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.

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.

Filter the lessons by grade using the drop-down menu.

Students will examine changes in African American voting rights throughout North Carolina’s history. This lesson begins by reviewing key vocabulary. Students then independently research the history of African American voting rights in North Carolina using a primary source web quest or jig saw activity. Additional activities include administering a sample voting literacy test and having students create historical suffrage posters.

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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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This guide provides resources for using CROW in either the middle school Social Studies or Language Arts classroom, or ideally, as an interdisciplinary unit for both courses. Through the attached detailed reading guide, teachers can engage students in chapter by chapter discussions that encourage critical reading and higher order thinking. The numerous activity options provided allow students to creatively explore the fictional life of the characters as they relate to real world historical events through group work, drama, art, creative writing, deliberation, examination of primary source documents, and more. Teachers should preview the questions and activities provided and choose which best meet their particular course’s learning goals.

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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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In this lesson, students will learn about the various contributions and difficulties faced by African Americans during World War II. Students will study various primary source documents, participate in a PowerPoint centered discussion, and read excerpts from Uncommon Hero: The John Seagraves Story, which shares the story of John Seagraves, an African American man who served in the US Navy aboard the USS North Carolina (the most decorated battleship of WWII.) The lesson culminates with a project where students are responsible for creating a book cover about a topic for an anthology of African Americans and World War II.

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Blood Done Sign My Name, by Tim Tyson, examines the history of the civil rights struggle in the South. The book focuses on the murder of a young black man, Henry Marrow, in 1970, a tragedy that dramatically widened the racial gap in the author's hometown of Oxford, N.C. Tyson portrays the killing and its aftermath from multiple perspectives while interweaving the history of race relations in the South. This series of 13 lesson plans relies on excerpts from the book and interactive, engaging activities to assist students in untangling the complicated issues and beliefs surrounding race throughout North Carolina’s history to present. A reading guide is also included.

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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 with the “Journey of Reconciliation.” In this lesson, students will discuss the concept of democracy and through this lens, analyze the unjust Jim Crow laws that dominated the South. Through discussion, readings and the examination of primary sources, students will gain an understanding of how the period immediately following World War II set the stage for numerous challenges to Jim Crow, one of which was the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation. 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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In 1947, long before the more familiar civil rights events of the 1960s, the movement had already been set in motion with the “Journey of Reconciliation.” In this lesson, students will discuss the concept of democracy and through this lens, analyze the unjust Jim Crow laws that dominated the South. Through discussion, readings and the examination of primary sources, students will gain an understanding of how the period immediately following World War II set the stage for numerous challenges to Jim Crow, one of which was the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation. 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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Students will explore what it means to be an active, engaged citizen by sharing moments from their own lives. Students will then explore a tumultuous period of southern history, the Jim Crow Era, when it took numerous active, engaged citizens and community members to fight against the inequality and injustice of southern laws. This lesson will culminate with students teaching classmates about an historical figure representative of an active, engaged citizen by creating a “living” museum exhibit. (Teacher Note: The “living” museum activity can be used with any historical time period or theme throughout your curriculum.)

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The Jim Crow Era had a lasting impact on the history of the United States, but how far in the past do the roots of Jim Crow and segregation extend? What role did the infamous Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson play in entrenching segregation throughout America? 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 new Nation’s 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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Students will creatively interact with and display what they learn about a topic related to Rocky Mount Mills by creating a group museum exhibit.

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Students will evaluate the actions of various citizens during the Civil Rights Movement and how their actions brought about changes for society (then and now) through the examination of poetry, biographies, speeches, photographs, historical events, and civil rights philosophies.

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Students will evaluate the actions of various citizens during the Civil Rights Movement and how their actions brought about changes for society (then and now) through the examination of poetry, biographies, speeches, photographs, historical events, and civil rights philosophies.

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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 1898 white 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 1898 and 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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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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Students begin to explore the events and people associated with the Civil Rights Movement by making a timeline of people and events they already know. After watching a video clip of a discussion of the origins of the Civil Rights Movement and listening to audio clips from the Southern Oral History Program archives, students act as CSI “detectives,” locating evidence of the origins and duration of the Civil Rights movement. Students add their findings to the timeline via post it notes and discuss their findings as they relate to the following quote. "We, today, stand on the shoulders of our predecessors who have gone before us. We, as their successors, must catch the torch of freedom and liberty passed on to us by our ancestors. We cannot lose in this battle." ~ Benjamin E. Mays

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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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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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Prior to President Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford had already recognized the state’s troubles with poverty, illiteracy, low wages, and income inequality. In this lesson, students will learn about the North Carolina Fund, a series of experimental programs developed by Governor Sanford’s administration to address these challenges. Students will explore the North Carolina Fund’s components and its challenges and successes within the context of segregation and the fight for civil rights. Through the examination of photographs, a Power Point presentation, and discussion, students will learn how Governor Sanford’s innovative program – developed to be designed, administered, and operated by local communities – changed life in North Carolina and became a model for other poverty legislation. As a culminating project, students will use what they have learned, coupled with their own creative thinking, to prepare and submit their own North Carolina Fund proposal for improving poverty in the fictional county of Tar Heel, North Carolina.

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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 August 31, 2023 (three years after creation). 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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