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“The Influence & Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities on the Civil Rights Movement,” Gr. 8-12

“It is important for me to challenge my students as they grow into young adults,” explained Wake County Public School teacher and 2017 Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellow Iris Robinson. Her lesson on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their role in the Civil Rights Movement is a perfect example of how teachers can accomplish this in their classrooms. Taking students from the end of the Civil War to the present day, Robinson highlights the role of HBCU alumni in sparking and carrying out the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In doing so, she specifically highlights how these institutions gave these future activists “the opportunity to be affirmed, be yourself, [and] exist in an unapologetic black space.”

In this lesson, students start by learning why HBCU’s were established to begin with. To initiate this discussion on historical discrimination and segregation in higher education, Robinson uses a clip from the SOHP’s interview with Pauli Murray, who was rejected from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1938 on the basis of her race. “While this excerpt highlights the importance of fighting for equal access to all educational institutions,” students are asked, “how does Pauli Murray’s struggle also highlight the important of HBCUs?”

Once equipped with necessary background information on the need for and value of HBCU’s, students conduct their own research on the influence of these institutions during the Civil Rights Movement. Among other primary and secondary sources, SOHP interview clips from Julian Bond and Ella Baker guide students through their exploration of how these institutions brought young civil rights activists together. In a manner consistent with her aim to challenge students, Robinson has created a lesson that thoroughly exposes students to the culture of change and resistance fostered at HBCUs.

Read the full lesson plan and download it for yourself here.