political activist? As part of their research, students will use the Guided Reading approach in their initial exploration of their subject area. After completing their research, students will prepare 10-minute oral and visual presentations to support their position.

Grade Level:
6th through 8th grade
(Note: This lesson can easily be adapted for high school level)

Time Allotment:
  • Two hours for viewing the American Masters episode about Paul Robeson
  • Four to six sessions for group work and preparation
  • 90-minute session for debate
Subject Matter:
American History, Music, Theater, Civil Rights, Social Activism

Learning Objectives:
Students will be able to:
  • Learn about how sports, music, and theater have affected the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Understand the social, cultural, and political climate in America in the 1920s to 1950s.
  • Research the impact of racism in the early part of the 20th century.
  • Work together in small groups.
  • Make a persuasive argument.
  • Use Internet sources and primary source material.
  • Present a thesis using multimedia software.
  • Participate in a question-and-answer session during an in-class debate.

MCREL MUSIC, Level 4, Standard 7 Understands the relationship between music and history and culture

MCREL LANGUAGE ARTS, Level 4, Standard 5 Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

MCREL THINKING AND REASONING, Level 4, Standard 2 Understands and applies basic principles of logic and reasoning

MCREL LANGUAGE ARTS, Level 4, Standard 8 Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

MCREL LANGUAGE ARTS, Level 4, Standard 9 Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

MCREL LANGUAGE ARTS, Level 4, Standard 2 Knows the characteristics and uses of computer software programs.

MCREL WORKING WITH OTHERS, Level 4, Standard 1 Contributes to the overall effort of a group

This lesson was prepared by: Anna Chan Rekate

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