Review the ratification of the 14th Amendment and the Plessy v. Ferguson decision.
Read excerpts from the Brown v. Board of Education decision and explain how it challenged the idea of "separate but equal."
Investigate one of three events that tested Brown v. Board to understand the challenges of school desegregation.
After watching Racial Inequality: Remnants of a Troubled Time , discuss two important events that followed the Civil War:
In 1868, the 14th Amendment was ratified, giving citizenship to former slaves and guaranteeing them equal rights. It states: "No State shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that segregation was legal and did not violate the 14th Amendment as long as separate facilities were equal. The decision endorses the law of "separate but equal."
Next, have students read excerpts from the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education. Excerpts are available online at: http://www.landmarkcases.org/brown/opinion1.html.
Ask students to summarize the decision and explain how it affected the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling. (The decision stated that segregated schools are "inherently unequal" and violate the 14th Amendment. This ruling overturned the "separate but equal" ruling of Plessy.)
Explain that while Brown v. Board of Education made segregated schools illegal, it was a long time before Southern schools were integrated. In 1955, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the ruling and declared that schools should be desegregated with "all deliberate speed." Despite this ruling, many Southern schools remained segregated. Those that did integrate faced many challenges, as did the black students who entered these schools. Tell students that they will be exploring one of three early school integrations that tested Brown v. Board of Education:
Autherine Lucy and the University of Alabama (1956)
Little Rock Nine and Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas (1957)
Ruby Bridges and William Frantz Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana (1960)
In addition to any available print resources, have students use the following Web sites to find background information and personal stories.
Aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education
Little Rock Nine
Once students have researched their early school integration, ask them to write a personal essay responding to what they read. After summarizing the events and the significance of the integration, their essays should answer these questions:
What challenges did these students face?
What were some of their most poignant or surprising memories?
How do you think you would have felt and responded had you been in their shoes?
During the next class period, give students an opportunity to share their essays. Then discuss what students learned about early attempts at school integration. Ask: How were these students' experiences alike? How were they different? Why was the process of integration so slow? What impact did these students' actions have?
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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
Three points: Students were active in class discussions; demonstrated a strong understanding of Brown v. Board of Education; wrote a thorough, engaging essay about an example of early school integration.
Two points: Students participated in class discussions; demonstrated a satisfactory understanding of Brown v. Board of Education; wrote a clear, complete essay about an example of early school integration.
One point: Students did not participate in class discussions; demonstrated a weak understanding of Brown v. Board of Education; wrote a vague or incomplete essay about an example of early school integration.
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Ratified in 1868, this post-Civil War amendment to the United States Constitution gave American citizenship to former slaves and guaranteed their equal rights.
When arguing his case, Thurgood Marshall concluded that the 14th Amendment was intended to prevent racial segregation in public schools.
Definition: The process of opening a place or organization to people from different races
Context: Many Americans found it difficult to accept integration in schools.
Definition: The period after the Civil War (1865 to 1877) during which Southern states were governed and administered by the federal government
Context: Despite the changes that followed Reconstruction, the South remained segregated.
Definition: The separation or isolation of people by race, social class, or ethnic group
Context: During the late 1940s and early '50s in communities across the country, a movement of individuals was gathering to fight segregation in American society.
Definition: Agreed to by all members
Context: The Supreme Court concluded unanimously that the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place.
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Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visithttp://www.mcrel.org/.
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:
U.S. History: Era 5-Understands how various Reconstruction plans succeeded or failed
U.S. History: Era 9-Understands the struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties.
Civics: What Are the Basic Values and Principals of American Democracy-Understands the character of American political and social conflict and factors that tend to prevent or lower its intensity; Understands issues concerning the disparities between ideals and reality in American political and social life.
The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has developed national standards to provide guidelines for teaching social studies. To view the standards online, go tohttp://www.socialstudies.org/standards/strands/.
This lesson plan addresses the following thematic standards:
Time, Continuity, and Change
Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
Power, Authority, and Governance
Civil Ideals and Practices
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