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Baltimore Sun Op-Ed: “These Are Our First 100 Days, Too”

February 1, 2017

Karsonya Wise Whitehead



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 A version of this editorial was aired as a public commentary on WYPR 88.1, Baltimore’s NPR station.


Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication |

Examining the Modern Civil Rights Movement & the Birth of Our Activist Spirit

January 27, 2017

Karsonya Wise Whitehead & Fayetta Martin



Photo by Ira Wilmer, courtesy of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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 StandardsEra 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).

National Center for History in the Schools: UCLA

Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation

  • 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.

Social Studies

USA – National Council for Social Studies: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies

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.

Lesson Essentials:

Primary source “packets” comprised of
1. NVLP video clips and transcripts
2. Images
3. Speeches & Documents

Additional Materials
4. Historiography
5. Words and Phrases
6. Worksheets

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.

Essential Questions

  • 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.”



  1.   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)

  1.   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.
  2.   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.

Guided Practice

  1.   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.

  1.   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.
  2.   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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

Independent Practice

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


  1. 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.
  2. While they are working, circulate among the groups to make sure that they understand the assignment and are critically analyzing the sources.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

  1. 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 ( 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.



  1. Students should enter the room to the music of Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Motherless Chil [1](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?

  1. Music should be turned back up to play out while students think about the warm-up question.
  2. 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?
  3.   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.

Guided Practice

  1.   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.
  2. Ask them to take out their narratives and read silently as you read each one aloud:

Worksheet 1-2: Voter Registration.

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.

Worksheet 1-3: Freedom Rides.

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.

Independent Practice

  1. 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).
  2. While the students are working, join each group to assist with the preparation and to encourage them to be creative within the guidelines.
  3. Ten minutes before the activity ends, tell the students that they should start to organize their materials and prepare for their group presentation.


  1. Students should present their “memory trunks” as a group and the other students should grade their trunks using the class-created rubric.
  2. Once presentations have ended, refer students back to the Essential Questions and have students answer each of the questions.

Teacher Prep

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.

Extension Activities

  • 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.


[1] Sweet Honey in the Rock: Continuum (Songbook) (accessed September 2006)

*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.

From Plessy to Brown: Examining the Ways We Worked to Overcome

January 25, 2017

Karsonya Wise Whitehead

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.

Historical Thinking Standards (National Standards for U.S. History)

Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation

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)

Grades 5th-12th

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]

Essential Ideas:

  • 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[1], 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 [9] 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.

Pre-Assessment Tool

*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.

Guided Practice

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.

Lecture Blast

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)

Independent Practice

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[2] 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.

[1] 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.

[2] Metacognitive is defined as an “awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes.” For further reading, please see (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.

Songs In a Key Called Baltimore

January 9, 2017

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.

Karsonya Wise Whitehead


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.

– See more at:

#WeGotNext: Black Youth Activism and the Rise of #BlackLivesMatter*

December 22, 2016


Sekou Franklin

Intended Audience: Middle School And/Or High School

Overview: Through collaborative exercises, students will learn about the origins and activities of student/youth-based formations during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Students will specifically learn how young people propelled racial and economic justice movements in the 1930s, the civil rights and black power movements in the 1960s and 1970s, the anti-apartheid in the 1980s, anti-poverty and anti-violence initiatives in the 1990s, and the Movement for Black Lives Matter in the twenty-first century.

Students will also understand the important role of movement bridge-builders in youth-based movements, as well as investigate how the make-up of movement infrastructures (the type of organizations, resources of activists, intergenerational relations, collaborations between activist networks) shape the direction of black youth activism. Students will learn how black youth have developed creative organizing strategies to elevate the political status of youth in social movement campaigns. In addition, students will assess the political context or environmental conditions that shaped black youth activism during different time periods. Students will also learn about the various organizations that coordinated black youth participation.  

National Council for Social Studies/College, Career, & Civic Life C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards[1]

  • Enable learners to develop the capacity to know, analyze, and explain how young people can effect change
  • Prepare students with critical thinking, problem solving, and collaborative skills needed for social change
  • Help students learn to work individually and together as citizens

Dimension 2, Participation and Deliberation

D2.Civ.8.9-12—Evaluate social and political systems in different contexts, times, and places that promotes civic virtues and enact democratic principles.

D2.Civ.9.9-12—Use appropriate deliberative processes in multiple settings.

D2.Civ.10.9-12—Analyze the impact and the appropriate roles of personal interests on the application of civic virtues, democratic principles, constitutional rights, and human rights.


Teachers are encouraged to review the following resources in preparation for teaching the lesson plan.

Internet Sources

Associated Press News Archive

Burke, Lauren Victoria Burke. “March2Justice Brings Fight Against Police Brutality to US Capitol.

Day, Elizabeth. “#BlackLivesMatter: The Birth of a New Civil Rights Movement,” The Guardian.

Gruzen, Tara. “Unions Get New Breed of Activists: College Students Seeking to Boost Labor Movement.

Juanita Jackson Mitchell, Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series)

The King Center, “Six Steps of Nonviolent Social Change.

North Carolina A & T University Student Newspaper Collection

Pierre-Louis, Kendra. “The Women Behind Black Lives Matter.

Southern Negro Youth Congress (1937-1949)

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Legacy Project


Black Youth Project 100, “Building a Movement #WeReadyWeComing.

Dream Defenders, “Dream Defenders Take Over Florida For Trayvon Martin”

Esther Cooper Jackson at 96, The Laura Flanders Show.

Freedom Rides, “The Student Leader” Excerpt, PBS.

Rainbow/Push “Solutions to Urban Violence” Conference, C-SPAN.

SNCC’s Legacy: A Civil Right’s History, CNN.


Goals of Lesson Plan: This lesson plan aims to guide students through the different forms of black youth activism, both chronologically from the 1930s to the twenty-first century, and, organizationally as students will evaluate the importance that grassroots organizations and infrastructures play in coordinating youth-based activities. The lesson plan is designed to take up to three class periods but can be shortened.

Warm-Up Activity (40 Minutes):

Have the class discuss the reading about black youth activism. The discussion should focus on the factors that shaped the social and political consciousness of black youth from the 1930s to the twenty-first century.

  • Describe the political context or setting that shaped the consciousness or attitudes of the organizations.
  • Describe the key figures (e.g. Mary McLeod Bethune, Ella Baker, the Black Lives Matter activists) or movement bridge-builders who cultivated young activists during their respective time periods.
  • Explain why the type of organizations or networks—what is referred to as movement infrastructures—are important to expanding opportunities for young people to participate in grassroots activism

Activity #1 (1 hour and 40 Minutes):

After the warm-up activity, divide the class into four groups designated by a specific time period: 1930s-1940s, 1950s-1970s, 1980s-1990s, and the 2000s. Each group is advised to review the supplemental materials (see below) that expand upon the required reading about black youth activism. The materials provide concrete details of the strategies, tactics, motives, demands, and the socio-economic and political conditions of each time period. The groups will be given 40 minutes to review the materials, answer the guided questions and complete the graphic organizer for the time period. After the activity, each group will have 15 minutes (a total of one hour) to present their findings to the entire class.

Group I: 1930s-1940s

Supplemental Materials

  1. Juanita Jackson Mitchell, the most prominent youth activist in the NAACP
  2. Southern Negro Youth Congress
  3. Watch an excerpt of an interview with Esther Cooper Jackson of the Southern Negro Youth Congress (watch 2:00-5:00 mark).

Guided Questions

  1. Why did Juanita Jackson Mitchell get involved with the NAACP?
  2. Why did Esther Cooper Jackson join the Southern Negro Youth Congress?
  3. What initiatives were carried out by both the NAACP Youth Council and the Southern Negro Youth Congress?

FIGURE ONE: Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC)

Group II: 1960s-1970s

Supplemental Materials

  1. Watch an excerpt of the students involved in the Nashville students and the 1961 Freedom Rides (4:37 minutes).
  2. Watch videos: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Student Organization for Black Unity: The A & T Register newspaper

Supplemental Materials

  1. What were some of the challenges facing the students who joined the Freedom Rides of 1961?
  2. What were the goals and objectives of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Student Organization for Black Unity?
  3. Who were some of the key leaders or movement bridge-builders that helped to coordinate the Freedom Rides as well as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Student Organization for Black Unity?

FIGURE TWO: Freedom Riders, 1961

Group III: 1980s-1990s

Supplemental Materials

  1. Free South Africa Movement/Student Divestment Movement: Associated Press. AFL-CIO’s “Union Summer” labor initiative
  2. Watch excerpt of Errol James of the Black Student Leadership Network at the Rainbow/Push “Solutions to Urban Violence” conference (2:15:58-2:21:25 mark).

Guided Questions

  1. What were the main concerns of students involved in the Free South Africa Movement/Student Divestment Movement?

FIGURE THREE: Scenes from #BlackLivesMatter

Group IV: 2000s (Movement for Black Lives Matter)

Supplemental Materials

  1. Black Lives Matter, The Guardian.
  2. Women in the Movement for Black Lives Matter, In These Times.
  3. Watch Black Youth Project 100, “Building a Movement #WeReadyWeComing
  4. Watch Dream Defenders, “Dream Defenders Take Over Florida For Trayvon Martin

Guided Questions

  1. What are the goals and objectives of the Black Lives Matter organization and the broader Movement for Black Lives Matter?
  2. How has the Movement for Black Lives Matter given youth, women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people opportunities to participate in social movements?
  3. What have been some of the initiatives carried out by organizations such as the Black Youth Project 100 and Dream Defenders, which are groups that affiliate with the broader Movement for Black Lives Matter?
  4. Based on the excerpt of the Black Student Leadership Network (see required reading) and the video of the “Solutions to Urban Violence,” what were the organization’s goals, strategies and tactics?
  5. What are the similarities and differences between the Black Student Leadership Network (see required reading) and the AFL-CIO’s Union Summer program?

FIGURE FOUR: Scenes from #BlackLivesMatter


This lesson plan has two objectives. First, it informs students and community leaders of the importance and diversity of youth-based (students, youth, young adult) initiatives that challenged injustices and inequalities. The participants will learn that youth activism is central to black politics, both historically and contemporary, and is constitutive of American politics. Secondly, the participants will understand how to build democratically-oriented social movements. They will discover that movement-building initiatives is a co-learning process between activists and the communities or constituents they are trying to organize for social change. Thus, this lesson plan allows the participants to learn about youth-based movements and to develop their own capacity as social justice leaders.

[1]. National Council for the Social Studies, The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards: Guidance for Enhancing the Rigor of K-12 Civics, Economics, Geography, and History, Accessed on November 15, 2015.

Background Information


Since the early twentieth century, young people have been instrumental in shaping American political culture and the social and political life of African Americans.[i] From the NAACP Youth Council and the Southern Negro Youth Congress in the 1930s and 1940s to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Student Organization for Black Unity in the 1960s and 1970s, young people were the frontline activists during the two major protest waves of the twentieth century. Young blacks then helped to propel the Pan-African and black feminist movements of the 1970s, as well as the Free South Africa Movement/Student Divestment Movement of the 1980s. The Black Student Leadership Network was another group that set up dozens of freedom schools in low-income communities during the first half of the 1990s. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, young people affiliated with the Movement for Black Lives Matter protested racialized violence and police killings of African Americans.

This essay provides an overview of black youth activism from the 1930s to the twenty-first century. It gives special attention to four periods of black youth activism: black youth radicalism from the 1930s-1940s; the modern civil rights and black power movements between the 1950s-1970s; the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s, followed by Black Student Leadership Network and other youth-oriented movements; and grassroots youth activism in the twenty-first century such as the Movement for Black Lives Matter.

Black Youth Activism in the 1930s-1940s

The Great Depression politicized black youth and their adult allies in the 1930s. Mary McLeod Bethune, the director of the Negro Division of the National Youth Administration, drew attention to the Great Depression’s impact on black youth. In 1937, she sent a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt stating that while the United States “opens the door of opportunity to the youth of the world,” it slams it shut in the faces of its Negro citizenry.”[ii] In the late 1930s, she organized the National Conference on Problems of the Negro and Negro Youth and the National Conference of Negro Youth. The American Council on Education’s American Youth Commission also sponsored series of studies on black youth in the Depression Era. The studies found that poverty and racism of the period deepened the alienation of young blacks.[iii]

Thus, the 1930s experienced an upsurge of black youth militancy as demonstrated with the establishment of the NAACP Youth Council and the Southern Negro Youth Congress. Even before the creation of the NAACP Youth Council in 1936, black students in the 1920s revolted against the conservative leadership of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).[iv] In the early 1930s, young activists volunteered in local campaigns coordinated by the NAACP and other groups. In New York, civil rights activist Ella Baker teamed with George Schuyler[v] to form a youth economic cooperative called the Young Negro Cooperative League in response to the economic crises of the Great Depression. Also, black and white youth organizations in New York, assisted by the NAACP, formed the United Youth Committee in order to rally support for the National Labor Relations Act and an anti-lynching bill in Congress.

Juanita Jackson, the first national youth director of the NAACP Youth Council, was one of the most influential young activists of the 1930s. Historian Thomas Bynum writes that as director, “She believed that black youth, in particular, should be at the forefront of [the civil rights] struggle and have its voice heard in improving its own plight.”[vi] Prior to the appointment, she was involved in the City-Wide Young People’s Forum (CWYPF) in Baltimore, Maryland. The group assisted NAACP activist, Clarence Mitchell, with racial desegregation campaigns, and mobilized Baltimore’s black youth around a “Buy Where You Can Work” campaign that targeted local department stores.[vii]

The Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC) was the most radical youth organization of the 1930s and 1940s. In 1937, the SNYC assisted 5,000 black tobacco workers in Richmond, Virginia who went on strike and formed the Tobacco Stemmers and Laborers Industrial Union. It then organized labor youth clubs, labor and citizenship schools in cities such as Nashville, Tennessee, New Orleans, Louisiana, Birmingham and Fairfield, Alabama.

In addition, SNYC activists advocated for voting rights such as the Right to Vote Campaign in 1940, as well as issued reports that publicized racial violence. SNYC affiliates set up committees to pay the poll taxes levied against southern blacks and organized the Abolish the Poll Tax Week in 1941.[viii] Another SNYC initiative was the development of youth legislatures in Alabama and South Carolina that outlined positions on labor policy, foreign affairs, and voting rights.

The SNYC eventually collapsed because of organizational fatigue and after it was targeted for political repression during the early years of the Cold War. By the end of World War II, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiated a secret surveillance campaign of SNYC affiliates in a dozen cities.[ix] Additionally, the SNYC had to answer repeated claims by the House Un-American Activities (HUAC) in Congress if it was a Communist-front organization.[x]

Black Youth Activism after World War II

The post-World War II generation grew up under different circumstances than those young people of the 1930s. The social and political consciousness of the activist generation were shaped by the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954; Emmett Till’s murder by Mississippi segregationists in 1955; the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955/1956; the Youth Marches for Integrated Schools; and the Little Rock desegregation campaign in 1957. Cold War politics further altered the landscape as political elites became increasingly concerned about the negative portrayal of race and American democracy within the larger international arena.[xi]

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is considered the most important student/youth-based formation of the post-World War II era. It emerged in the aftermath of the 1960 student sit-in movement that encapsulated the South. Ella Baker, who was then on the staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, urged the organization and other allies to sponsor the Southwide Leadership Conference. Out of this conference, student leaders organized a temporary organization that was later called SNCC.

During its first five years, SNCC concentrated much of its activities on eliminating racial desegregation and voter disenfranchisement. In addition to its participation in the freedom rides, the youth group set up freedom schools and initiated community-organizing campaigns in the rural South beset by racial terrorism. In fact, it was common for SNCC members to immerse themselves in a community for a couple of years and organize, while simultaneously, urging local residents to shape the programs that were relevant to that particular community. SNCC’s philosophy, as Baker noted, was “through the long route, almost, of actually organizing people in small groups and parlaying those into larger groups.”[xii] According to Bob Moses and Charlie Cobb, both former SNCC activists, SNCC’s organizing approach “meant that an organizer had to utilize everyday issues of the community and frame them for the maximum benefit of the community.”[xiii] This strategy allowed SNCC to expand its membership beyond the ranks of student and youth members. It created a pathway for incorporating older and poorer constituents into the organization. In the late 1960s, SNCC also attempted to build alliances with the Black Panther Party and the National Black Liberators. Though these efforts failed, they represented the types of creative organizing strategies that SNCC experimented with during its years of operation.

The Student Organization for Black Unity (SOBU) was a youth-based formation that was founded in 1969 in Greensboro, North Carolina. The group had close ties to local networks and institutions such as the Greensboro Association of Poor People (GAPP), Malcolm X Liberation University, Foundation for Community Development, and youth activists from North Carolina A & T University. SOBU’s signature initiative occurred in 1969 when it assisted the protest efforts of students from Greensboro’s Dudley High School.

SOBU’s energies were dedicated to organizing high school and college students; building alliances with prisoners; working on black political parties such as the Black Peoples’ Union Party of North Carolina; implementing survival programs in impoverished communities; and establishing clothing centers, food-buying clubs, and community service centers. These activities were amplified in SOBU’s bi-monthly newspaper, The African World, which had a circulation of 10,000 people.

The most important years for SOBU occurred between 1971 and 1972 when it sponsored several regional conferences with the purpose of building a national Pan-African student and youth movement. It started local affiliates in New Haven, Connecticut; Houston, Texas; Kansas City, Kansas; Omaha, Nebraska; Denver, Colorado; and in a dozen other cities. After merging with the Youth Organization for Black Unity (YOBU), the group launched a campaign to save black colleges and universities from being “reorganized” and eliminated.

Despite the emergence of black power and groups such as SOBU, youth activism waned in the 1970s. SOBU collapsed in 1975 and the Black Panther Party’s influenced declined by the late 1970s. Young activists were the targets of political repression, most notably surveillance and infiltration by the FBI and COINTELPRO. The elections of Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972 signaled a conservative resurgence that culminated with the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan as president in the 1980s.

Furthermore, the decline of black youth militancy was partially due to the victories of the civil rights movement such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These victories expanded opportunities for members of the post-civil rights generation to articulate their grievances in the voting booth in ways not experienced by previous generations of African Americans. They also led to the development of a new black political class as indicative of the growth of black elected officials by 640 percent between 1970 and 2000. Yet as political scientist Robert C. Smith asserted in his acclaimed work We Have No Leaders: African Americans in the Post-Civil Rights Era, the resources and energy of black politics shifted away from popular mobilization initiatives that were central to black youth activism to institutionalized politics and other forms of elite mobilization.[xiv]

The post-civil rights generation became increasing fragmented along socioeconomic lines. While a thriving black middle-class was situated at one end of the spectrum, a significant portion of African Americans lived in America’s ghettos and was most harshly affected by public health epidemics.[xv] Indicative of these epidemics were the proliferation of crack cocaine, the spread of AIDS, gun violence, and high incarceration rates.  For example, 20 percent of blacks born from 1965-1969 – the years immediately following the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – were likely to have served time in prison by their early thirties. This trend far outpaced black men who came of age during the civil rights movement, as 10.6 percent born from 1945-1949 were likely to have been incarcerated by their early thirties. Overall, the black male incarceration rate was six times higher than white men born during the early stage of the post-civil rights era.[xvi]

Youth Activism and the Post-Civil Rights Generation

Even though popular mobilization declined after the mid-1970s, the post-civil rights generation spawned new youth-based movements and organizations that targeted racial, economic and social injustices. In the mid-1980s, students of color and progressive whites organized protests on college campuses against apartheid regime in South Africa. Students set up campus-based shantytowns or makeshift “shacks” that symbolically represented the “living conditions of many black South Africans.”[xvii] The protests pressured universities to relinquish their business ties to corporations that had financial investments in South Africa. Some divestment initiatives were coordinated by multiracial coalitions, while others were predominantly black. For example, the Progressive Black Student Alliance organized against South African apartheid and other foreign policies such as the U.S. interventions in Grenada and Nicaragua.

Other young activists of the post-civil rights cut their teeth in local organizing initiatives in cities such as the New Haven, Connecticut in the mid-late 1980s. The youth movement, or “Kiddie Korner” as it was called, was fostered by a coalition involving the Greater New Haven NAACP Youth Council, the African American Youth Congress (initially called the Black Youth Political Coalition), Elm City Nation, Dixwell Community House, and the Alliance of African Men. The coalition organized anti-gang violence initiatives, electoral organizing campaigns that eventually elected the city’s first black mayor, and mobilized youth around equitable education policies.

One important organization that emerged in the post-civil rights era was the Black Student Leadership Network (BSLN). The formation of the BSLN began in 1990 when Lisa Y. Sullivan, a community and political activist in New Haven, urged prominent civil rights activists such as Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), to assist black student and youth activists in the development of a mass-based, black student and youth activist organization. In 1991, Sullivan and others organized a black student leadership summit at Howard University that recruited student and youth activists from around the country. After much deliberation, the summit attendees officially founded the BSLN. The BSLN’s parent organization was the Black Community Crusade for Children (BCCC), which operated as an arm of the CDF. For the next six years until its collapse in 1996, the BSLN linked a national advocacy campaign with local political and community initiatives in an effort to combat child poverty, political apathy, and public health epidemics.

Through its Ella Baker Child Policy Training Institute and Advanced Service and Advocacy Workshops, the BSLN trained over 600 hundred black students and youth in direct action organizing, voter education, child advocacy, and teaching methodology. The organization developed freedom schools in dozens of urban and rural cities and teamed with child advocacy groups to spearhead anti-childhood hunger initiatives. Beginning on April 4, 1994, the BSLN and local community activists launched its National Day of Action Against Violence (NDAAV) in concurrence with the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. The NDAAV activities, occurring in forty cities in 1994 and dozens more in 1995 and 1996, highlighted community-based strategies for reducing gun violence and police misconduct.

Among the more interesting set of youth and intergenerational initiatives emerging in the late 1990s and early 2000s was the Juvenile Justice Reform Movement (JJRM). JJRM campaigns in Louisiana, Maryland, California, and New York set out to reverse the zero-tolerance measures, shut down youth prisons that were known for human rights abuses, and end the disproportionate confinement of black and Latino youth in the juvenile justice system. These initiatives were coordinated by youth and adult-led advocacy organizations such as Project South, Youth Force of the South Bronx, New York’s Justice 4 Youth Coalition and Prison Moratorium Project, Baltimore’s Reclaiming Our Children and Community Projects, Inc. organization, Correctional Association of New York, Critical Resistance, the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, and the Maryland Juvenile Justice Coalition.

Similar to the BSLN, JJRM activists made an extensive effort to develop community-based responses to youth violence and crime. They developed what scholar-activist Sean Ginwright calls a “radical healing” approach that integrates community organizing, self-development, and consciousness-raising activities into a holistic approach to social justice.[xviii] In most cities where youth spearheaded campaigns to challenge mass incarcerations, the same youth groups were also at the forefront of rites of passage and violence reduction programs.

Moreover, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) made a concerted attempt to mobilize young people, especially black students, from 1989-2005. It created Union Summer in 1996 that placed young people as frontline organizers for locally based campaigns, including nearly a thousand interns in its first year. Modeled after SNCC’s Freedom Summer of 1964, the Union Summer field staff intentionally recruited black students through its HBCU plan that was first established a decade earlier as part of the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Institute. Blacks made up the majority of non-whites during the program’s latter years and students/youth of color (blacks, Latinos, Asians) comprised the majority of Union Summer organizers.

Black Youth in the Age of Black Lives Matter

The most recent wave of black youth and young adult activism has focused attention on criminal and juvenile justice reform. In 2007, young activists joined prominent civil rights leaders in mobilizing support for six black youth in Jena, Louisiana who were incarcerated as a result of a violent dispute between black and white teenagers. The black youth faced the prospect of a 100-year collective sentence, yet a similar punishment was not proposed for their white counterparts. As such, thousands of activists gathered in Jena on September 20, 2007 to protest the decision.

Six years after the Jena 6 case, young activists coalescing under the umbrella of the Movement for Black Lives Matter protested Stand Your Ground laws, as well as racialized and police violence targeting blacks. The movement started as the twitter hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin and the Florida court’s exoneration of his killer, George Zimmerman. The movement blossomed after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York as protests broke out across the country. Though young blacks made up a large number of the protesters, the movement has also galvanized non-black protestors.

The Movement for Black Lives Matter is composed of dozens of groups and activists. These include the official organization of Black Lives Matter and other well-known youth and young adult groups such as the Dream Defenders of Florida, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice in New York, Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis, Gathering for Justice/Justice League NYC, and Black Youth Project 100 in Chicago. From July 24-26, 2015, these groups along with hundreds of young activists, convened in Cleveland, Ohio at the National Convening of the Movement for Black Lives.

The Movement for Black Lives Matter has attempted to reshape the dialogue around race, class, and the criminal justice system. It has further challenged the respectability narrative that deems the black poor and youth as pathological and denies them community recognition. This narrative reflects what political scientist Cathy Cohen calls the “secondary marginalization” of the black poor who are routinely the targets of social stigma by the black middle class.[xix] Accordingly, the Movement for Black Lives Matter situates marginal youth, including women and LGBT youth, at the forefront of social activism.

By all accounts, activists and groups at the forefront of the Movement for Black Lives Matter have a policy window or political opportunity to advance serious reforms of a broken criminal justice system. There is already evidence that the resistance has made a difference. State and local legislative bodies sponsored racial profiling measures in 2015. Congress approved the Death in Custody Reporting Act, and the U.S. Justice Department announced new rules to reduce racial profiling by federal law enforcement officials.

In August 2015, activists and researchers affiliated with the Movement for Black Lives Matter released a national platform called Campaign Zero that outlined ten policy recommendations for reforming police departments. These activists then garnered commitments from three presidential candidates in the Democratic Party (former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley) to develop comprehensive restorative justice measures if elected president.

Furthermore, the Movement for Black Lives Matter has fueled racial justice protests on college campuses. Taking a cue from the street protests of 2014, young activists from the University of Missouri at Columbia led a semester-long campaign in the fall 2015 protesting racial incidents at the college. After a hunger strike by a graduate student activist and a threatened boycott by the university’s football team, the University of Missouri president and chancellor resigned for not effectively responding to racial incidents on campus. Afterwards, a wave of college-based protests blossomed across the country.

Black Youth Activism: Lessons Learned From the 1930s to the 2000s

This overview of black youth activism from the 1930s to the 2000s underscores important lessons about how young people participate in grassroots mobilization initiatives, and the central role that black youth have in American politics. The first lesson is that movement bridge-builders or the leaders of movement infrastructures play an instrumental role in fueling black youth activism. They can generate opportunities for young activists to participate in movement campaigns through the use of creative organizing, or strategies that are intentionally designed to elevate the social and political status of black youth such that they become vehicles for popular mobilization.

As highlighted in Figure 1, movement bridge-builders use several strategies to position youth activists at the forefront social movements and politically salient initiatives. Some bridge-builders use framing to develop narratives that explain a particular problem that has relevance to marginalize groups. For the purposes of mobilizing youth, these narratives identify a problem, assign blame to it, and then propose solutions to resolving the problem.[xx] For example, the Black Lives Matter frame has been useful in fueling youth protests against racialized killings by law enforcement officials. It has even been an agenda-setting instrument in the 2016 presidential campaigns as Democratic Party candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley aligned their criminal justice platforms with Black Lives Matter.

Movement bridge-builders will also intentionally position black youth at the forefront of a particular policy debate, as did Mary McLeod Bethune to pressure the federal government to adopt economic justice measures for African Americans during the Great Depression. This is accomplished by using a strategy called “positionality” that intentionally alerts grassroots organizations and allies about political decisions or regressive policies that affect young people. The objective is to dramatize the impact of these decisions and policies on young people and create opportunities for intergenerational collaborative initiatives. This then positions young activists as the group that is best positioned to resolve these challenges. For example, the local campaigns to reform juvenile justice systems used positionality to garner support for young activists among street workers, educators, child advocates and other activists who were unfamiliar with the dimensions of juvenile justice policies. These campaigns alerted local groups and leaders about abuses in youth prisons and the harmful impact of zero tolerance policies.

Movement bridge-builders will further link the interests and collective identities of local activists and adult-led groups – or what are referred to as indigenous networks – with the goals of young activists. The intent is to create opportunities for young people to unite their interests with indigenous networks, as well as activate or appropriate these networks such that they can support youth-based movements. As an example, the AFL-CIO leveraged (or appropriated) local labor unions in order to garner their support for the Union Summer program.

In general, the central role of movement bridge-builders is essential to understanding how youth-based movements are sustained. Bridge-builders sow the seeds of black youth activism by identifying strategies and tactics that allow youth to become vehicles for popular mobilization initiatives. They help youth acquire the resources to sustain activism and connect young activists to indigenous groups and seasoned activists. They also help to develop the leadership capacity of young people.

The significant role of movement infrastructures in cultivating black youth activism is another important lesson of this overview. These included youth-led organizations such as the Southern Negro Youth Congress, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Student Organization for Black Unity, and those affiliated with the Movement for Black Lives Matter. Others joined adult-led or network-affiliated youth organizations such as those that led the juvenile justice initiatives in the 1990s and 2000s as well as the Union Summer campaign. Still, some activists belonged to multi-generational/intergenerational infrastructures such as the Black Student Leadership Network.

Movement infrastructures (youth-led, multi-generational, network-affiliated) facilitate youth involvement in social justice initiatives. Youth-based initiatives require resources, linkages with indigenous organizations, and political education, all of which are coordinated by movement infrastructures. Movement infrastructures also establish norms and standards for democratic deliberation among young activists. Thus, movement infrastructures that are cohesive and democratic are more likely to minimize internal conflict and mediate philosophical divisions between competing activists.

The third lesson of this overview underscores how black youth are shaped by the political, social, and economic conditions of their respective time periods. The Great Depression of the 1930s politicized black youth during this period to embrace more militant economic justice initiatives and to support labor unions; Cold War politics impacted young activists in the 1950s and 1960s by allowing them to make a direct connection between the struggles for racial democracy in the United States and the promotion of democracy in the international arena; and the conservative movement’s resurgence between the 1960s and the 1980s heightened the racial or oppositional consciousness of young blacks during this period.

The social, political, and economic conditions are equally important for understanding youth activism in the age of the Black Lives Matter movement. Black youth and young adults in the twenty-first century have been the disproportionate targets of state violence, racial profiling practices such as the “Stop-and-Frisk” policing approach in New York City, and “Stand-Your-Ground” measures including Florida’s law that lead to the killing of Trayvon Martin. These policing practices have converged with a broader mandate by municipal officials to remake cities into attractive destinations for middle-class residents. Large cities are increasingly displacing blacks and gentrifying moderate-income residents. They are also downsizing public sector programs and institutions (housing, schools, jobs, utilities), which is adversely affecting poor blacks and black youth. Policing practices are thus reinforcing a displacement ethos that is increasingly carried at the expense of moderate-income and young blacks. These conditions have amplified the concerns of young activists affiliated with the Movement for Black Lives Matter.

Overall, black youth activism has been an important vehicle for addressing racial, economic and social injustices. Young activists have raised awareness about black poverty during the Great Depression and laid the groundwork for the repeal of state and local poll taxes in the 1940s. Black youth participation in marches, sit-ins, freedom rides, and local organizing initiatives from the 1950s-1970s challenged racial terrorism in the South. Black youth-based formations are also credited with the passage of seminal civil rights laws in the 1960s including the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. By the 1980s, blacks and multi-racial networks organized protests at 100 universities in order to end racial apartheid in South Africa. A decade later, the Black Student Leadership Network and the AFL-CIO’s Union Summer program set up dozens of freedom schools, organized labor initiatives, and called the nation’s attention to systemic poverty. The Movement for Black Lives Matter has also been instrumental in advancing anti-racial profiling platforms and addressing state violence against blacks.

In addition, academicians (social scientists and education specialists) have an important role to play in supporting black youth activism. If youth-based movements are going to be viable responses to inequality in the twenty-first century, then black social scientists must be integral to this struggle. There are multiple roles that they can play including assisting young activists with press releases, op-eds, strategies, fundraising initiatives and research.

During the protest waves of the 1930s-1940s and the 1950s-1970s, there was a partnership between resistance movements and hybrid academicians (or scholars who had one foot in movements and the other one in the academy). Ira De Reid, E. Franklin Frazier, and Charles Johnson belonged to a cadre of black scholars commissioned by the American Council on Education in the 1940s to study the challenges facing black youth. Their pioneering studies provided a broader context for shaping radical youth organizations such as the Southern Negro Youth Congress.

The National Conference of Black Political Scientists was also established in 1969 as an outgrowth of the civil rights and black power movements. More recently, black political scientists have been on the frontlines of the Movement for Black Lives Matter. Political scientist Cathy Cohen at the University of Chicago assisted youth with the formation of the Black Youth Project 100, one of the leading organizations in the movement. As the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter affiliate in Los Angeles, Professor Melina Abdullah has organized protests against the Los Angeles Police Department, which has one of the highest rates of killing unarmed blacks in the nation.

[i]. I use the terms African American and black interchangeably.

[ii]. Audrey Thomas McCluskey and Elaine M. Smith, Mary McLeod Bethune: Building a Better World: Essays and Selected Documents (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1999), 229-230.

[iii]. E. Franklin Frazier, Negro Youth at the Crossways: Their Personality Development in the Middle States (New York, New York: Schocken Books, 1940); Charles S. Johnson, Growing Up in the Black Belt: Negro Youth in the Rural South (New York, New York: Schocken Books, 1941); Jesse Atwood, Thus Be Their Destiny: The Personality Development of Negro Youth in Their Communities (Washington, DC: American Council on Education, 1941); Ira De Reid, In a Minor Key: Negro Youth In Story and Fact (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1971 [1940]); Allison Davis and John Dollard, Children of Bondage: The Personality Development of Negro Youth in the Urban South (Washington, DC: American Council on Education, 1946).

[iv] Raymond Wolters, The New Negro On Campus: Black College Rebellions of the 1920s (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975); St. Claire Drake, Interview by Robert E. Martin, June 19, 1968, 46-47, Ralph J. Bunche Oral History Collection, Civil Rights Documentation Project, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Washington, D.C., 1969.

[v] George Schuyler became one of the leading black conservatives in the country by the 1950s. Yet, he was a prominent activist and cultural critic allied with civil rights organizations in the 1920s-1940s.

[vi] Thomas Bynum, NAACP Youth and the Fight for Black Freedom, 1936–1965 (University of Tennessee Press, 2013), pp. 6-7.

[vii]. Ibid., 59-74.

[viii]. Sekou M. Franklin, After the Rebellion: Black Youth, Social Movement Activism, and the Post-Civil Rights Generation (New York: NYU Press, 2014), 59.

[ix]. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Southern Negro Youth Congress, #100-HQ-6548, Part I, “Undeveloped Leads,” 28-30.

[x]. Johnetta Richards, “The Southern Negro Youth Congress: A History,” Doctoral Dissertation, University of Cincinnati, 1987, 48.

[xi] Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011).

[xii] Ella Baker, Interview by John Britton, June 19, 1968, Ralph J. Bunche Oral History  Collection, Civil Rights Documentation Project, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Washington, D.C.

[xiii]. Robert P. Moses and Charlie Cobb, Jr., “Organizing Algebra: The Need to Voice a Demand,” Social Policy 31, no. 4 (Summer 2001): 8.

[xiv]. Robert C. Smith, We Have No Leaders: African Americans in the Post-Civil Rights Era (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1996).

[xv]. See Clarence Lang, “Political/Economic Restructuring and the Tasks of Radical Black Youth,” The Black Scholar vol. 28, no. 3/4 (Fall/Winter 1998): 32-33; Also see Luke Tripp, “The Political Views of Black Students During the Reagan Era,” The Black Scholar vol. 22, no. 3 (Summer 1992): 45-51.

[xvi]. Becky Pettit and Bruce Western, “Mass Imprisonment and the Life Course: Race and Class Inequality in U.S. Incarceration,” American Sociological Review 24 (2009): 156-165.

[xvii]. Sarah A. Soule, “The Student Divestment Movement in the United States and Tactical Diffusion: The Shantytown Protest,” Social Forces vol. 75, no. 3 (March 1997): 857-858.

[xviii] Sean Ginwright, Black Youth Rising: Activism and Radical Healing in Urban America (New York: Teachers College Press, 2009).

[xix]. Cathy Cohen, Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 28.

[xx]. David A. Snow and Robert D. Benford, “Master Frames and Cycles of Protest,” in Frontiers in Social Movement Theory, ed. Aldon Morris and C. McClurg Mueller (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992), 137.

*This lesson plan was originally published in the Association for the Study of African American Life & History’s Black History Bulletin and is reprinted here by permission of the author and is available here.

Trump Syllabus K12: Lesson Plans for Teaching During this New Age of Resistance (#TrumpSyllabusK12)

December 14, 2016

created & compiled by Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D.

with Alicia Moore, Ph.D. & Regina Lewis, 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 OneExamining 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 and are being added daily. 

(ES=Elementary School; MS=Middle School; HS=High School)





1. America is a Divided Nation: Singing the Post-Trump Blues **NEW**

-Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D.

2. Teaching After the Election of Trump  **NEW**

-The Zinn Education Project

3. Opinion Editorial: “These Are Our First 100 Days, Too” **NEW**

-Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D.

4. Resistance 101: A Lesson for Inauguration Day Teach-Ins and Beyond **NEW**

-Teaching for Change

5. 40 Acres, A Mule, & $50 Dollars: Making the Case for Reparations **NEW**

-Conra Gist, Ph.D., and Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D.

6. Tips for Facilitating Classroom Discussions on Sensitive Topics

-Alicia Moore, Ph.D., and Molly Deshaies


7. The Electoral College vs The Popular Vote: Who Should Choose OUR President? (HS)

-Jocelyn Thomas

8. Exploring the (New) Political Climate (MS)

-Nadiera Young

9. Exploring the Reasons Why Trump Won (MS/HS)

-Gloria Ladson-Billings, Ph.D.

10. Exploring the Fake News Cycle (MS)

-Baba Ayinde Olumiji

11. Using Photographs to Explore Differing Political Perspectives (ES)

-Alicia Moore, Ph.D., and Angela Davis Johnson

12. Trump and Gender Bias, By the Numbers (HS)

-Kelly Cross Ph.D.


13. Oya for President (to be read OutLoud)

-Alexis Pauline Gumbs

14. Mourning in America: A Black Woman’s Blues Song

-Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D.

15. Songs in a Key Called Baltimore

-Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D.


16. Harassment and Intimidation in the Aftermath of the Trump Election: What Do We Do Now? (MS/HS)

-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.

18. Hope, Action, & Freedom in the Times of Uncertainty (HS)

-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)

-Ileana Jiménez

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

23. Exploring the “Crisis” in Black Education from a Post-White Orientation* (MS/HS)

-Marcus Croom

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

25. #Evolution or Revolution: Exploring Social Media through Revelations of Familiarity* (HS)

-Kimberly Edwards-Underwood, Ph.D.

26. Replace Fear with Curiosity: Using Photographs and Poetry to Process Election 2016 (ES)

-Tracy Kent-Gload

27. #WeGotNext: Black Youth Activism and the Rise of #BlackLivesMatter* (HS/MS) **NEW**

-Sekou Franklin


28. Steps to Combating Anti-Muslim Bullying in Schools

-Mariam Durani, Ph.D.

29. #ClintonSyllabus 1.0

-Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D., Alicia Moore, Ph.D., Regina Lewis, Ph.D.

30. Book: Black Lives Matter (Special Reports)

Sue Bradford Edwards and Duchess Harris

31. Book: Shock Exchange: How Inner-City Kids from Brooklyn Predicted the Great Recession and the Pain Ahead **NEW**

Ralph W. Baker, Jr.

*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.




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.

32. From Plessy to Brown: Examining the Ways We Worked to Overcome (ES/MS)

33. Examining the Modern Civil Rights Movement & the Birth of Our Activist Spirit (MS/HS)

34. From Brown (v Board) to Black (Power): Examining the Roots of the Civil Rights Movement   **NEW**

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**





Exploring the “Crisis” in Black Education from a Post-White Orientation*

December 14, 2016

Marcus Croom


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.

National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) Standards:

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.

Lesson Plan


  1. Teachers and students will create a safe setting for demystifying race as a human cultural practice.
  2. Teachers and students will read and discuss the definition of race provided (Race is a consequential social practice).
  3. Teachers and students will read, discuss, and debate a point of view about an article.
  4. 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.

Background Information

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.

Figure 1


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[1].

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 (

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).

Teacher Resources

  1. The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson (1933); especially chapter four “Education Under Outside Control.”
  2. 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.”
  3. In Rachel Dolezal’s Skin” by Mitchell Sunderland (2015).
  4. Tips for Facilitating Classroom Discussions on Sensitive Topics. by Alicia Moore, Ph.D., and Molly Deshaies.
  5. Developing a Positive White Identity by Racial Equity Tools.
  6. The Crisis in Black Education” Executive Summary. Association for the Study of African American Life and History.


[1] 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.

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