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Teaching Guide

Teaching Civil Rights Movement: Desegregation

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Desegregation didn't just happen. Like any recipe for success, a bunch of ingredients had to be measured out and mixed together just perfectly. A scoop of Brown v. Board, a dash of Rosa Parks.

In this guide you will find

  • related reading from the 1950s and 1960s to put everything into context.
  • assignments analyzing the powerful images and persuasive documents of the time.
  • modern connections on how the achievements of Civil Rights heroes are still remembered today.

The fight for integration may have been a huge struggle, but learning about it doesn't have to be.

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Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 3-5 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

Instructions for You

Objective: While novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Black Boy offer vivid descriptions of the Jim Crow South, we think one of the best ways to understand what it was like to live under such discriminatory laws is to hear about it directly from the people who were there. 

In this exercise, your students will explore what it was like living under Jim Crow by listening to oral interviews with people who were there.

They'll choose an interview to listen to (there are over 400 from which to choose) and then debrief in small groups before participating in a larger class discussion.

Length of Lesson: 2-3 class periods*

*This can be shortened to one class period if students listen to interviews on their own outside of class. 

Materials Needed: 

  • Access to Behind the Veil in the Duke University Libraries Digital Collection
  • Headphones/earbuds if students will be listening to the interviews in class; alternately, you can choose one interview and have everyone listen to it and then just go through the questions together

Step One: Direct your students to the Behind the Veil site, where they will find oral interviews with people who lived under Jim Crow. They can browse these interviews by location, the interviewee's name or occupation, gender, etc. Instruct students to choose one interview to which to listen.

NOTE: These interviews range in length from around 40 minutes to multiple hours. You can let students know how much class time they will have to listen to interviews and tell them to choose wisely. Obviously, if they have just one class period to listen and they choose an interview with five 45-minutes parts, they won't get to hear it all, but they can still work with what they get.

Step Two: Listen away!

Step Three: Help your students divide into small groups of 3-4 and ask each person in the group to summarize the interview they heard. They should share the following information:

  • The interviewee's name, age, and gender
  • Where the interviewee was born and grew up
  • The basic content of the interview

Step Four: After sharing this basic information about the interviews they heard, students should continue to discuss the interviews in their small groups by making their way through the following questions.

  • What did you discover?
    • What within these narratives was new information for you?
    • What was the most surprising piece of information?
    • What was the most outrageous?
  • How would you characterize the experience of living under Jim Crow?
    • Was it oppressive or just inconvenient?
    • What little things that we take for granted were not possible under Jim Crow?
  • What remnants of this world of Jim Crow still exist?

Step Five: When the small groups are done, bring the class back together and ask students to share some of the information they discussed in their small groups. You can go back through the questions from Step Four with the large group to help guide this discussion.

Instructions for Your Students

While it's true that novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Black Boy can give us a good picture of the Jim Crow South, we think one of the best ways to understand what it was like to live under such discriminatory laws is to hear about it directly from the people who were there. But who do you know that lived through the Jim Crow era in the South?

Don't worry. You don't have to know anybody. Duke University has you covered. They have  a digital library of interviews with people who were there. 

Today, you'll listen to one of those interviews and think about how the world the interviewee describes compares with you live in today. What's changed? What hasn't?

Step One: Head over to the Behind the Veil site, where you will find oral interviews with people who lived under Jim Crow. You can browse these interviews by location, the interviewee's name or occupation, gender, etc. Look around for a few minutes and then choose one interview to listen to.

NOTE: These interviews range in length from around 40 minutes to multiple hours. Find out how much time you'll have to listen and choose wisely. Obviously, if you have just one class period to listen and you choose an interview with five 45-minutes parts, you won't get to hear it all, but you  can still work with what you do hear.

Step Two: Listen away!

Step Three: Divide into small groups of 3-4 and have each person in the group to summarize the interview they heard. When it's your turn, be sure to share the following information:

  • The interviewee's name, age, and gender
  • Where the interviewee was born and grew up
  • The basic content of the interview

Step Four: After everyone in your group has shared this basic information, you can continue to discuss the interviews by making your way through the following questions.

  • What did you discover?
    • What within these narratives was new information for you?
    • What was the most surprising piece of information?
    • What was the most outrageous?
  • How would you characterize the experience of living under Jim Crow?
    • Was it oppressive or just inconvenient?
    • What little things that we take for granted were not possible under Jim Crow?
  • What remnants of this world of Jim Crow still exist?

Step Five: When the small groups are done, you'll get back together with the whole class and share some of the information you discussed in your small group. 

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT: DESEGREGATION?

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