Showing “Courage in the face of Racism” is a central idea that can be applied to nonfiction, historical fiction, images, video and more when exploring the plight of the African American. I have taught middle school ELA for many years, and the history and struggle of the African American is a sensitive subject, and can often be confusing for students. The time period that I like to focus on is the century between the end of the Civil War and Civil Rights movement. Students are often unaware of the struggles that African Americans still faced after slavery was abolished, but before the Civil Rights movement. After many years, I’ve adapted the idea of showing “Courage in the face of Racism” to learn about the African American throughout history.
First, I use a list of words that can be categorized as a “courageous” word or a “racist” word. I assign an individual word to each student and they become the “expert” on their word throughout the lessons. Using historical fiction, articles, a webquest and a reader’s theater, this topic is explored. Click here for a free PowerPoint presentation of the words that I use for this unit.
Second, I use Mildred D. Taylor historical fiction pieces to give accurate examples of an African American living in the South during the Great Depression. Click here to view the unit in its entirety or click on the picture to the left. This was a time of economic struggle and discrimination. The students are able to see how courage was needed to fight and stand up for basic human rights. The excerpts in the unit are taken from “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” and “The Gold Cadillac”. They are also found in the book 101 Read Aloud Classics. As Mildred D. Taylor celebrated her 40th anniversary, her book covers have been recently updated. Click here or on the picture to see the article.
Next, I use article from ReadWorks.org. You do need an account to access these articles, but it is free to use. Here are the links below:
Slavery in the North
Front of the Bus
Readworks.org is an excellent site to find informational text. You can search by subject, grade level, or Lexile level.
I also like to incorporate technology whenever possible. Because seventh grade students find this century between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement so confusing, I created a simple virtual field trip that gives and overview of the time period. I use this on
Google Classroom and ask simple questions about the content of the slides, video links and images within the field trip. The Virtual field trip can be found in the “Courage in the face of Racism” unit above, or in my “Song of the Trees” unit which is available here.
“Song of the Trees” is a short novella which can be used as an extension to this unit, or on its own. The book describes the white men trying to take advantage of the Logan family while the father is away working because of the Great Depression. It touches on “courage in the face of racism”, protecting the environment, and paints a true picture of the economic struggles and prejudice at this time in American History. I use it with my seventh graders, but could be used effectively for grades 4-6 as well.
Lastly, I try and incorporate poetry into the unit as well. Langston Hughes is probably the most prominent African American poet during the Great Depression. The unit includes a reader’s theater where the biography of Langston Hughes is acted out and students are called to explain how “their word” is once again exemplified in the piece.
My entire Langston Hughes unit can be found here.
This unit is BRAND new and has not yet been rated. It is currently at a discounted price, so check it out as this price will be going up soon! It includes “I, too, Sing America”, “Poem”, “April Rain Song”, “Mother to Son”, “Harlem” and “Dreams”. This unit also includes the reader’s theater of Langston Hughes, as mentioned above.
Finally, “A Long Walk to Water” is the perfect middle school book to use to study Black History Month. Especially during this political time where refugees are being banned from Sudan, this unit touches it all. Please click on the photo below to read my blog post on this incredible unit. https://wordpress.com/post/educationisland.wordpress.com/169