- Analyze text structures, including comparison and contrast
- Understand what segregation was like during the 1960s
- Copy of the article "Separate but Never Equal" by Mara Rockliff (an introductory article for the novella The Gold Cadillac by Mildred D. Taylor. You could also use a similar article, such as "I Was Not Alone: An Interview With Rosa Parks" by Brian Lanker from I Dream a World.)
- Venn Diagram Graphic Organizer printable
- Computer and projector for whole class instruction
- White Board
- Writing paper
- Make class sets of the article "Separate but Never Equal" by Mara Rockliff (or the article you are using) and the Venn Diagram Graphic Organizer printable.
- Find a short presentation or video about the civil rights movement. Scholastic has a detailed slide show and teaching guide based on the experiences of Ruby Bridges, an African American girl who integrated an elementary school when she was six. I like to use the Milestones in the Modern Civil Rights Movement time line from InfoPlease. You could also put together your own presentation. Pictures and information can be easily located on the internet.
Step 1: Begin the lesson by showing students a short presentation or video about the Civil Rights Movement.
Step 2: Ask students questions that will allow them to reflect on the circumstances preceding the civil rights movement and spark a lively discussion. For example:
- Did you know at one time there were separate drinking fountains and restrooms for whites and African Americans?
- Do you realize that at one time there were restaurants in which African Americans were not allowed to eat?
Step 3: Have students read "Separate but Never Equal" by Mara Rockliff, which describes segregation in the 1960s.
Note: Students may need help with vocabulary such as segregation, sit-ins, sue, suit, and inequalities.
Step 4: Discuss the article with students by asking the following questions:
- What is Plessy v. Ferguson?
- Why did some African-American parents sue their school district in 1949?
- How long after that did it take for the Supreme Court to rule that separate schools were unequal and what was the name of this famous case?
- In the opening quotation, John Lewis, U.S. Congressman and Civil Rights leader, makes three comparisons. What are they?
Note: You may want to provide students with some background knowledge about John R. Lewis. Explain to them that he organized sit-ins and other non-violent protests at segregated lunch counters and other facilities in the South during the early 1960s. These demonstrations helped to raise public awareness of the injustice of segregation, leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Optional: Another option for guiding the discussion on the article would be to draw a two-column chart on the board labeling one column "white" and the other "black." Have students fill in (or you can fill in) details from their responses about the drinking fountains, movie theaters, buses, shopping, and restaurants.
Step 5: Have students independently complete a Venn Diagram Graphic Organizer, comparing and contrasting the schools attended by black children with those attended by white children.
Step 6: When students have completed their Venn diagrams, allow them to discuss with their peers.
Step 7: Explain to students that many people have risked their lives to fight racism. For homework, have students brainstorm a list of people who have fought injustice and briefly summarize their efforts. Tell them to ask their parents for help with this.
Step 1: The next day, divide students in groups of three or four and encourage them to share the information they gathered about people who fought racism.
Step 2: Have each group make a list of the people they researched on a sheet of chart paper. Hang the chart paper on the wall so groups can compare lists.
Step 3: Have each group select one person that they discussed and research that person in-depth.
Step 4: Have each group present their information to the class.
Supporting All Learners
The lesson uses cooperative activities that can help lower level students and ELL students. Independent activities allow higher level students to take on a greater challenge.
- Students can research legal cases such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education.
- Invite a speaker who actually lived during this time and fought for equality to come into your classroom and talk with students.
Encourage students to interview relatives about this era and to compare their experiences during the 1960s with the students' own experiences in the present day.
- Did students read the assigned article?
- Did students complete the Venn diagram?
- Did each member of the group participate and contribute to the poster activity?
- Did each member of the group participate and contribute to the research presentation?