Lesson Plans

1950 to Present

The Cold War and Brown v. Board of Education
Author: John P. Bonfils
School: Damascus High
Grade Level: 9th
Time Estimated: 2 Days

Enduring Understanding

This lesson is designed to show the historical connection between the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement. Even though these two historical periods overlap they are rarely connected to each other in the classroom. This activity will help students to make historical connections by analyzing primary sources.

At the end of World War II and the Holocaust many Americans were aware that racial segregation in American is was in conflict with the image and ideas America was articulating aboard. Still many resisted the social impetus to change. In the 1940’s and 50’s the Soviet Union used propaganda to take advantage of this contradiction in American ideology. Soviet propaganda was quick to link capitalism to racism and tag it “freedoms American style.” Did this powerful propaganda create a new impetus for social change in America?


Students will be able to analyze primary sources and evaluate the information by making historical connections.

Students will write a BCR on whether of not foreign policy was a contributing factor to the decision.


Unit 9.7: “Balance in Foreign Policy”



Day One

Tell students that today they will examine if propaganda in the Soviet Union could have influenced the outcome of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Students will be given a few minutes for a quick warm-up to activate prior knowledge regarding the image of United States after World War II. Teachers should use this time to discuss the U.S. role as a leader of the world democracies. Warm Up questions:

  • How do its allies and other democracies view the United States in 1954?
  • How is the United States viewed by the communist’s nations of the world in 1954?

Begin by looking at anti-American propaganda produced in the Soviet Union. Students will complete the Political Poster Analysis Worksheet using the poster in the Posters from the Soviet Union file. Teachers can reproduce these in a number of ways. I print them as full page pictures for the students to work in small groups with six pictures. Then I put all six on to a Flip Chart (Promethean technology) or PowerPoint (Microsoft) to review with the entire class. They will analyze one poster at a time and then record their analysis on the chart. Student will not be able to read the Russian words, so explain that they should only interpret what they see. When students have had sufficient time to review all six posters the teacher should review and discuss. A key has been provide to help the teachers read the Russian words on the posters and explain to students. Have students complete the summary for homework.

Day Two

On day two students should work individually on the Document Analysis. Teachers may want to take time to review the answers with students and contrast them with the previous day’s activity.

Once the Document Analysis is complete students can write a BCR (short essay).

The Cold War and Brown v. Board of Education BCR

  • In your opinion did Foreign Policy influence the Brown v. Board of Education decision?
  • Identify and explain two specific examples or instances.
  • Use details and examples to support your answer.


Day One: Students should complete the summary on the Political Poster Analysis Worksheet for homework.


This lesson is designed for honors and on-level 9th grade. The lesson can be modified for special education students by analyzing each poster one by one with the class. After having the students view the cartoon, as a class, discuss what the students see. It is also possible to complete only the first day of the assignment.


BCR or Political Cartoon Assignment

References: Web

Jim Crow and Black Segregation, World War II History Info
This is a Stephan Ambrose website from his book Citizen Solider.
Soviet Propaganda Against USA, English Russia
This is an excellent website that contains posters of Soviet propaganda and pictures of the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s.
Views and Reviews: Soviet Political Posters and Cartoons, Brown University
This is another excellent website for Soviet propaganda and political cartoons.
Dwight D. Eisenhower's Little Rock Response, TeacherVision
This website shows the full text of President Eisenhower’s response to the crisis in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.
Brown v. Board of Education in International Context, Supreme Court of the United States
This website contains the writings of Ruth Bader Ginsburg regarding how Chief Justice Earl Warren was influenced by international events.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Answers.com
This website contains print friendly versions of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.