Lesson Plan 4: Growing Up in a Segregated Society, 1880s-1930s


1. For HS students an opening activity might be: place students in small groups and give each group a total of three Jim Crow laws. Fourteen examples of Jim Crow laws (including the three included in the Historical Background) are available at http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/what.htm Students should read the laws together and discuss what they think was the intent of each law and its impact on both blacks and whites.

2. Next tell students that they will be using a selection of primary source images to decide/answer the question: what was segregation? And note that we’ll start by working together on the notice/question/context process.

3. Instead of giving each student a copy of each image, better to laminate a reusable class set, and possibly have a copy on a smart board or overhead projector, of the three signs without the full caption. For each image provide the place and date where given, but save the full caption until students discuss what they noticed and ask their questions.

4. Direct students to work in pairs and distribute the chart. Request that students begin by thinking on their own. (This is a Think-Pair-Share activity.) Ask students to jot down on the chart what they notice 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.

5. Examples of things students might notice and question include: these are public signs, likely found in a variety of places commonly used including transportation (trains, busses), housing, hotels and restaurants; it seems important that no one gets these directions wrong (big, clear signs). Questions might include – where were these signs, in the south and/or beyond? What happens if one does not follow these instructions?

6. 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. Provide the rest of the caption. For HS students a variation for steps # 4-6 is to complete this activity in a large group setting. Students could call out what they notice about the various signs, and the teacher could record this information in the first column on a T chart under Notice on the board. In the second column, list the Questions the students have. For ES and MS students it would be useful first to scaffold their analysis of the primary source images. This could be done by breaking down the process into four steps:
* Take an overview look at the image
* Divide the image into four parts (a quadrilateral view) and examine each piece separately to note what one actually sees.
* Gather together all the information that they actually saw: what is actually there?
* Put their information together and make inferences: what conclusion(s) can they draw?

Best to have the teacher model this first, then teach students to do it, and next have students practice this process independently in their small groups.

7. Have students work in small groups using a laminated class set of the images, and give each group one of the other six primary source images. OR give each small group a set of the six images to work on. Note that once each group will be reporting out what they noticed and their questions – and that together they will be able to hypothesize an answer to the question – what was segregation?
• Drawing/cartoon “One Vote Less”
• Photo of KKK Parade in Washington
• Ballot “No Negro Equality”
• Poll Tax Receipt
• Photo of colored drinking fountain
• Photo of older black woman and little white girl

8. Examples of things students might notice, question, and what was segregation include can be found in attachment, "Chart for Images, Students & Teacher."  NOTE: To help students think about these images, you can expand on the categories in the chart as follows:

Notice or observations:  What do you notice? What symbols do you see?

Question: What do you want to know more about when you see the image?

What was segregation: How is this an example of segregation? What was the goal of segregation?    

9. 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. Provide the complete captions for each image.

10. Based on students’ observations and questions ask them to answer the question: what was segregation?

11. The next step is to connect students’ observations and questions to the historical context. Use the Historical Background and the Three-Part Time Line to do this in whatever method makes sense to you and your class. Be sure to acknowledge where students came up with historically accurate conclusions on their own from the primary sources.

12. Once they have a clearer sense of the system of segregation, tell students that they will be working with oral histories. Explain that oral history is the process in which people interview others about their experiences during a particular period, having framed questions thoughtfully and then listen carefully to what they say and record their answers. They will look particularly at what it was like growing up as an African American in this society. There are a variety of oral history excerpts to choose from, some have the docuemts and four have audio interviews as well (Chatmon, Gratton, Walker, and Cherry) and you can select as many as is practical. NOTE:  be sure to preview the documents and interviews to select those best for the age and maturity level of your students. We have also included a poem. If you choose both the oral history and the poem, best to make the distinction between the two.

13. For ES and possibly MS students it is useful for the teacher to model how to read and/or listen to the oral history excerpts before students begin to work on their own. Written excerpts from some people are also recorded: Olivia Cherry and Charles Gratton. The teacher should select one of these, give students written copies, and have students follow along as they listen. Next work with students and together answer these guiding questions:
a. What happened?
b. Who was involved?
c. What does this piece of history tell us about growing up in a segregated society?
d. What strategies, ways of thinking and acting did people use to deal with the harshness of segregation?

The remaining excerpts could be placed around the room at stations. Students could travel in groups from station to station listening to and reading the documents by answering the above guiding questions.

14. Distribute copies of one of the oral history excerpts and/or set up speakers with your computer to hear the audio. Direct students to read and/or listen carefully to what is happening.  After reading/listening to the excerpt, ask students to answer the above guiding questions which you can write on the board or a flip chart. ES teachers might read selected oral history excerpts aloud and direct their students to listen to and be able to describe the experience of the young person in each excerpt. Then in a language arts lesson, students could select one excerpt and write a journal entry about how they might feel if confronted with a particular situation. Many students by this age have faced – or seen – some form of prejudice or discrimination, so this is a good opportunity to make connections between their struggles and challenges and those faced by young people of a different era. HS students might skip the next activity for the sake of time. It is likely to work better with MS and ES students.

15. Direct students to work in their groups. Directions for students:
• If needed, refer to guidelines for effective group practice, such as noting various roles, the task of including all opinions, listening to each other, etc.
• Distribute copies of one or two excerpts of oral history per group of four or five students so that all students in a group have the same information. They can read it aloud or listen to an audio version, then discuss using the four guiding questions noted above what happened in the story, and what they think the story means in terms of what it was like to live in this society.
• The students’ next task will be to select one of the stories to retell, dramatize or draw/illustrate to share with the whole class.
To dramatize the story, they can use some of the retelling strategies, but the point here would be to have a narrator and perhaps some of the key people in the story speak about and/or act out the events. To draw or illustrate, students would need the appropriate materials (chart paper, markers, etc.), and they would decide on the key people and events, and draw them in sequence (as in a story board) or select one scene. To share their drawing, students would need to narrate some of the key points for emphasis.
• Have each group of students share their stories by using their chosen method, providing support and encouragement as they do this. Best if teachers can note key points made by each group to use in summary.

16. To debrief this activity the teacher should orally go through these questions with students so that they can sort out and reflect on what they have learned about growing up in the Jim Crow era. Specifically:
• What aspects of segregation were most challenging to raising resilient children and youth?
• What did these people value in their lives? • How did these families convey their values to their children?
• How did parents try to protect their children from the harshness of segregation? To what degree do you think they succeeded?

Wrap up for ES and MS students:
1. The activity above asks students to work in small groups to read and represent.
2. To assist students in making connections between the experiences growing up in a segregated society and their own lives, have students end this lesson by working on their own and writing in their journals using these sentence stems.
[Note: For ES students, this can be done as a language arts activity or as a discussion if time is short.]
• From reading, seeing and listening to these stories and presentations, I have learned that/ I will remember that …
• One or two events that stand out for me from these stories is/are … because…
• One thing in these stories that is like my experience growing up is … That is most different from my life experience is …
• The person/people I most admire from these stories is/ are… because…
• If I had lived during this era I probably would have…

3. Once students have completed this activity, ask for volunteers to share any one piece with the whole class.

Wrap up for HS students:
4. To assess HS students' understanding of growing up in a segregated society, ask students to put themselves in the situation of one of the speakers in the oral histories and describe in writing what they (the students) might have thought or felt, how they might have acted or behaved and why.  Once they have completed this activity, ask for volunteers to share any one piece with the whole class. 

Additional sources to explore the economic aspect of Jim Crow segregation. ES and MS students could use this information to teach the cycle of debt in a math lesson, with the teacher making a debt wheel. Use the vocabulary: opportunity and opportunity costs, and credit/debt/debt peonage. From Prof. Wendi Manuel-Scott’s PowerPoint Presentation: Cycle of debt “fixing the books”
“settlin’ time”
Debt peonage
Credit system
Vagrancy laws
Convict lease system
Involuntary servitude Sharecropper Contract, 1882.

To every one applying to rent land upon shares, the following conditions must be read, and agreed to. To every 30 and 35 acres, I agree to furnish the team, plow, and farming implements . . . The croppers are to have half of the cotton, corn, and fodder (and peas and pumpkins and potatoes if any are planted) if the following conditions are complied with, but-if not-they are to have only two-fifths (2/5) . . . All must work under my direction. . . . No cropper is to work off the plantation when there is any work to be done on the land he has rented, or when his work is needed by me or other croppers. . . . Every cropper must feed or have fed, the team he works, Saturday nights, Sundays, and every morning before going to work, beginning to feed his team (morning, noon, and night every day in the week) on the day he rents and feeding it to including the 31st day of December. ...for every time he so fails he must pay me five cents. The sale of every cropper's part of the cotton to be made by me when and where I choose to sell, and after deducting all they owe me and all sums that I may be responsible for on their accounts, to pay them their half of the net proceeds. Work of every description, particularly the work on fences and ditches, to be done to my satisfaction, and must be done over until I am satisfied that it is done as it should be.
SOURCE: Grimes Family Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in Robert D. Marcus and David Burner, eds., America Firsthand (1992), pp. 306—308. From Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South.