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Looking for a lesson plan on civil rights your students can relate to? Try “Education and Civil Rights,” Grades 6-8

Catawba County middle school teacher Susan Anauo often finds herself “sharing historical and cultural stories” with her students to help them cultivate an informed worldview. For her 2017 Carolina Oral History Teaching Fellow lesson plan “Education and Civil Rights,” she shares stories, cultural creations, and reflections on segregation in education. The goal of the lesson: to “lead students to reflect on the importance of education and access to quality education in terms of personal growth, fulfillment and equality.”

Anauo brings in a variety of material for students to explore, including songs, poems, newspaper articles, and, of course, oral histories. The first part of the lesson serves to familiarize students with what much of the Civil Rights Movement sought to remedy: educational segregation and disparity. Clips from the SOHP archives—including from civil rights activists Benjamin Chavis Muhammad on desegregating the Oxford, Mississippi public library as a middle schooler and Elijah Richardson on the difficulties he faced after being transferred to the all-white New Hanover High School in Wilmington, North Carolina following integration—introduce students to how we can “learn from listening to the people who actually did experience these times.” After these voices introduce the topic of the lesson, Anauo has students explore Mississippi Freedom School publications created by students themselves, including “Why Do They Hate Us? What Has the Negro Done?” by Florence Seymour, “Mine” by Alice Jackson, and “Isn’t it Awful” by Edith Moore. These pieces simultaneously serve to demonstrate how black students felt about education disparities in the 1960s, while also highlighting their empowerment through writing for Freedom School newspapers.  

On the second day, oral history clips from Margaret Walker on how education made her “rich” and Aaron Henry on the desegregation of education even after the dissolution of Jim Crow finish the lesson. Students are left understanding the hope and richness that access to education can provide—as well as the tenuous nature of education equality today.

Access the lesson plan and the accompanying PowerPoint.