Lesson 3: The Impact of the Jim Crow Era on Education, 1877-1930s


1. Hook: Begin with Orange and Blue Activity. The purpose of this activity is to introduce the concept of discrimination, make it concrete to younger students, and provide an opportunity for students to experience and reflect on it. See “Rules” for Orange and Blue Activity at end of this lesson for set up and instructions. * As an alternate activity, particularly for older students, the teacher can review the Supreme Court case, Plessy v. Ferguson. The class will examine Justice Henry Brown’s opinion and use the primary source to write down information pulled from the document and also historical information the document implies. Justice Brown’s opinion and an example of what students might note are attachments.

2. Using the experiences and reflections of students in the above activity, ask the students to work in pairs to discuss what they think discrimination is. Have students compare their ideas to your textbook’s definition. The textbook we used defines discrimination as: an unfair difference in the treatment of people. The American Heritage Dictionary defines discrimination as: treatment or consideration based on class or category, rather than individual merit.

3. Next, provide several copies of each primary source document to the students. The primary sources the students will use are listed below and also are provided as primary sources. The students should examine the documents, noting specific information they identify and historic information implied. ES and MS students should follow the same steps as the alternate “hook” activity. For HS students:
• Letter from Raleigh C. Minor to members of the Constitutional Convention, 1901

• Flyer - "No White Man to Lose His Vote", 1901

• The Daily Progress , October 4, 1902, “The Recent Voter Registration Drive”

• Excerpt from the Virginia Constitution of 1902

4. Once the students have had enough time to analyze the documents, return to a whole group to discuss what the students noticed. Share additional examples of how discrimination affected African Americans. For example, by 1892, no public offices in Virginia were held by African Americans and whites had numerous tactics to prevent African Americans from voting or sway them to vote a certain way. The first four paragraphs of the Historical Background (up to but not including section on the 1901-02 Virginia Constitutional Convention) include additional examples of Jim Crow treatment at this time.

5. Next, tell students that in 1901-02 some Virginians held a Constitutional Convention to revise the Constitution of 1869.

6. Help students remember what they learned about Reconstruction by asking them to recall key points from the role-play in the previous lesson “A Look at Virginians During Reconstruction.”

7. The students will compare the Constitutions of 1869 and 1902. Create this chart on the board or chart paper and ask students to use what they learned in the previous lesson to help you fill in the 1869 boxes [see attachment].

8. Next provide the information about the 1902 Constitution for boxes 1-4 [answers in italics]. Ask students what decisions (#5) they think were made in 1902, and why. It is important for students to recognize that, without having freedmen and their allies present at the Convention, the gains they made in voting and education were lost or seriously eroded. A chart is attached that outlines information from the Constitutional Conventions in 1869 and 1902.

9. Students will next assess the impact of the Virginia Constitution of 1902 on the lives of Virginians. To do this they will examine early 20th century photos of both white and colored Virginia schools, and a comparative chart of teachers’ salaries. NOTE: The steps below are based on photos of colored and white schools in Halifax County, Virginia, and the average monthly salaries of colored and white teachers compared.

10. Give each student a copy (and possibly have a copy on a smart board or overhead projector) of the photos of colored and white schools in Halifax County, Virginia.

11. Direct students to work on their own then in pairs to look closely at each photo and jot down on paper what they notice about each photo and also make a note of any questions they have. These are purposely open-ended tasks, with the goal being for students to focus and think first on their own, and then to have pairs of students discuss what they found.

12. Examples of things students might notice in the photos and question include: that the colored school is small, possibly one or two rooms, built of wood, with few windows, one door; a roof that may well leak; seems likely to be hot in summer and cold in winter, etc. On the other hand the white school is a much larger, three-floor structure made from brick, stone, and concrete, with large windows and doors; likely that it is comfortable year-round, etc. Students might question what it was like to be a student in each one and how it affected their lives as students, what parents of the colored students did about these circumstances, etc.

13. Reconvene the class as a whole and ask students to share what they noticed and the questions they had, and write their basic points on the board under Notice and Questions. Answer questions as you can.

14. Before going on to the context, ask students to examine the chart comparing average monthly salaries of colored and white teachers between 1905 and 1917. Again have students work on their own then in pairs to look closely at the chart and jot down on paper what they notice and also make a note of any questions they have.

15. In this case, examples of things students might notice and question include: that white male teachers are paid about twice as much as colored male teachers over this period, that white female teachers get more but not as much more than colored female teachers, that there is also a clear and consistent gender inequality, etc. Students might ask about the worth of a dollar then, or about inflation.

16. Reconvene the class as a whole and ask students to share what they noticed and the questions they had, and write their basic points on the board under Notice and Questions. Answer questions as you can.

17. The next step is to connect students’ observations and questions from the Orange and Blue Activity to the photos and chart to the historical context. Again, use the relevant section of the Historical Background and the Three-Part Time Line to do this in whatever method makes sense to you and your class.

18. Wrap up. Direct ES students to write their reflections on discrimination, including their thoughts and feelings from the Orange and Blue Activity and the primary sources they have examined. Then ask students to use what they have learned to predict what they think Jasper, his family, and his community will do in the face of segregation. This can be done in the form of a brainstorm or in journals with structured questions. NOTE: Students can work in pairs then share both their predictions which the teacher can record and keep – and use to compare with what actually happens in the next lessons on growing up in a segregated society, the founding of the Laurel Grove School and other colored schools in Fairfax County, and daily experience of the Laurel Grove School, 1925. Another, more concrete option is to have ES students work in pairs to create dioramas comparing black and white segregated schools. Suggest that students present their work to class explaining how these schools might be seen from different points of view, including black and white students, teacher, and/or parents.

Ask MS students to write newspaper articles reporting the 1902 or a journal from any perspective about the 1902 Convention. The students should focus on the effects on daily lives of people at this time. A final possibility is that students curate a museum exhibit using photographs and other materials. The students should consider which items will best tell the story of Jim Crow education in Virginia, provide captions for the items which ties the discriminatory actions of state and local school boards to the 1902 Virginia Constitution.