Equality on the Front, but What Waits at Home?

This semester my EdMethods students used Microsoft Sway for their final lesson design projects. This document-based lesson by Jana Peters asks student to put themselves in the shoes of an African American soldier returning to the US from WWI. Original source documents from black soldiers like Henry Johnson and Horace Pippin are used as the basis for creation of reflective journal entries.

“The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost… He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American…”

~ W.E.B Dubois

For a direct link to the Sway click here
More lessons in this series.
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Strange Fruit: Media Coverage of the Waco Horror

Bryan Daily Eagle and Pilot, May 15, 1916 Bryan Daily Eagle and Pilot, May 15, 1916

My Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook – Exploring History: Vol III (free iTunes). It features thirteen engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. For more info on our project and free download of multi-touch iBook and pdf versions click here. To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post. (Third of 13)

The Waco Horror by Alekzandr Wray
Download as PDF 2MB

The 1916 lynching of Jesse Washington, a 17 year old African American man from Waco, Texas, was one of the most heinous acts of government sanctioned mob “justice” in American society. The barbarity of the act, the festive/jovial/family-centered nature of the event, the sheer volume of participants, and the local government inaction around the incident shocked many people in the nation and spurred the NAACP to take immediate action around Anti-Lynching Legislation. Jesse Washington was just one of thousands of stories but we will focus on primarily on his today and the context surrounding lynchings in the early 20th century.

 

Reflection by Alekzandr Wray:

Throughout the entire process of creating my document based lesson I was incredibly engaged. The idea of setting up students to serve as historical detectives was fascinating and doing the research to “uncover” primary sources/information proved incredibly fruitful and fulfilling. I even felt like a historical detective at certain points, especially when the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture emailed me the court transcripts from Jesse Washington’s “trial” in Waco, Texas!

Focusing on the lynching of Jesse Washington was certainly a emotionally/spiritually challenging task for me, however, and I initially struggled with the idea of what I wanted students to actually do with this information and what my intention for the lesson was. “Do I want students to get angry over Jesse Washington’s lynching and just sit in that anger? Do I want students to see how groups like the NAACP rose to prominence because of the work they did to quell lynchings? What am I trying to get at?” Ultimately, I ended up deciding that my intention was multifaceted… I am totally fine with students getting upset over historic injustices (after all, who learns about events like the Holocaust or Jim Crow and DOESN’T get upset?)  because I believe that will ignite an inner fire/passion to fight against present day injustices and, of course, I want students to feel empowered in their ability to contribute to society for the better so I felt the need to highlight the NAACP’s article in “The Crisis” and Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” as examples of resistance.

I truly appreciated this process and wish I had more opportunities to engage in document based learning during my secondary education career. I fully intend on utilizing this type of lesson in my future classroom in sha Allah.

If anybody who reads my chapter on Jesse Washington and the dark legacy of American lynchings has any feedback or recommendations, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me on LinkedIn. Much obliged.

Image Credit: Bryan Daily Eagle and Pilot, May 15, 1916
Library of Congress
 

Harlem Renaissance: Rebirth of Cultural Identity

"Barbecue" by Archibald Motley “Barbecue” by Archibald Motley

My Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook – Exploring History: Vol III (free iTunes). It features thirteen engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. For more info on our project and free download of multi-touch iBook and pdf versions click here. To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post. (Second of 13)

The Harlem Renaissance by Monica Portugal
Download as PDF 1.4MB

How did the Harlem Renaissance allow African Americans to express their experiences within American society?

The Harlem Renaissance was an early 20th century movement which lasted until the mid 1930s. At the time of this movement African American writers, artists, actors and musicians, were being recognized for their talents and contributions to the newest fads of pop culture. However, along with the newest Jazz songs and popular dances that came about during this period, African Americans used these mediums of art and literature as a way to express their experience of being black, being an artist, being an American citizen, and and being all of these things all at once. 
 Using music, poetry, novels, and other forms of literature and art, African Americans were able to explore questions of race and social tensions in America. Capturing the attention of white Americans, Africans Americans were able to further pursue their desires of equality, and bring to life a rebirth of their cultural identity.

 

Project Reflection by Monica Portugal

For this assignment I chose to focus on the Harlem Renaissance and have my students explore the work of various African American musicians, artists, and writers, in order to identify the purpose of their work, and what it represented. This past semester I did a similar lesson to this DBL with my 11th grade history class for a 1920s unit. For that lesson I introduced similar sources to the ones in this assignment in order to guide my students to a deeper understanding of the Harlem Renaissance, and open a small discussion of race within America. The DBL I have created here will accomplish a similar goal.

For this lesson I wanted to introduce a more serious side of the Harlem Renaissance, and expose my students to these sources in order to guide them to understand a different perspective of America during this time period. Despite the Harlem Renaissance being a time and place full of spirit, opportunity, and pop-culture, it was also a time of opportunity to captivate audiences, black and white, and explore issues of race in America. For myself, the issues and concerns that are expressed in the documents provided by these artists, are still issues seen today. Following this DBL students can be asked to make connections to more modern day issues, compare and contrast, and reflect on American society today. As an educator I want to create a place where such discussions can be held with respect, because I do believe discussing situations and concerns such as this should be held in a classroom in order to help our students be more open minded, respectful, and well rounded to the world around them.

Image credit: Wikipedia / Photograph by Alexisrael

Driving While Black in Mid Century America

Green Book 1948

Between 1936 and 1966, the “Negro Travelers’ Green Book” (or the “Green Book” as it was commonly known) was an essential travel guide for Black Americans. It was created by Victor H. Green, an enterprising New York mailman and Black-American travel agent. Organized by state and city, it listed business who would accept black clientele – hotels, restaurants, filling stations, tailors, beauty parlors. It also included travel themed articles featured black-friendly resorts and sites. For more see my post Segregated America’s TripAdvisor.

Enter the world of the Black traveler in post-war America who faced humiliation, insults and fear of being stranded without travel essentials.

The New York Public Library’s Digital Collections recently launched Navigating The Green Book, a public domain remix by Brian Foo of NYPL Labs. The mapping tool give the user insights into the world of the Black traveler in post-war America who faced humiliation, insults and fear of being stranded without travel essentials. Racist social codes made “driving while black” a hazard in some locales. As the Green Book noted its the cover, “Carry Your Green Book With You – You May Need It.”

Users can enter in two US addresses and determine what Green Book recommended services they’d find along the route (two data sets are currently indexed – 1947 and 1956.) Here’s a 1956 trip from Seattle to Salt Lake City. Only three restaurants and one hotel.

Seattle to Salt Lake City

Users can also use a cluster or heat maps to visualize the the geotagged data. Here’s a “heat map” of US in 1956. Yellow / red colors indicate more Black-friendly services.

US Heat map 1956

Finally at the listing level, the user can click into any of locations and get specific metadata including a link to a digitized version of the Green Book page for the service. (1956 Green Book)

NYC to Atlanta with listing

Little Rock Nine: Evaluating Historical Sources

Operation_Arkansas,_Little_Rock_Nine-2

My Social Studies Methods class at the University of Portland recently published a free multi-touch iBook – Exploring History: Vol II. It features ten engaging questions and historic documents that empower students to be the historian in the classroom. For more info on our project and free download of multi-touch iBook version click here.

To better publicize student work, I’m featuring each chapter in it’s own blog post. More in series here.

Your task is to examine the context of these documents and decide which are most helpful to your understanding of the conflict.

Little Rock Nine: Evaluating Historical Sources by Christy Thomas Download as pdf (8.7MB)

This chapter examines the historic setting of the Little Rock Nine though a variety of documents. They include news photographs of the events, governor’s proclamation, historic essays, Presidential speech, TV news reports and video reflections by participants. Your task is to examine the context of these documents and decide which are most helpful to your understanding of the conflict.

  • What do you see as the roots of the conflict?
  • What motivated the different players involved?
  • Which documents do you learn the most from?

 
Reflection by Christy Thomas:

As I approached the DBQ assignment, I decided to use images and texts from a literacy class assignment I had just completed. At first, I thought I had a head start, since I had a collection already curated, but as I continued with the assignment I realized I had started in the wrong place. While it was nice to have images and text, I should have started with the essential question AND what I wanted students to experience as they worked through the DBQ.

Working backwards, one of the challenges is finding the essential question that ties everything together. My previous assignment was over a broad topic – the Civil Rights Movement – which I’ve realized is much too broad for a DBQ exercise. Finding the right essential question was key to finding a way to connect the materials together.

The next step was to really think about what I wanted my students to learn as they worked through the DBQ. My first set of materials were loosely related, but would require students to take some large leaps to find the connections. Even with scaffolding questions, it seemed like a stretch. Once I had an essential question identified, then I could focus on the historical thinking skills I wanted students to experience as they worked through the DBQ.

This experience reminds me that the only way to get better at something new is to continue to practice. I have a much better sense of how to organize my thoughts around creating a DBQ and look forward to adding this learning experience to my curriculum development skills.
~ Christy Thomas AboutMe
 

Image Source: Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division escort African-American students to Central High School in Little Rock in Sept. 1957, after the governor of Arkansas tried to enforce segregation. Photo courtesy National Archives. Operation Arkansas

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