Lessons

Lesson plans provided here were created by Carolina K-12 at UNC-Chapel Hill and funded by the North Caroliniana Society. Access additional K-12 teacher resources in Carolina K-12’s Database of K-12 Resources.

Carolina K-12 curriculum experts have developed a lesson plan for teaching about Jim Crow in North Carolina specifically using the On the Books project. Through discussion, reading and the examination of actual Jim Crow laws that existed in North Carolina between the years of 1865 and 1967 (from the groundbreaking website On the Books: Jim Crow & Algorithms of Resistance), students will gain an understanding of the race-based laws that dictated life for millions of North Carolinians for more than one hundred years. Students will also explore the complexities of Jim Crow beyond the actual legislation, such the enactment of unfair policies and societal expectations and customs that were enforced throughout the South.

A diverse selection of other lesson plans related to Jim Crow in North Carolina are listed below.

Tips for Tackling Sensitive History & Controversial Current Events in the Classroom

Teaching about issues related to Jim Crow, racial terror lynching, systems of white supremacy, etc. includes addressing tough topics such as violence, murder, racism, and more –not just as remnants of things long ago and far away, but also in how they are still at play in today’s society. This can be challenging for teachers and students alike. To ensure effective and successful teaching and learning, preparation is key, otherwise, as Thomas Edison wisely said, “A good intention, with a bad approach, often leads to a poor result.” Teachers are encouraged to review this file before beginning their instruction of Jim Crow and/or utilizing the lessons provided below. In addition, teachers can consult vetted sources for additional recommendations, such as Teaching Tolerance and Facing History and Ourselves. Additionally, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust are beneficial to follow when covering any difficult history.

It’s a simple act, sitting down and sharing food with another person. But throughout the American south and especially before the 1960s, this was not the case. According to local customs and city ordinances under the oppressive system of Jim Crow, it was taboo and illegal for black people and people of color to dine with whites in public. That is, until engaged and courageous “ordinary” people changed all that. In this lesson, students will explore the sit-in movement that challenged and eventually toppled segregation in food service facilities, from the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins to the less well-known Royal Ice Cream Parlor in Durham.

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Although African Americans have participated in all American wars, they have sometimes faced bitter hostility from their fellow Americans, even while risking their lives to protect American democracy. In this lesson, students will explore the complicated period of the conflict in Vietnam, focusing on the role of African Americans in the war as well as on the discrimination they simultaneously faced at home. Through class discussion, examination of an anti-war comic book, exploration of political cartoons, and review of a less commonly studied view of Martin Luther King, Jr. regarding war, students will study the various African Americans who protested the Vietnam War as well as their reasons for doing so.

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Through their participation in class discussion and the review of primary sources, students will explore the political climate and changes that took place during Reconstruction. Students will focus on the legislation that restricted and advanced the rights of African Americans throughout this period, examining how African American men were able to gain representation in Congress. Through creation of and participation in a group teaching activity, students will focus on the important roles these African American legislators filled.

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In this series of activities, students will learn about Princeville, NC, the oldest town in the United States incorporated by African Americans. Students will learn about the challenges that faced newly freed enslaved people as they built lives on an unwanted piece of swamp land along the Tar River, which was eventually incorporated as the town of Princeville. Through reading and class discussion, students will explore how African Americans in Princeville, NC have faced overwhelming adversity since its inception, continuously exhibiting self-determination and survival in the face of slavery, prejudice, and numerous floods. Students will exhibit their understanding and respect of this under-taught piece of history through various creative writing, art, and drama activities.

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From 1929 to 1977, the State of North Carolina, as part of its state sponsored eugenics program, sterilized over 7,600 people. Advocates of the unjust program believed it presented a way to “cleanse society of the mentally handicapped and mentally ill,” in that sterilization prevented those considered "unfit" from having children. In this lesson, students will learn about North Carolina’s little-known eugenics program, as well as explore the constitutionality of state mandated sterilization by reviewing the NC Supreme Court case, In re Moore. Students will culminate this lesson by making recommendations on how the state should make amends for the eugenics program’s past controversial actions, as well as examine actual reparation recommendations recently made by North Carolina’s General Assembly.

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Albion W. Tourgée spent his lifetime (1838-1905)dedicated to fighting for equality and justice, during a period when rights for many were severely restricted or entirely denied. Yet, even though his experiences range from serving as a lawyer arguing against segregation on behalf of African Americans to founding the country’s first national civil rights association with an interracial membership, Tourgée’s legacy is often overlooked. In this lesson, students will learn about the life and contributions of Albion Tourgée through class discussion, reading, and group work. Students will then culminate their new understanding and appreciation of Tourgée by designing a historical monument to educate others about his important role in North Carolina and the United States.

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The history and lasting legacies of lynching in North Carolina and throughout America remains with each of us, even though many prefer to avoid such hard and violent history. In this activity, students will be introduced to the website A Red Record, which documents lynchings across North Carolina by plotting the locations of these violent murders and linking each entry to primary source news articles. As part of this activity, students will explore the definition of lynching and its prevalence across the state throughout 1860-1950, as well as examine and discuss the countless lives impacted by lynching and how statistics, and even primary sources, fail to convey the substantial impact of this violent practice. Students will also explore the historical context for various periods and how local, state, national, and international events impacted and/or intersected with the practice of lynching. Finally, students will discuss and understand that even though difficult, it is critical that we face this aspect of our shared past today in order to heal, as well as effectively respond to present-day issues of racial injustice.

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In this lesson, students will learn about Durham’s Hayti community, which was once one of the most unique and successful black communities in America. In this lesson, students will learn how Hayti flourished from the 1880s to the 1940s and became known as the “The Black Capitol of the South.” Students will then place themselves in the year 1958, when the Durham Redevelopment Commission was formed and proposed a plan to “renew” Hayti, which had fallen into disrepair by the 1950s. Students will participate in a mock public hearing in which they grapple with the pros and cons of the urban renewal proposal and ultimately, they will decide whether or not to implement the plan. Afterwards, students will explore the actual decision made to implement the renewal plan, as well as the impact urban renewal had on Hayti.

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North Carolina’s history is rich with stories of African Americans’ leadership, service and contributions in the face of adversity. In this lesson, students will explore the contributions African Americans have made to North Carolina by examining the “SERVICE” mural commissioned by the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill. The mural, which depicts key African-American leaders in North Carolina, is a stunning visual for teaching students about our state’s history. After examining and interpreting the mural in small groups and through class discussion, students will choose and research one of the figures pictured in the mural. Students will then apply what they have learned by writing a monologue about the figure, from the perspective of a fictional “best friend,” and share about the figure’s life and accomplishments. The project will culminate with students presenting their monologue about these North Carolina leaders from the past.

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CROW, a novel for young adults, is an excellent way to engage students in learning about the 1898 Wilmington coup d'état, when North Carolina’s white Southern Democrats conspired and led a mob of over 2,000 white men to overthrow the legitimately elected local Fusionist local government. CROW explores this history, and related themes such as slavery, Jim Crow, democracy, the rule of law, overcoming adversity, and more. Written from the perspective of 12-year-old Moses Thomas, the novel gives students a personal perspective of the thriving African American community of Wilmington and how the rights and freedoms of black North Carolinians were violently challenged and strategically removed.

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This lesson traces the legacy of spirituals, from their origins when sung by those enslaved, to their transformation into “freedom songs” during the Civil Rights Movement, to their echoes in contemporary protests. Focusing on the fight for racial justice, this lesson examines the role that music can play in building unity and determination, and in maintaining a vital connection to the past.

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In this lesson students examine the life and career of North Carolina native George Henry White, the last African American Congressman before the Jim Crow Era, as well as the reasons for the decline in African American representation in Congress during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Through examination of Congressional data from the time period, viewing a documentary (optional), analyzing speech excerpts, class discussion, and more, students will gain a comprehensive understanding of the political, cultural and racial realities of the Jim Crow Era. The lesson culminates with an assignment where students are tasked with creating a reelection campaign for White.

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Despite having a deep and vast impact on the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-60s,as well as serving as the forefather of the Black Power Movement, the incredible life and contributions of North Carolina’s Robert F. Williams has largely been left out of history books. While this is in part due to his belief in and advocacy of self-defense (armed when necessary) against racist white terrorists, the life of Robert F. Williams illustrates that in actuality, “the civil rights movement’ and the Black Power movement,’ often portrayed in very different terms, grew out of the same soil, confronted the same predicaments, and reflected the same quest for African American freedom...[His story] reveals that independent black political action, black cultural pride, and what Williams called ‘armed self-reliance’ operated in the South in tension and in tandem with legal efforts and nonviolent protest.”(Dr. Tim Tyson) In this lesson, students will explore the incredible life of Robert Williams, as well as his wife and partner in all things, Mabel Robinson Williams, through oral history interview excerpts, class discussion, reading, and the examination of compelling primary and secondary sources. Students will culminate their exploration by determining how (and why) they think Robert F. Williams should be remembered today.

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Through discussion, reading and the examination of actual Jim Crow laws that existed in North Carolina between the years of 1865 and 1967 (from the groundbreaking website On the Books: Jim Crow & Algorithms of Resistance), students will gain an understanding of the race-based laws that dictated life for millions of North Carolinians for more than one hundred years. Students will also explore the complexities of Jim Crow beyond the actual legislation, such the enactment of unfair policies and societal expectations and customs that were enforced throughout the South.

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In 1947, long before the more familiar civil rights events of the 1960s, the movement had already been set in motion. One such incredible challenge to segregation in interstate travel was The Journey of Reconciliation, in which 16 black and white men travelled throughout the upper South. In this lesson, students will examine the events that led up to the Journey of Reconciliation, gaining an understanding of the Civil Rights Movement as being a much longer fight than just one that occurred during the 1950s-1960s, as well as learn about what took place throughout the Journey –including during its North Carolina stops. Students will culminate this lesson by creating a historical marker that honors the Journey of Reconciliation’s riders and educates the public about this important period of history.

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Anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett recognized lynching as an attack not only against individuals, but as a dehumanizing act of mob violence against the ‘peoplehood’ of African Americans. Thus, whenever possible, Wells named the victims of racist violence and told their stories. In this lesson, students will consider how racial violence, systemic racism, and dehumanization are interwoven. With this framework in mind, they will review A Red Record with a focus on the individual lives that were impacted, and continue to be impacted, due to the history of lynching.

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Little known about our state’s history is the brave confrontation North Carolina’s Lumbee staged to protest a KKK rally near Maxton, NC on the night of January 18, 1958.In this lesson, students learn about North Carolina’s Lumbee and their heroic resistance to hatred and bigotry on this night, known as “The Battle of Hayes Pond.” Students will explore the night’s events as well as design an active citizenship award to honor the Lumbee for their vigilance in fighting for their rights.

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A Durham, NC native, Pauli Murray (1910-1985)is a lesser-known civil rights trailblazer whose life, activism and constant courage in the face of adversity made societal advancements that impact us today. The intersection of her crucial work also serves to illuminate the connections between the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights. This lesson will provide an overview of Pauli Murray’s incredible work, perseverance and accomplishments through class lecture and interactive discussion, and most importantly, through her own words. Infused throughout the lesson are seven oral history clips from a 1976 interview with Pauli Murray, housed at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Southern Oral History Program. This lesson will ultimately broaden student understanding of the Civil Rights Movement in terms of the heightened challenges (and thus fight) faced by African American women, as well as bring to the forefront one of the most impactful trailblazers for civil and women’s rights.

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The Jim Crow Era had a lasting impact on the history of the United States, but how far back and forward do the roots of Jim Crow and segregation extend? In actuality, Jim Crow was in existence (under different names, such as slave codes and black codes) since the founding of America, the infamous Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson(1896) playing a major role in entrenching segregation throughout America. Relatedly, the fight for civil rights started well before the typical assumption that that it was a movement of the 1950s-1960s, and continues today. Through a Power Point overview and discussion, students will learn about the history of segregation and Jim Crow laws, starting with a review of the slave codes then tracing the development of such laws all the way to the infamous Supreme Court decision in Plessy V. Ferguson. Students will then focus on one particular topic concerning the history of segregation and create an exhibit for a class museum on segregation.

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Dr. Hasan Jeffries wrote in his preface to SPLC’s “Teaching the Hard History of American Slavery” report that the past does not have to be taught exclusively as a story of despair – “hard history is not hopeless history.” While our shared history is is filled with complex, difficult and violent narratives such as lynching, it is imperative that we teach this history, but in a way that highlights the ways various individuals, groups, organizations, etc. resisted. In this lesson, students will specifically examine push back against lynching, from artists to activists to government officials. Students will culminate their learnings by creating a mock 1900s editorial that speaks out against the practice of lynching.

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At the beginning of the 20th century, African Americans in North Carolina and throughout the United States faced many challenges. Jim Crow laws and expectations were rampant and African Americans in cities such as Wilmington, NC, were the victim of white supremacy campaigns and violence. Yet, in the midst of such racial injustice and intolerance, a black business district began to flourish in Durham, NC in the late 1890s. In the following activities, students will explore how various black entrepreneurs thrived in Durham’s downtown, so much so that Durham’s Parrish Street was soon known as “Black Wall Street.” Through readings, class discussion, primary source examination, partner activities, and group activities, students will gain a sense of the challenges overcome and successes experienced by the various black entrepreneurs and businesses on Black Wall Street. In a creative culminating project, students will apply what they have learned to create their own revitalization plan for Parrish Street today.

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1898 Wilmington, NC saw the nation’s only successful coup d'état in history, when the state's white Southern Democrats conspired and led a mob of over 2,000 white men to overthrow the legitimately elected local Fusionist government. They unjustly expelled opposing black and white political leaders from the city. The white mob destroyed the property and businesses of black citizens (businesses that had been started after the Civil War and were thriving), including the only black newspaper in the city. Using terrorist strategies, they killed an estimated 60 to possibly more than 300 people. In this lesson, students will learn about the events of the 1898white supremacy campaign and coup via a Power Point presentation, analyzing primary source documents, and class discussion. Students will explore the role of propaganda and spin in instigating the white supremacist events of 1898and will discuss the importance of learning about such history. This lesson will culminate with students creating a memorial design for teaching about the 1898 coup and honoring those impacted.

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Students will consider the impact the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had on Rocky Mount Mills, where the workforce changed from predominantly white to including 25% African American employees within the following decade. Using primary sources, including interview excerpts with Rocky Mount citizens, students will explore the period of integration as it relates to the Mills.

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“On a hot July night in 1950 Horace Carter watched as thirty cars filled with armed, robed and hooded Ku Klux Klansmen made their way through Tabor City, a small town on the North Carolina-South Carolina border. The event marked the beginning of two years of turmoil as Carter, Tabor City and the surrounding communities witnessed large Klan rallies, gunplay, abductions, assaults and murder—a saga fueled by KKK ambition and the uncertainty of rapidly changing times...Carter, the twenty-nine year old editor of the weekly Tabor City Tribune, would be observer, participant, commentator and conscience to these events, standing against the Klan and risking life, livelihood, friendships and his family’s safety.” In this lesson, students will learn about Carter’s brave actions through discussion and reading, and (optionally) by viewing and discussing a DVD, Editor and the Dragon. Students will explore related themes through creative writing, the examination of primary sources, and group work. Based on what they learn, students will then design a fictional citizenship award for Horace Carter, or they will create an anti-hate organization designed to combat groups such as the KKK.

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Throughout 1961, more than 400 engaged Americans rode south together on the “Freedom Rides.” Young and old, male and female, interracial, and from all over the nation, these peaceful activists risked their lives to challenge segregation laws that were being illegally enforced in public transportation throughout the South. In this lesson, students will learn about this critical period of history, studying the 1961 events within the context of the entire Civil Rights Movement. Through a PowerPoint presentation, deep discussion, examination of primary sources, and watching PBS’s documentary, “The Freedom Riders,” students will gain an understanding of the role of citizens in shaping our nation’s democracy. In culmination, students will work on teams to design a Youth Summit that teaches people their age about the Freedom Rides, as well as inspires them to be active, engaged community members today.

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This lesson will focus on how students of Historically Black Colleges and Universities created a culture of change and resistance that impacted the Civil Rights Movement within America. Utilizing varied sources, such as clips from the Southern Oral History Program’s recordings, film clips, articles, primary source documents, and various websites, students will work independently to discover how the agency and actions of HBCU students led to tangible social change, both in the areas surrounding their schools and across America.

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Throughout history, from American colonization until the mid-1900s, the American government designed and implemented various “educational” policies designed to assimilate, “Christianize,” and “civilize” indigenous peoples. With no regard for their varied and rich customs, traditions, values or lives, American Indians were subjected to numerous failed educational policies, serving as another example of the American government’s oppressive failings in regards to indigenous people. In this lesson, students will learn about the history of the education, or miseducation, of Native Americans/American Indians, as well as the various ways indigenous people have fought back and persevered, through interactive discussion based on an accompanying Power Point, the examination of primary sources, and art activities. By interpreting historical facts, photographs, reports, quotes, video clips, and other information, students will glean how the forced assimilation of Native children is an important chapter in understanding the government’s war on indigenous peoples, as well as how they and their cultures have survived despite such adversity.

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For forty years (between 1932 and 1972,) the U.S. Public Health Service conducted an experiment on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis. These men, for the most part illiterate sharecroppers from one of the poorest counties in Alabama, were never told what disease they were suffering from or of its seriousness. Informed that they were being treated for “bad blood,” their doctors had no intention of curing them of syphilis at all. Rather, data for the experiment was to be collected from autopsies of the men, who were deliberately left to degenerate. In this lesson, students will learn about the U.S. government’s "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male" via class discussion, a Power Point, and reading. After sharing their thoughts regarding how American should atone for such past wrongs, students will create a memorial designed to educate the public regarding the Tuskegee experiment.

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History has often been remiss in overlooking the crucial leadership and contributions of women during the Civil Rights Movement, focusing instead on the more prominent male leaders. In this lesson, students will explore the important roles women played in the acquisition of civil rights as participants, organizers and leaders, particularly focusing on four examples: Septima Clark, Ella Baker, Daisy Bates and Fannie Lou Hamer. Through the examination of various readings, video clips and oral history interviews with and about these women, students will gain the understanding that without women, the Civil Rights Movement could not have been as successful. Students will culminate their understanding by writing ode poems about the women involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

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In 1950, Henrietta Lacks, a young African American woman, entered the colored ward of the Johns Hopkins Hospital to begin treatment for cervical cancer. As she lay on the operating table, a sample of her cancerous cervical tissue was taken without her knowledge or consent and was developed into the ground-breaking HeLa cell line. In1976, a similar situation occurred when John Moore was treated for cancer at the UCLA Medical Center. His cells were also taken without his knowledge or consent and also used in the creation of a cell line, this one called “Mo.” In this lesson, students will examine the details of these two controversial stories through a Power Point presentation, class discussion, reading, and more. Students will grapple with questions such as what level of property rights, if any, a person has to their own body and ultimately, how society should balance interests for the “greater good” with human rights in medical research and experimentation. This lesson will culminate with students participating in a court simulation in which they argue and decide the case of John Moore themselves, finally learning how and discussing how the actual Supreme Court of California actually ruled.

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This lesson plan will address women’s suffrage and the history of the ratification of the 19th Amendment in North Carolina in conjunction with present-day voter suppression. Students will explore primary sources including images, petitions, and recordings from the Southern Oral History Project. They will also be asked to think about the relationship between women’s experiences advocating for the 19thAmendment and current-day experiences with voter suppression. They will think through forms of protest and produce documents advocating for the right to vote, modeled after the advocacy work of the women seeking to gain suffrage. This lesson adds to existing content on the history of women’s right to vote by focusing specifically on the experience of suffragists in North Carolina and by working through the relationship between historic and present-day voting rights.

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This lesson provides students an overview of southern foodways, introducing students to the cultural combinations that have served as the backbone for the region’s diverse cuisines. It focuses on the role that colonialism and slavery played in shaping the region’s food systems, as well as on the role that food has played in protests and transformations throughout Southern history. This lesson also gives a primer to food studies, showing students the ways in which food is tied to history, culture, and memory.

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Monuments and memorials are powerful symbols of our collective memory, and who/what societies choose to acknowledge and remember in such spaces can say a lot about our past and present. In this project, after exploring the A Red Record website, students will choose an individual off of the A Red Record site and (individually or in small groups) create some form of memorialization of the person’s life, the circumstances of their death, and the historical context of lynching that needs to be considered today.

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The On the Books website is a product of a digital scholarship project and will not be maintained in perpetuity. The site will be reviewed December 31, 2024. Depending on use, funding, and maintenance required, the site may be decommissioned and archived at that time. The text corpora created for this project will be preserved in the Carolina Digital Repository.
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