John F. Kennedy once said that his plans for his presidency will “not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days … nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet.” In other words, change takes a long time to happen, and real change sometimes takes forever. But those first 100 days really do matter.
Historically, the first 100 days represent a presidential honeymoon period when new presidents are personally popular, and they routinely take advantage of their high approval ratings and unilateral power to direct the executive branch, enact legislative policy and reverse policies from the previous administration. Franklin D. Roosevelt passed 76 bills into law during his first 100 days. Harry Truman passed 55. John F. Kennedy passed 26. Ronald Regan passed nine. And Barack Obama passed 11. President Obama also reversed at least two issues that had been vetoed under George W. Bush: He expanded health insurance coverage for children in low-income housing, and he enacted the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, an initiative that was designed to combat wage discrimination. For the American people, such early initiatives and policy decisions provide some insight into the focus of a new administration and highlight the issues that the new president will focus on.
We are now less than two weeks into Donald Trump‘s 100 days, and it is less a honeymoon period than a prelude to a divorce, with great upheaval, unrest and massive resistance. On the day of his inauguration, hundreds of people protested in Washington D.C., throwing bricks, breaking windows and starting fires. Police officers used flash bang grenades and pepper spray and arrested over 200 people. On the day after his inauguration, an estimated 5 million people worldwide marched in peaceful protest of his potential policies and past bigoted actions.
Despite the backlash and having arrived into office with the lowest approval rating of any president in modern history, Mr. Trump’s work to distinguish his administration from the previous one has begun, with a dozen executive actions taken within his first week. Some of them are massive, expensive and controversial, but all of them clearly signal a new direction in America’s national and international policies. He has announced plans to build a border wall, step up deportations; block federal grants to sanctuary cities, resume controversial oil pipeline developments, withdraw the U.S. from all Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, block federal dollars from organizations that provide abortion services, freeze all regulations that were signed in the final weeks of the Obama presidency, and allow agency heads to waive requirements of the Affordable Care Act to the maximum extent permitted by the law.
These are complex issues and orders that face clear obstacles to enactment, but they send one clear message: Now is the time to launch four years of mobilizing, protesting and on-the-ground local activism. This is the time to find a way to get involved and stay engaged. Some ideas:
•Make a commitment to become a grassroots activist and join a local activist group;
•Raise awareness about civil liberties and constitutional rights and then work to share this information through teach-ins and community gatherings;
•Challenge and pressure your state and local officials to show up to work and vote on your behalf;
•Turn your attention to the mid-term elections and concentrating on voting more women and people of color into office;
•Develop an attitude of intolerance toward racist, sexist, and classist policies, statements, jokes and behaviors.
This is our first 100 days, too, and how we respond matters. If we want real change to happen, we must do everything we can to hold this administration accountable and to never doubt, as Margaret Mead once said, that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.
Karsonya Wise Whitehead is an associate professor of communication and African and African American studies at Loyola University Maryland and the creator of Trump Syllabus K12. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A version of this editorial was aired as a public commentary on WYPR 88.1, Baltimore’s NPR station.
Karsonya Wise Whitehead & Fayetta Martin
Grade: Middle/High School
Overview: In order to fully understand this lesson, students should have mastered the indicators covering the impact of the Dred Scott v. Sanford and the Plessy v. Ferguson cases on American racial politics; the early development of the modern Civil Rights Movement and the resistance to segregation in both the North and South from 1945-1960; and, the political and social impacts of America’s earliest responses to segregation. If necessary, provide a brief overview of the aforementioned topics to prepare them for this lesson.
United States History
McRel Standards: Era 9 – Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s
- Level IV (Grades 9-12) Understands significant influences on the Civil Rights Movement (e.g., the social and constitutional issues involved in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954) court cases; the connection between legislative acts, Supreme Court decisions, and the Civil Rights Movement; the role of women in the Civil Rights Movement and in shaping the struggle for civil rights);
- Level III (Grades 7-8) Understands individual and institutional influences on the Civil Rights Movement (e.g., the origins of the postwar Civil Rights Movement; the role of the NAACP in the legal assault on the leadership and ideologies of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X; the effects of the constitutional steps taken in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government; the shift from de jure to de facto segregation; important milestones in the Civil Rights Movement between 1954 and 1965; Eisenhower’s reasons for dispatching federal troops to Little Rock in 1957).
- Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas, values, personalities, behaviors, and institutions by identifying likenesses and differences.
- Consider multiple perspectives of various peoples in the past by demonstrating their differing motives, beliefs, interests, hopes and fears.
- Hold interpretations of history as tentative, subject to changes as new information is uncovered, new voices heard, and new interpretations broached.
- Hypothesize the influence of the past, including both the limitations and opportunities made possible by past decisions.
AI: Thematic Standard: Culture and Cultural Diversity
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of culture and cultural diversity.
AII: Thematic Standard: Time, Continuity and Change
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ways human beings view themselves in and over time.
AVI: Thematic Standard: Power, Authority and Governance
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of how people create and change structures of power, authority, and governance.
AX: Thematic Standard: Civic Ideals and Practices
Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.
Classroom Materials: Chart Paper, Student’s in-class journals, United States physical map, Activity Bins (colored paper, markers, scissors, glue, tape, etc.), Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Continuum CD (or any song that either discusses or was sung during the Civil Rights Movement
Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:
- identify some of the significant events that framed the modern Civil Rights Movement (“Movement”) from 1954-1972;
- evaluate the goals and objectives of the Movement as a whole;
- analyze the leaders of the Movement and how they influenced the direction and focus;
- compare multiple perspectives written about the same issue so that students will learn how to effectively differentiate between historical facts, historical interpretations and historical opinions.
- How did the events from the modern Civil Rights Movement impact the lives of all Americans?
- How did the three branches (Executive, Judicial and Legislative) respond to these events?
- What was the social, political and socio-economic climate during this time period?
- Who were the Black leaders and how did they influence the focus and direction of the Movement?
- What are some of the significant events that happened during the Movement from 1954-1972?
Prior to using this lesson in the classroom, review the Historiography and primary source materials for this lesson by clicking on the button on the left side navigation labeled “primary sources.” In addition to primary sources, this area includes historical documents, speeches, and worksheets that you can download and use for this lesson.
Depending upon how much time you have to teach this lesson, choose two or more video clips and five to ten images. For this lesson, there are several historical documents also available, with a worksheet so students can analyze the documents. Documents include Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the text of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the lyrics to the song “We Shall Overcome.” Print out the photographs, video transcripts and documents and organize the material into “primary source packages” for your students. The students will be working in groups, so print enough copies so that you have one “packet” for each group. If you like, you can print different images and different transcripts so that each group does not have the same exact “primary source package.”
- Have each of the quotes listed below written on a chalkboard or overhead where all students can see them.
* In the name of the greatest people that ever trod the earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny… and I say… segregation now… segregation tomorrow… segregation forever. –George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama (1963)
* I have a dream that one day… the state of Alabama… will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. –Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963)
- Once the students are seated, they should be given 1-2 minutes to read and reflect on the two quotes. Each should then pick up his or her index card and write a 2-3 sentence statement outlining how either Wallace’s or King’s (depending upon which index card they have) goal can be achieved.
- Invite students to share-out their responses. Ask them to speak a bit about the process of writing their statement, specifically about how easy or difficult it was to write goals for each statement. Ask them to react to each perspective and reflect on how each goal makes them feel. Explain to them the difference between Wallace, a segregationist and King, an integrationist. (Please see Words and Phrases or the Historiography, if needed.) Tell them to keep these definitions in mind as they work their way through the next two days of discussion.
- Inform the students that they are going to spend the next two days analyzing some of the major events that happened during the modern Civil Rights Movement from 1954-1972 to determine whether the Movement was a success or a failure. Ask the students how they would define the words “success” and “failure.” Write their definitions on the board. If necessary, have two students look up each word and write the standard definition on the board. Have the students write down the agreed upon definitions so that they can refer back to them during the assignment. Ask the students:
a) How do you know when you have succeeded or failed?
b) Can an event be both a success and a failure?
c) Have you ever looked back at an event in your life that you thought was a failure and it turned out to be a success? Or that you thought was a success and it turned out to be a failure?
d) What is more important – succeeding or failing?
Tell them that their goal for the next two days is to study some of the events, the leaders, the goals and the outcomes to attempt to answer the guiding question: Was the modern Civil Rights Movement a success or a failure? Explain that since they are going to conduct a historical investigation, they may find that, at the end of the assignment, they cannot make or agree upon a clear cut position. This is fine as long as they are able to defend why and how they reached that conclusion.
- Ask them to think about the modern Civil Rights Movement and a) name and describe any events that happened and b) name any leaders and their contributions. Write their responses on the board and clarify any confusion regarding dates. Encourage the students to think beyond the usual responses of Dr. King, Rosa Parks, Brown v. Board of Education and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
- Once the students have finished, use the Historiography to provide a detailed overview of the modern Civil Rights Movement. Students should take notes and be encouraged to ask questions and make comments. Make sure that everyone understands what the Movement was and why it was important.
- Prior to presenting the lesson, select two or more video clips from the primary sources area for this lesson and print out the transcripts for the interviews you have selected. Give each student a copy of the transcripts so they can read them silently as the clips are played (or read aloud.) Before you present the video clips in class, provide a brief introduction for each clip. Also, tell the students that they are now going to listen to (or read) two interviews from the National Visionary Leadership Project. Note that the interviewees are considered to be primary sources (if necessary, quickly explain the difference between a primary and a secondary source so that they can fully understand the value of the interview). As you present the clips, students should take notes and be prepared to discuss.
- Once the clip(s) has ended, guide the students in a discussion of the following: Why is it important to learn about history from the people who experienced it? (If necessary, remind them of the differences between primary and secondary sources.); How accurate are their memories? Could time have impacted upon how they remember the event?; Do they have a reason to distort the past?; What would life have been like if the organizers and participants of the Civil Rights Movement had not gotten involved?
- Once the students have analyzed the clip(s) for accuracy, importance and relevance, direct their attention to the board and review the essential questions of the lesson. Tell them that now they will be working in groups of four to conduct a historical investigation to answer the essential questions. They should select a recorder to record the group’s findings on chart paper (everyone else should record their notes in their notebooks); a reporter to present the group’s findings to the class; a task manager to manage their group’s process and a time-keeper.
- After selecting documents from the primary sources section for this lesson, download Worksheet 1-1. Create “primary source packages” for your students and hand them out with chart paper, markers and Worksheet 1-1, the Success or Failure handout. Tell the students they are to review each document in detail and answer the questions based only upon what they see or read in the documents. Tell them that as much as possible, they are not to draw upon prior knowledge, because they are acting as historians who are attempting to answer a question based only upon the presented evidence.
- Tell students that they will have 45-minutes to conduct their investigation. Take time to answer any clarifying questions or clear up any confusion. If necessary, generate a short discussion to come up with a working definition of “success” and “failure.” Inform them that, if they need to, they should also use their United States maps to gain a geographical perspective of where the event was taking place.
- While they are working, circulate among the groups to make sure that they understand the assignment and are critically analyzing the sources.
- Ten minutes before the lesson ends, tell students that they should begin organizing their notes so that they can present their findings. They should be prepared to state and defend their group’s conclusion.
- Student reporters should be given 10-15 minutes to present the group’s findings and to explain how they reached their conclusion. Other groups should be encouraged to take notes during the presentations and to ask clarifying statements at the end. If time permits, allow other members of the group to add any additional information.
- At the end of the presentations, ask the students to take 10-15 minutes to reflect in their journals on the following:
* How important is it to study the successes and failures of the modern Civil Rights Movement? Name three things that were changed as a result of the Movement. How does the modern Civil Rights Movement connect to the Black Lives Matter social movement? Explain.
- Tell the students that tomorrow they will be participating in a Movement simulation that directly connects to today’s investigation and tonight’s homework.
Tell students to log onto the National Visionary Leadership Project Student Site (www.visionaryproject.org/student) and click on “video clips” to access the following two video interviews:
Clip 12. Freedom Rides. Rev. C.T. Vivian talks about his participation and arrest during the Freedom Rides.
Clip 13. Mississippi Voter Drive. Harvard graduate, Math teacher and SNCC Field Secretary Robert Moses worked with C.C. Bryant in rural McComb, Mississippi to educate and register Black voters. This experience informed the larger 1964 “Freedom Summer” Mississippi Black voter education and registration campaign. Bob Moses talks about his early experiences while registering Black voters in rural Mississippi.
Also encourage your students to browse through the other photos, documents and clips, as well as the Timeline to get a fuller sense of the Civil Rights Movement. More advanced students should also be directed to print out and read the Historiography.
- Students should enter the room to the music of Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Motherless Chil (if this CD is not available, substitute any song that either discusses or is associated with the Civil Rights Movement. Students can also read the words from We Shall Overcome – this song is included in the primary sources). After listening for two to three minutes, the music should be lowered and students should be told to direct their attention to the front board and answer the following:
* What would it take for them to leave school and become involved in a protest that may cost them their lives or may result in going to prison?
- Music should be turned back up to play out while students think about the warm-up question.
- Once students are finished, turn off the music and invite students to share-out their answers. Push them to think critically about the level of commitment that is needed to be involved in a protest movement. Ask them to think about what it means to sacrifice for the common good (knowing that you may not be around to enjoy the benefits of your accomplishments). Additionally, ask them to name the characteristics that are needed to make this type of commitment. Write their answers down on the board (look for words along the lines of courage, determination, tenacity, selflessness… add these to the list if they are not said). Ask them to name some rights or issues that are important. Would they be willing to sacrifice their lives in order to gain or keep these rights?
- Remind the students that this is a continuation of yesterday’s Civil Rights Movement lesson and that they should take out their homework to assist them during the activity.
- Tell the students that they will work in the same groups as yesterday to complete today’s simulation. Pass out the primary source packages from yesterday with one addition: each group should get a description of one of two simulation situations, one about the 1961 McComb, Mississippi Voter Registration campaign and one about the 1961 Freedom Rides.
- Ask them to take out their narratives and read silently as you read each one aloud:
The year is 1961 and you are high school students living in New York studying math with Robert Moses (Refer to timeline for background information). He has just informed you that he is planning to spend the summer in McComb, Mississippi working to get Black Americans registered to vote. He asks if you would like to come along. Create a “memory trunk” that documents your experiences. Items should include pictures, letters written home about your experience, 2-3 posters, a bumper sticker and a diary with 5-7 days worth of experiences.
The year is 1961 and you are high school students living in Washington, DC. You have just heard that CORE is looking for volunteers to be involved in the Freedom Rides from Washington, DC to New Orleans. You decide to join them. Create a “memory trunk” that documents your experiences. Items should include pictures, letters written home about your experience, 2-3 bumper stickers, an itinerary and a diary with 5-7 days worth of experiences.
- Take time to answer any questions and clarify what they are supposed to create with their materials. Also take time to outline a brief history of CORE (see Historiography for background information). Pass out activity bins and tell the students that they have an hour to complete their “memory trunks” and prepare to present to the class (if students are unable to complete within an hour, have them complete it as a home project and present it to the class tomorrow). Ask them to help you create a “memory trunk” rubric that will be used to judge the quality and quantity of their work. Write the rubric on the front board (look for suggestions along the lines of Creativity, Capitalization/Usage/ Punctuation/Spelling (C.U.P.S.), Grammar, Quantity, Presentation). The rubric should contain four-six main points. (If necessary, see Rubistar to create a rubric that meets the needs of your students).
- While the students are working, join each group to assist with the preparation and to encourage them to be creative within the guidelines.
- Ten minutes before the activity ends, tell the students that they should start to organize their materials and prepare for their group presentation.
- Students should present their “memory trunks” as a group and the other students should grade their trunks using the class-created rubric.
- Once presentations have ended, refer students back to the Essential Questions and have students answer each of the questions.
Read through the We Shall Not Be Moved and Evaluating Nonviolence as a Method of Social Change lesson plans and choose which lesson that you will teach after the students have completed their Memory Trunks. The homework should then take them back to the National Visionary Leadership Student Site so that they can research either the contributions of women or the nonviolence strategy in preparation for the discussion.
- Students can choose a leader from the Civil Rights Movement and make a scrapbook highlighting their experiences.
- Have students write a play recreating the Sit-in Movement.
- Arrange students in groups of four and have them create Civil Rights Movement newspaper headline collages.
- Students can find someone in their family or neighborhood who lived during the 1960s and conduct an oral history interview asking the person about their life.
*A version of this lesson plan was originally prepared for the National Visionary Leadership Project (NVLP). It is reprinted here with permission from the author.
Intended Audience: 3rd – 5th grades
Overview: In order to fully understand this lesson, students should have a broad understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and some familiarity with (some of) the leaders, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. If necessary, provide a brief overview of the history of the Civil Rights Movement to prepare them for this lesson.
Objectives: Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to identify three significant events that happened during the Civil Rights Movement; interpret data presented in a Civil Rights Movement time line; differentiate between historical facts and historical fiction; and, formulate historical questions.
Level II (K-5th): Understand how people over the last 200 years have continued to struggle to bring all groups into the American society and the liberties and equality promised in the basic principles of American democracy (e.g. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Rosa Parks)
Standard 4: The struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties. Standard 4a: The student understands the “Second Reconstruction” and its advancement of civil rights.
- Explain the resistance to civil rights in the South between 1954 and 1965 [Identify issues and problems in the past]
- Evaluate the Warren’s Court’s reasoning in Brown v. Board of Education and its significance in advancing civil rights [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
- Name and describe three significant events that happened during the Civil Rights Movement.
- Name three Civil Rights Movement leaders and two of their accomplishments.
- Discuss Linda Brown and some of the things that she accomplished.
- Name three ways that the Civil Rights Movement has touched your life.
Lesson Plan (Note: this Lesson Plan may take 2-3 days)
- Teacher’s Guide (which includes lesson plan and metacognitive components)
- NVLP video clips and transcripts, Photographs: a) from the significant events and b) of the Visionaries (childhood photographs).
- Post-it Chart Paper and Markers
- CD of “We Shall Overcome”
- Copies of the “We Shall Overcome” song lyrics
- Classroom Dictionaries (at least five)
- Technical Requirements: DVD player, VHS player, Television
Words & Names
Civil Rights “Big Six”: The “Big Six” were the leaders of the six major civil rights organizations who met with President Kennedy to organize and plan the 1963 March on Washington: James Farmer, the founder of the Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE) and the strategist behind the Freedom Rides; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); John Lewis, President of Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and current U.S. Representative from Georgia; A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters Union; Roy Wilkins, Executive Director of the NAACP; and Whitney Young, head of the National Urban League. In addition, Dr. Dorothy I. Height, head of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), attended the meetings and helped to organize the March, but was not allowed to speak at it.
Coretta Scott King was the wife of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights and peace activist, an author, former president of the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia and a recipient of the Gandhi Peace Prize.
Constance Baker Motley is a former lawyer who wrote the original brief for the Brown vs. Board of Education, Topeka Kansas. She was the first female member of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the first African-American woman elected to the New York state senate (1964) and to the Manhattan borough presidency (1965), the first African-American woman on the federal bench; and, the first African-American (1982) woman to serve as chief judge.
Dorothy I. Height was the only female member of the Civil Rights “Big Six,” and served as the former president of Delta Sigma Theta sorority (an international organization) and the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW).
Joseph Lowry: served as the pastor of the Warren Street United Methodist Church, in Mobile, Alabama (1952-1961), helped to lead the Montgomery bus boycott and co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (with Dr. King).
Lerone Bennett, Jr. isa writer and social historian who served on the editorial board of Ebony magazine for over fifty years. His books include Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, 1619-1962, What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Pioneers In Protest, Black Power U.S.A., The Human Side of Reconstruction 1867-1877, and Great Moments in Black History.
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was originally conceived by A. Philip Randolph in 1941. The 1963 March was primarily organized by Randolph and Bayard Rustin, one of the founders of SCLC. Rustin originally wanted the March to focus on “pushing” the federal government to secure more jobs, housing, and education for Black people. The focus changed to more moderate political objectives in an effort to secure the participation of organizations such as the NAACP and the National Urban League (they were considered to be more moderate organizations). The “Big Six,” which did not include Rustin, worked with President Kennedy to organize a peaceful gathering without any divisive or explosive speeches (John Lewis was asked and agreed to change his speech once it was deemed to racially “explosive”). The result was a gathering of 250,000+ Black and white Americans on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial under the banner of “Jobs and Freedom Now.”
Oliver Brown et al v. The Board of Education, Topeka Kansas In 1950, Oliver Brown, a welder and a part-time assistant pastor at St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church, attempted to enroll his daughter, Linda Brown, in Sumner School, a segregated elementary school in Topeka, Kansas. When she was denied admission, he decided to join a lawsuit being prepared by NAACP lawyers. The case was originally filed at the U.S. District Court in Topeka on February 28, 1951. After the lower courts upheld the power of the Topeka school board under Kansas law to separate children by race, the case went on to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954. Combining with four other cases: Belton (Bulah) v. Gebhart, Bolling v. Sharpe, Briggs v. Elliot, and Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, the Brown decision overturned the Plessy case and ended legalized segregation.
*May 17: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Oliver Brown, et al v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas that “racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.” This decision reversed the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson “separate but equal” decision. One year later, the USSC, after hearing oral arguments from Thurgood Marshall, ruled that states should “integrate with all deliberate speed.”
*Response to Brown: Across the South, in an immediate response to the Brown decision, white segregationists established a number of resistance groups including the White American, Inc., the White Citizens’ Councils, the American States’ Rights Association and the Federation of Constitutional Government.
Plessy v. Ferguson: Homer Adolphe Plessy, a Black man from Louisiana, and his lawyer, Albion W. Tourgee, argued in the Plessy v. Ferguson case that segregation laws related to public carriers violated the Thirteen and Fourteenth Amendments. Tourgee argued that, “Justice is picture blind and her daughter, the Law, ought to be at least color blind.” The U.S. Supreme Court, in a now famous ruling, decided against Plessy and declared that the “separate but equal” doctrine was constitutional. This decision marked the unofficial beginning of institutionalized racism and Jim Crow laws.
Reconstruction Amendments (5th grade only): From 1865-1870, Congress passed three Amendments that impacted the lives of enslaved  and free Black Americans. These Amendments have collectively become known as the Reconstruction Amendments.
- The 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. (December 18, 1865)
- The 14th Amendment declared that Black Americans were full citizens who were supposed to be accorded constitutional guarantees. (July 28, 1868)
- The 15th Amendment granted Black men the right to vote. (March 30, 1870)
The United States Supreme Court: The highest court of law in the United States. The sitting Justices, nine in total, are nominated by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate. Once confirmed, they serve for an indefinite amount of years, typically ending their careers through retirement. The goal of the Court is to interpret the “Constitutionality” of the law.
With All Deliberate Speed: The decision in the Brown v. Board case was released in two parts. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were “inherently unequal” and violated the 14 th Amendment. One year later, the case was reargued in an effort to determine how the violation of the 14th Amendment should be fixed. Instead of accepting the NAACP’s plan for immediate and total integration, the Court in the Brown II case decided to accept the Justice Department’s “go slow” integration approach. This decision severely undermined the push for total and instant desegregation by allowing states to integrate “with all deliberate speed” and set their own integration timelines.
*Design a Pre-Assessment Tool for the students to have them write down in 2-3 sentences the meaning behind the Civil Rights Movement. At the end of the lesson, have them go over their Pre-Assessment Tool and check and, if necessary, correct it.
1) Before the students enter the room, place a copy of the Pre-Assessment tool at their desks with the front of the sheet turned down.
2) Once they are seated, explain to the students that before they begin learning today’s lesson, they will complete a Pre-Assessment tool. Tell them that if they don’t know the answer, they should take an educated guess.
3) Take time to answer any of the questions they might have before the Lesson begins but do not help them during the Pre-Assessment. All Pre-Assessments should be collected once they are completed.
4) Once everything has been collected, tell the students that they are going to listen to a song that was sung by civil rights activists during the Civil Rights Movement. Explain that a civil rights activist was a person who struggled to achieve civil rights for African Americans (and subsequently everyone) during the period of time when there were laws in place that denied them of their basic civil rights.
5) Bridge Unit: if necessary, based on their reactions or questions, take 5-7 minutes to explain what the Civil Rights Movement was, when it happened and why it was a significant time in the lives of American citizens.
6) Once students are prepared, pass out the lyrics to “We Shall Overcome.” Before the students start reading the lyrics, tell them to Think Aloud about the title. Ask them what it means to “overcome”? How do you overcome something? Who is the “we” that is being referenced? Guide the class in outlining a definition of the title and write it on the board. Tell the students that while they are reading the lyrics if they get confused about the meaning they should refer back to the agreed upon definitions.
7) The students should then be instructed to:
*5th graders: read the lyrics silently to themselves and circle any words that they are unfamiliar with. After 2-3 minutes, tell them to turn towards their neighbor and T-P-S (Think about the lyrics-Pair with a partner-Share their answers). Inform them that at the end of the partner sharing period, they will share their answers with the entire class.
*3rd graders: read the lyrics to themselves as you read them aloud. If a word is said that they do not understand, they should highlight it. At the end of each stanza, ask students to share out any words that they did not understand.
8) Take time to define or explain any unfamiliar concepts or words:
*Advanced 5th graders should be encouraged to use their dictionaries during the T-P-S to write the definition of any unfamiliar words.
9) Tell the students that you are going to play the song. Instruct them to listen carefully. Tell them not to sing along or write while the song is playing. When it is completed, the students should be instructed to:
*5th graders: take two minutes and think about the lyrics, then write down any feelings or questions that they may have about the song. Have them turn in their papers when the Share-Out is finished.
*3rd graders: think about the song and Share-Out any feelings or questions they may have about the song.
10) All shared answers should be written out on post-it chart and placed up on the wall.
11) Tell the students that next they are going to learn about some significant events that happened during the Civil Rights Movement that significantly changed the direction of the Movement and demonstrates how hard the civil rights activists struggled for change.
12) Ask them what it means to struggle? And what it means to struggle for something they believe in? Have they ever struggled for anything, if so ask them to Share-Out. Also ask them to think about what it means to struggle for change. Why is change important? Have they ever experienced any life changes (i.e. started a new school, moved to another city, had a new baby brother or sister, had a change in attitude-if you were angry with your sister/brother and then you forgave them)
13) As they are sharing, place a piece of post-it chart paper on the board, write the word Vocabulary List at the top. Tell the students that this is going to be their on-going dictionary. As a class, they should develop a definition for struggle and for change.
*5th graders should be instructed to take out a sheet of paper, label it Vocabulary List and write the definitions, as well.
*Differentiation: (if needed) as each definition is written, read it aloud and provide a Real World definition.
14) Tell the students that
*5th graders: “struggle as a concept, an idea and a goal” was at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement and as such, it will be the guiding principle throughout the lesson. Tell them to think about how this concept connects to the three Civil Rights Movement events that they are going to discuss.
*3rd graders: doing the Civil Rights Movement, the activists struggled to make changes and they should think about how hard it is to struggle for something as they work through the lesson.
15) Tell the students that they are going to listen to a civil rights activist talk about change and then they are going to discuss at what the person shared at the end of the video clip.
*5th graders should receive a copy of the transcript so that they can follow along while the video clip is being shown.
16) Give the students a copy of childhood photograph of Coretta Scott King and ask them if they recognize the name – if they do ask them to Share-Out what they know about her. Using the Words & Names, describe Ms. King and tell them that in the video clip she is going to talk about how she experienced a change in her attitude.
17) Play the clip and then explain to the students that during the Civil Rights Movement, the activists wanted the system to change and they wanted people’s attitudes to change.
18) Using the attached Annotated Historiography as a reference, explain to them that they are going to look at
*5th graders: three events that significantly changed the Civil Rights Movement.
*3rd graders: two events that significantly changed the Civil Rights Movement
19) Place a piece of post-it chart paper on the board and use it to outline each of the events. Students should be encouraged to ask questions during the Lecture Blast if they do not understand what is being explained. Outline the events using the following timeline:
Civil Rights Movement Timeline: note: 3rd graders will not discuss The Sit-In Movement (Teacher suggestion: if you were involved in the Civil Rights Movement, share your personal experiences with them as the events are being discussed. Do not spend a significant potion of time on it but use the opportunity to personalize the information for the students.)
Brown v. Board: (described above)
The Sit-In Movement: On February 1, 1960 in Greensboro, NC, students across the country participated in the “sit-in” movement, which officially began when four students, Ezell Blair Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), David Richmond, Joseph McNeil, and Franklin McCain, from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College sat down at the Woolworth’s counter in Greensboro, NC. This nonviolent act sparked similar protests in libraries, restaurants, stores, theaters and public beaches in fifty-four cities across the South. Six months after the sit-ins began, the original four protesters were served lunch at the same Woolworth’s counter.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom: (described above)
20) Take time to answer any questions and clear up any misconceptions before the lesson continues.
21) Tell the students that they are going to watch another video clip with a civil rights activist talking about their participation in
*5th graders: the March on Washington. Pass around the childhood photograph of Rev. Joseph Lowry (see above definition) and tell the students that he will speak about his participation with the March on Washington.
*Give the students a copy of the transcript and tell them to highlight any words that they do not understand. Take time at the end of the clip to discuss any unfamiliar words.
*3rd graders: Brown v. Board. Pass around the childhood photograph of Judge Constance Baker Motley, Esq. (see above definition) and tell the students that she will speak about her participation in planning for the case.
22) Once the clip, ends ask the students if they understood the clip and take this time to clear up any confusion. (Teacher suggestion: if necessary, play the clip again and ask them to listen for certain word cues that will help them understand the interview)
23) Divide the students into heterogeneous cooperative groups and tell them that they are going to work in table groups to create
*5th grade: a Civil Rights Movement memory trunk. Tell them to read silently as you read aloud:
The year is 1963 and your parents have decided to attend the March on Washington. They ask if you would like to come along. Create a “memory trunk” to document your experiences. Items should include two picket signs, a bumper sticker, a letter to your friends about your experience, and the lyrics of an original Civil Rights Movement song.
*3rd grade: a Civil Rights Movement collage with magazine photos, hand-drawn pictures and slogans that demonstrate what they understand about the Movement. Walk the students through the first step: give each group a photo of Constance Baker Motley and tell them to glue her photo somewhere on the poster board. Tell them to discuss and Share-Out two words that they feel describe Judge Motley. Write these words on the board and tell the students to write these words somewhere on their poster board, They should then be told to look through the magazines and newspapers to find additional photos that help to visually define the Brown v. Board decision.
24) Ten minutes before the Lesson ends, tell the students to start cleaning up. Tell them that they should organize all of their materials because they will be sharing their group projects with the class tomorrow.
25) Five minutes before the assignment ends, inform the students that they should take the time to proofread their worksheet and check their posters.
26). Count down the final ten seconds by giving them simple directions between the numbers, i.e. 10 seconds – you should be finished with your chart; 9 – production managers, organize all materials; 8 – get everything back into your activity bins; 7 – check your area for any paper or trash; 6 – tape your posters to the wall closest to your work station; 5 – reporters, check all of your notes; 4 – everyone back to their seats; 3 – all conversations should end now; 2 – all pencils down; and, 1 – all eyes on me.
27) Explain to the students that before they share out their findings, they are going to participate in a metacognitive activity, where they are going to think about and discuss their thought process as they were working on the assignment. This may be a new activity for your students, so take time to explain it carefully. Ask them: what worked within the groups? Did they disagree with any of the findings? If so, how was the dispute solved? What were their initial reactions to the material? What could they have done to a more effective participant? And, what worked and what didn’t work within their groups?
5th graders: Time permitting, they can answer these questions in their journals and then share them during the whole group discussion.
28) Pass out the Pre-Asessment Tool and have them read through their answers and make corrections to the earlier answer (they should not erase their first answer, just correct it on the back of the sheet).
29) Tell the students that tonight
5th graders: Ask an adult to describe one memory that they have about the Civil Rights Movement and be prepared to share in class tomorrow.
3rd graders: Ask an adult to name and briefly explain one thing that they would be willing to struggle to achieve.
 It is important to note that Homer Plessy was only one-eighth African American and had devised a plan to be “politely arrested” in Louisiana before the train left the state.
 Metacognitive is defined as an “awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes.” For further reading, please see http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/students/learning/lr1metp.htm (accessed June 16, 2007)
*A version of this lesson plan was originally prepared for the National Visionary Leadership Project (NVLP). It is reprinted here with permission from the author.
What’s it like to raise two young black sons in a city like this? As Karsonya Wise Whitehead says, it’s often infuriating, sometimes terrifying, and ultimately inspiring.
I would like to write a song about peace/about reconciliation/about a city coming back together and working for the common good.
I would like to proclaim that #BlackLivesMatter and then point to the ways in which this simple concept/screamed and shouted, cried over and prayed about/has transformed the city and altered our space.
I would like to teach my sons about peace even though I am raising them in a city where peace has never been the norm/where peace is not taught on the playground/nor practiced in the school/nor modeled on the street corner.
I try and hide my frustration because in the aftermath of the Uprising/a time when black and white people named their pain/life has settled back down to the familiar/to a time where black bodies are once again endangered, black life is once again criminalized, and black spaces exist, once again, only on the edges of both the city and our minds.
I am not old enough to remember life before Brown v Board, when black and white spaces were clearly marked.
I suspect (though) that it was not much different than it is now in places around Baltimore and places across America where the crime of breathing while black is still punishable by death.
My heart always skips a beat when a cop’s car is behind me while I am driving at night/ And though my sons are not old enough to drive, I am already frightened/concerned/angry/frustrated as I think about the day when they will be stopped for the crime of driving while black.
There are days when being black in America overwhelms me and makes me want to spend the day in bed/and times when being the black mother of black boys in Baltimore City makes me wish I had enough money to move them somewhere where I could keep them safe.
Safe from them—the ones who see their lives as expendable and unnecessary/and safe from us—those who look at them without realizing that they are mirrors that simply reflect all of who we are supposed to be.
I often think about slavery and how different life was when you could see the hand that held the chain that was attached to the ball that was tied to your ankle.
We come from a people who experienced this daily and still chose to survive.
Survival is our legacy.
And since we survived the Middle Passage as involuntary passages on a trip that sealed our fate/ And we survived slavery, whips and latches by learning how to give way and stay small/ And we survived the Civil War by claiming freedom at the hands of those who looked like our oppressors/ And we survived Jim Crow by teaching our children the unwritten rules that were marked by our blood/ And we survived black mayors who moved from our communities, took a piece of our spirit but left their humanity behind—we will survive this.
And though there are times when we are like strangers in a foreign land/We look around and wonder how we got here/We take stock and realize how little we actually have/We wonder how long we will continue to suffer and die at the hands of both the oppressor and of the oppressed—and despite all of this, we survive anyway.
There are days when I look at my sons and my heart swells with pride/ As I think about all that they used to be and all that they can become/ And then I stop and catch my breath/ I grab my chest and clutch my pearls/ I blink back tears and shake my head/because I am the mother of two black boys being raised in a post-racial world/where cries for justice for Freddie and for Tyrone West and for Rekia Boyd and for Sandra Bland and for Aiyanna Jones and for Tamir Rice still get swallowed up and suppressed.
There are nights when I stand in the doorway of their room—not to wake them up for the revolution but to simply remind myself that, just for a moment, they are still safe and they are still here.
All I want is what every other mother wants around this city—the simple comfort of knowing that my sons’ lives matter—to those who look like them and those who don’t/and that my work, to pour love, light, and truth into them, will not be in vain.
And with this very simple truth/as my songs of peace get lost in my never-ending cries for justice, I know we will survive. We will rebuild. We will move on. Survival is our legacy and surviving everyday—in this racist and unjust system—is our goal.
Karsonya Wise Whitehead is an associate professor at Loyola University Maryland and the author of Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America.
created & compiled by Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D.
Lesson Plans for Teaching During this New Age of Resistance (#TrumpSyllabusK12)
#TrumpSyllabusK12 is a compilation of lesson plans and resources written by and for K-12th grade teachers (and college educators) for teaching about the 2016 presidential campaign; about resistance and revolution; about white privilege and white supremacy; about state-sanctioned violence and sanctuary classrooms; about fake news and Facebook; and, about freedom and justice. It is designed to transform our classrooms into liberated nonsexist nonmisogynistic anti-racist anti-classist spaces without any boundaries or borders. It is meant to liberate and free our students by providing them with lesson plans to challenge them to become global critical thinkers. We invite you to join with us as we actively work to push back against the establishment of this New World Order and we draw our line in the sand and work to liberate and change the world, one student at a time.
The syllabus is divided into four sections: the opening section provides resources and tools to ground the classroom discussion; Section One: Examining Campaign 2016, includes lesson plans and resources that examine the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton (see Clinton Syllabus 1.0 for more information); Section Two: Politics in the “Post-Trump” Narrative, which includes lesson plans and resources that explore the ways that we can transform our classes into safe liberated spaces designed to openly discuss and address white privilege, race, and citizenship; and, Section Three: From Dr. King to President Trump: Examining History, Now & Then, which consists of lesson plans and resources provided by the National Visionary Leadership Project that explore and connect the work from the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter to the current activist work against the Trump Administration.
Each lesson plan is presented in its entirety and includes Warm Up and Group Activities, Essential Questions and Objectives, Resources, an Essay or an Overview, and they connect directly to the Common Core Standards for Math, History, or Language Arts; and, to the National Council of Social Studies Standards.
Please note that lesson plans are still being accepted at email@example.com and are being added daily.
(ES=Elementary School; MS=Middle School; HS=High School)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
RESOURCES & TOOLS TO GROUND THE DISCUSSION
-Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D.
2. Teaching After the Election of Trump **NEW**
-The Zinn Education Project
-Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D.
-Teaching for Change
-Conra Gist, Ph.D., and Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D.
-Alicia Moore, Ph.D., and Molly Deshaies
SECTION ONE: EXAMINING CAMPAIGN 2016
9. Exploring the Reasons Why Trump Won (MS/HS)
-Gloria Ladson-Billings, Ph.D.
10. Exploring the Fake News Cycle (MS)
-Baba Ayinde Olumiji
-Alicia Moore, Ph.D., and Angela Davis Johnson
-Kelly Cross Ph.D.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES (POETRY):
-Alexis Pauline Gumbs
-Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D.
-Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D.
SECTION TWO: POLITICS IN THE “POST-TRUMP” NARRATIVE
-Sarah Militz-Frielink and Isabel Nunez, Ph.D.
17. From “I Have A Dream” to “I Dream of a World”: Steps to Creating a Sanctuary Classroom (All Grades)
-Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D.
-Conra D. Gist,Ph.D., Angela Davis Johnson, & Tyson E.J. Marsh, Ph.D.
19. Writing White Privilege, Race, and Citizenship: Reading Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, Claudia Rankine, and Walt Whitman (HS)
20. A Pedagogy of Resistance in the Struggle Against White Supremacist State-Sanctioned Violence* (MS/HS)
-Tyson E.J. Marsh, Ph.D.
21. Lessons in Black Feminist Criminology: Disrupting State and Sexualized Violence Against Women and Girls #GrabtheEmpowerment (HS)
-Nishaun T. Battle, Ph.D.
22. Giving Voice & Making Space: Dismantling the Education Industrial Complex in an Effort to Free Our Black Girls* (MS/HS)
-Aja Reynolds & Stephanie Hicks
24. The African American Saga: From Enslavement to Life in a Color-Blind Society (Or Racism Without Race)*(HS)
-Yolanda Abel, Ed.D., and LeRoy Johnson
-Kimberly Edwards-Underwood, Ph.D.
27. #WeGotNext: Black Youth Activism and the Rise of #BlackLivesMatter* (HS/MS) **NEW**
-Mariam Durani, Ph.D.
-Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D., Alicia Moore, Ph.D., Regina Lewis, Ph.D.
30. Book: Black Lives Matter (Special Reports)
31. Book: Shock Exchange: How Inner-City Kids from Brooklyn Predicted the Great Recession and the Pain Ahead **NEW**
*The marked lesson plans above were originally published in the Association for the Study of African American Life & History’s Black History Bulletin and are reprinted here by permission of the authors.
SECTION THREE: FROM DR. KING TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: EXAMINING HISTORY, NOW & THEN
The following lesson plans and historiographies were originally published on the National Visionary Leadership Project’s website. They were written by Karsonya Wise Whitehead and are reprinted here with her permission.
35. Nevertheless They Persisted: Black Women & The Fire Within Them (Essay) **NEW**
36. Nevertheless They Persisted: Black Women & The Fire Within Them (Lesson Plan) (MS/HS) **NEW**
Intended Audience: Middle School And/Or High School
Overview: Children are socialized into the thought and practice of race as common sense by the time they enter Kindergarten (Apfelbaum, Norton, & Sommers, 2012). By middle school and high school, children have had very sophisticated experiences with race, but typically have not been adequately supported as they navigate both normative human development and race production in their lives. This double task can be especially challenging for children raced as Black in American society and in American schooling (Murrell, 2009). Our aim is simply to begin, with middle and high school students and teachers, by defining what race is and then offering students and teachers an opportunity to (re)define themselves in light of their own better understanding of race. Teachers will prepare to facilitate this beginning by first engaging in this activity and assessing their own work.
Teachers are charged with providing opportunities that will:
- enable learners to develop historical understanding through the avenues of social, political, economic, and cultural history and the history of science and technology.
Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
- help learners analyze group and institutional influences on people, events, and elements of culture in both historical and contemporary settings;
- assist learners in identifying and analyzing examples of tensions between expressions of individuality and efforts used to promote social conformity by groups and institutions;
- enable learners to describe and examine belief systems basic to specific traditions and laws in contemporary and historical movements;
- assist learners as they explain and apply ideas and modes of inquiry drawn from behavioral science and social theory in the examination of persistent social issues and problems.
Culture and Cultural Diversity
- assist learners to apply an understanding of culture as an integrated whole that explains the functions and interactions of language, literature, the arts, traditions, beliefs and values, and behavior patterns;
- have learners interpret patterns of behavior reflecting values and attitudes that contribute or pose obstacles to cross-cultural understanding.
Goals of Lesson Plan
Teachers and students will understand race as a consequential social practice, how it contrasts with a common sense understanding of race, and use dialogues and writing to (re)define themselves in light of a richer understanding of race.
- Teachers and students will create a safe setting for demystifying race as a human cultural practice.
- Teachers and students will read and discuss the definition of race provided (Race is a consequential social practice).
- Teachers and students will read, discuss, and debate a point of view about an article.
- Students will free-write a shared or unshared Race Reflection.
Warm up (5-10 min)
Teacher will pose this question and discuss:
“Who are your people and what makes each of you members of the same group?”
Although directed to the whole class, this question is really an individual query. The whole class is not assumed to be members of the same group. Individual students should have an opportunity to respond to and dialogue about the question. Teacher should engage in the discussion, revealing their own personal view, but silently note instances when students (or when teachers themselves) offer common sense notions of race to identify themselves or the group with which they identify.
Activity (Instruction Input) (25-30 min)
Teacher will post a T-chart to facilitate a whole class comparison of the common sense perspective of race and the consequentially social practice perspective of race. Define the “Race is Common Sense View” as the perspective wherein race is a human feature that is self-evident and identifiable. Define the “Race is Consequential Social Practice View” as the perspective wherein humans create and consume race for human ends. Students will provide examples of how race is commonly understood as “self-evident and identifiable” on the left side of the T-chart (e.g. skin, bone, blood, hair, name, language, culture, etc.). On the right side of the T-chart, students will provide examples of how humans “create and consume” race (labeling, ranking, storying, symbolizing, social-classing, boundary-making, etc.).
Teacher will launch instruction by saying (something like):
“Today, we are going to distinguish between two ways of understanding race. The first way is nothing new. In fact, we’ll call it the common sense view of race. The second way is one you’ll quickly catch on to. We do it all the time, but you probably haven’t thought about race this way; we’ll call the second way the social practice view of race.”
Applying the article below to instruction, the teacher will discuss and complete the T-chart as described above.
- Once the T-chart is completed, the teacher will provide students with a copy of the article about Rachel Dolezal. Choose Option 1 or Option 2 to complete the reading of the article.
Option 1: Students will form groups of three or four and “jigsaw” read the entire article:
- Each member will select a portion to read and report back to the entire group.
Option 2: Teacher will select an excerpt from the article, student groups will read excerpt, and discuss excerpt (e.g., From: “Rachel and her college friends describe Belhaven as predominantly white.” To: “Finally, she says, she could live an authentic life.”).
- Student groups will prepare to orally argue whether the “Common Sense View” or the “Consequential Social Practice View” of race best explains the racial identity of Rachel Dolezal.
- Students will respond to the following: “Does Rachel Dolezal have racial identity? If so, which one(s) and why (i.e. according to “Common Sense” or “Consequential Social Practice”)? If not, why not (i.e. according to “Common Sense” or “Consequential Social Practice”)?”
- Teacher will engage with the arguments offered by each group without suggesting which argument is “right or wrong.” The point is for the teacher to invite a well-reasoned oral argument from all groups (teachers may provide and model a common oral argument structure to support the development of a well-reasoned oral argument; this kind of model may also be provided and modeled in the following written assessment).
Assessment (15-20 min)
Students will free write a Race Reflection using the following prompt:
“Do you have racial identity? If so, who are your racial people and what makes each of you members of the same group? If not, why not?”
- Teachers may invite a few willing students to share their Racial Reflection with the whole class, if teachers feel comfortable with managing, with credibility and sensitivity, the possibility of unexpected or unpopular viewpoints.
- Teachers will collect and review each Race Reflection to determine if the student has a well-reasoned reflection. Race Reflections that derogate self or others should be appropriately discussed with the individual student. Because this is a free write, teachers will not assess student writing for use of conventions.
- Beyond sound reasoning, teachers are looking for evidence that students understand the difference between the “Common Sense View” and the “Consequential Social Practice View” of race. Students are not required to adopt one view of race or the other; they may be inconclusive. Again, this entire lesson is only a beginning effort to develop a richer understanding of race as a human cultural practice.
This writing assignment can be extended by providing a model publishable text, offering opportunities for student-lead research, and offering teacher-lead writing support to students (across multiple drafts) that results in a publishable text, including appropriate use of conventions.
Reading “The Crisis in Black Education” from a Post-White Orientation
As a literacy scholar, I have spent a great deal of time theorizing race in pursuit of practical ends–advancing the literacy practices of Black children in U.S. schools. This themed volume focused on the “Crisis in Black Education” caused me to reflect on this question: What makes “Black Education,” Black? Black as a category of race needs to be explained rather than assumed. In this essay, I will argue that race can be theorized either as common sense or as consequential social practice. I will also offer contrasting views of what “crisis” may mean according to each theory. I conclude by suggesting that this moment of “crisis” is thrusting upon us an opportunity to read the word and the world from a post-White orientation. By post-White orientation, I mean a racial understanding and practice characterized by a) unequivocal regard for “non-White” humanity, especially “Black” humanity; b) demotion of “White” standing (i.e., position, status); c) rejection of post-racial notions; d) non-hierarchical racialization; and e) anticipation of a post-White sociopolitical norm. Figure 1 is an illustration depicting post-White orientation as it differs from White superordinate racialization on one hand and postracialism on the other.
Racing on a Different Track
According to O’Connor, Lewis, and Mueller (2007), race is “undertheorized in research on the educational experiences and outcomes of Blacks” (p. 541). They find that race has been understood through two dominant perspectives: race as variable and race as culture. These understandings of race ignore or minimize heterogeneity, intersectionality, and the institutional production of race and racial discrimination where Black persons are concerned. Alternatively, O’Connor et al. (2007) argue that race is produced as a social category and urge that future research take an orientation of race aligned with the following:
(a) theoretical attention to how race-related resources shape educational outcomes, (b) attention to the way race is a product of educational settings as much as it is something that students bring with them, (c) a focus on how everyday interactions and practices in schools affect educational outcomes, and (d) examination of how students make sense of their racialized social locations in light of their schooling experiences. (p. 546)
Such studies will continue to uncover how schools produce race as a social category. Research focused on race production, then, will have implications for talking and writing about race and how race impacts views on education. The following framework conceptualizes race as common sense and race as consequential social practice.
Race as Common Sense: The Wrong Train
Sociologist Celine-Marie Pascale (2008) finds that race is widely understood as “common sense,” which she defines as “a saturation of cultural knowledge that we cannot fail to recognize and which, through its very obviousness, passes without notice” (p. 725). In other words, these are
assumptions that we make about life and the things we accept as natural. Common sense leads people to believe that we simply see what is there to be seen. For example, common sense leads us to believe that we simply ‘see’ different races. (p. 725)
She concluded that common sense knowledge of race was discussed in four ways: “as a matter of color, nationality, culture, or blood” (p. 726). What all of these ways have in common is that race is understood uncritically; that is, in a manner that does not question serious incoherencies and contradictions. A deeper, more important point about race as common sense is how it assumes White superiority (Mills, 1997; Puzzo, 1964). The racially White superordinate assumption included in common sense notions of race is morally bankrupt and indefensible.
Race as Consequential Social Practice: All Aboard!
Race as consequential social practice is defined as the individual, collective, institutional, or global production of race, through meaningful ways of being, languaging, and symbolizing, and the effects of such race production (big “D” Discourse and little “d” discourse; see Gee, 1990). I trace the beginning of this understanding of race to W. E. B. Du Bois’ book, The Souls of Black Folk. Du Bois’ “study of black identity marks a turning point away from biology and towards discursive interaction” (Wilson, 1999, p. 194). As such, Du Bois must be counted among foundational theorists when we historicize the understanding that race is a D/discursive, socially constructed, consequential human practice.
The antecedents/roots of defining race as consequential social practice can be found in the vindicationist tradition, a tradition coined by W.E.B. Du Bois according to anthropologist Kevin Michael Foster. Foster (1997) explains further,
According to Drake, vindicationism reflects the work of scholars to ‘set straight the oft-distorted record of the Black experience and to fill in the lacunae resulting from the conscious or unconscious omission of significant facts about Black people’ (Drake 1987, vol. 1: xviii). Today, even where vindicationism is not the explicit goal of Black scholars, the influence of this tradition is often apparent. Vindicationism may not be the defining characteristic for the work of African-descended scholars, but it is a recurrent feature (Baker 1994, Franklin 1989). (p. 2)
The vindicationist tradition advances and sustains us as persons raced as Black. As such, the vindicationist tradition and Du Bois’ work are critically important today as they were at their origins because “race emerged in language, and it survives in language” (Happe, 2013, p. 135). Further, race is also produced in ways that have grave consequences for human beings. For example, Happe (2013) uncovers that genes are made into artifacts of race and, in fact, do not corroborate race as the biological, common sense view of race alleges. Race, then, should be interrogated and denaturalized as a self-evident feature of the human body, even at the subcellular level, in contradiction to those who, whether unlettered or lettered, promote genes, skin, or other claims about the human body as corroboration of race as common sense (Herrnstein & Murray, 1996, p. 563). Again, race is consequential social practice. Whenever race occurs, it does not occur naturally; rather, race occurs because humans create and consume race for human ends. Each of these ways of understanding race–as common sense or as consequential social practice–may influence how race and “Black education” are viewed.
Race and “Black Education”
When we understand race as common sense, “Black education” may mean the realm of education that is a subset of, or is even apart from, “White education.” Said another way, “Black education” is education from Black people’s perspective, on Black people’s terms, and in Black people’s experience. From this orientation, “Black education” is a self-explanatory label that marks the largely homogenous “Black” experience of education in the U.S. according to those who are themselves actually “Black.”
The “crisis” in “Black education,” when race is understood as common sense, is a crisis in at least two ways. First, Black education is assumed to be subordinate to White education. Second, Black education primarily or exclusively involves Black persons and places—Black persons and places assumed to be subordinate to White persons and places. Accordingly, the question becomes what can be done about those inferior “Black children” and their inferior “Black education”? To be clear, this is not my own view; rather I am articulating the common sense view of race where education and crisis are concerned. As such, within the “Black” boundary there is catastrophe, and beyond the “Black” boundary, all is well or is at least better.
When we understand race as consequential social practice, “Black education” may mean the social partitioning of access to some aspect(s) of accumulated human knowledge, according to the racial hierarchy of “White” over “Black.” In other words, education itself is not racialized unless persons socially produce education as such through, for example, talk, text, or some other practice. Importantly, I hasten to add, education can be racialized for both ethical and unethical reasons. I cannot overstress this point. A “crisis” in “Black education,” when race is understood as consequential social practice, is a crisis in terms of thought, practice, systems, and institutions, whether local or global. As such, the question becomes what patterns and barriers are hostile to the humanity of persons raced as “Black”? I believe that this question begins to approach the essence of the vindicationist tradition (Drake, 1987) that Carter G. Woodson (1933) lived, worked, and struggled according to, along with many others like Du Bois. From the consequential social practice understanding of race, we who are raced as “Black” are always already fully human, and thus legitimate inheritors of all accumulated human knowledge, but our legitimacy as inheritors of all human knowledge and our intersectional, heterogeneous humanity are not always adequately honored and regarded. Such dishonor and disregard toward our human inheritance and plentitude is evidenced by historic and current thought and practice, including the processes of education (whether in school or out-of-school).
With this second perspective of “Black Education crisis” in mind, it becomes obvious why, yet again, we are faced with the need to exclaim, “Black lives matter.” It should comes as no surprise that the organization of schools and classrooms, the instructional practices therein, and the resources and materials apportioned to places raced as “Black” would produce pipelines to prison and poverty (Ladson-Billings, 2006). Given the innumerable artifacts, institutions, and ideologies derived from Western Europeans’ invention of race, we who are raced as “Black” fully expect to fight philosophically, epistemologically, theologically, theoretically, hermeneutically, linguistically, and with our own colored, clenched hands to protect our humanity, the humanity of our children, our loved ones, and our communities. For many persons raced as “Black” in the U.S., this is the American way.
Our present times have shown us again that we have a choice to make: will we choose to orient ourselves to race as common sense, reading the word and the world only according to Western European design? Or, will we choose the post-White orientation, wherein we are critically aware of the consequential social practice that metaphorically, and quite literally, writes the codes of the racialized matrix in which we live?
I have not argued that there is no such thing as race or racism. Neither have I argued that people who are raced as Black, should not call themselves “Black.” Further, I reject post-racialism in all its forms. I have argued that race and racism are produced by human thought and practice for human ends. Most of these human ends for race production are patently White superordinate (obviously including racism), but thankfully some human ends for race production are post-White oriented and human nurturing for persons categorized as “Black” (i.e., vindicationist). The issue is not the label “Black” per se, the issue is whether one is “Black” on racially subordinate terms or on human-peer terms (Woodson, 1933, pp. 199-202). As this suggests, post-racialism fails to hit the point. The point is race production and whether the race production in question is ethical or unethical. Rather than post-racialism, we should pursue the development of racial literacies–the acquired, critical, cultural toolkit that supports human well-being amid the social thought and practice of race (http://racialliteracies.org).
Whatever the current raced as Black education crisis may be, we should face it on human terms, rather than on normatively White superordinate terms. Perhaps the “Crisis in Black Education” is the recurring, practical repercussions of not yet realizing, together, what it means for persons, raced as Black, to be human (Wynter, 2006).
- The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson (1933); especially chapter four “Education Under Outside Control.”
- Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real about Race in School edited by Mica Pollock (2008); especially section A “Race Categories: We Are All the Same, But Our Lives Are Different” and section B “How Opportunities Are Provided and Denied Inside Schools.”
- “In Rachel Dolezal’s Skin” by Mitchell Sunderland (2015).
- Tips for Facilitating Classroom Discussions on Sensitive Topics. by Alicia Moore, Ph.D., and Molly Deshaies.
- Developing a Positive White Identity by Racial Equity Tools.
- “The Crisis in Black Education” Executive Summary. Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
 In previous work, instead of “social practice” I used the big “D” and little “d” distinction offered by Gee (1990) to refer to “Discourses” as meaningful ways of being in the world and “discourses” as meaningful ways of using language or symbols in the world. For example, talk or texts are “discourses” employed in the “Discourses” of race, Black, White, Latino, Asian, Native American, etc. Both “D/discourse” and “social practice” are intended to convey the same meaning within the practice of race theory (PRT).
*This lesson plan was originally published in the Association for the Study of African American Life & History’s Black History Bulletin, v79, (2) and is reprinted here by permission of the author.