Category Archives: Historical Programming

Five Resources for Teaching About Racism

There has been heated debate about how to teach racism and social justice in schools. Part of this rhetoric centers on whether or not white teachers can effectively teach racism and social justice since they have been the beneficiaries of privilege and members of the dominant American culture for hundreds of years. 

I feel that it is the job of a History teacher to inspire curiosity. To do this I pair film and literature in my high school History classes and then let my students create inquiry projects that demonstrate their learning. There are too many facts, figures, events, and readings and too little time to teach civil rights history comprehensively, but good teachers help students make connections between different historical periods and contemplate the type of society they wish to create and participate in.

Following are five resources that I have used to inspire my students to explore the Civil Rights Movement via independent inquiry.

The Best of Enemies directed by Robin Bissell starring Sam Rockwell and Taraji Penda Henson examines a racially-charged charette that takes place in the summer of 1971 in Durham, North Carolina. Without spoiling the ending, there are worthy themes in the treatment of US veterans returning from World War I, World War Two, and Vietnam that deserve student examination through a racial lens. While this movie has been criticized for having a white savior narrative, I found Ms. Henson’s portrayal of the activist Ann Atwater and Babou Ceesay’s performance as Bill Riddick worthy of sharing with my students.

Unexampled Courage by Richard Gergel is a powerful and moving piece of non-fiction that situates the Civil Rights Movement in the Truman administration’s 1948 Executive Order 9981. The blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring is a story that deserves a wider audience. There are strong parallels to the treatment of the Harlem Hellfighters after WWI and the Red Summer of 1919 that students should examine via individual inquiry.

I Am Not Your Negro directed by Raoul Peck was nominated for an Academy award for Best Documentary Feature. It’s hard to believe this 2016 film lost the Oscar to OJ – Made In America. The words written by James Baldwin are masterfully woven with contemporary footage of racial unrest from Charlottesville with narration from Samuel L. Jackson that presents the Civil Rights movement through the assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcom X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This film made me want to read more of the great work of James Baldwin

Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides takes readers on the FBI manhunt for MLK’s assassin. It is a well-researched and detailed look into the life and inner circle of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as it pivoted from the Civil Rights movement to the Poor People’s March. One of my students declared this was the best book he’d read in his life. I would have a hard time disagreeing with him. Another student continued researching members of Dr. King’s inner circle and was gratified to find that Ralph Abernathy and Hosea Williams remained advocates for the poor and protested against the Apollo 11 mission

Image result for ralph abernathy apollo 11

Lighting the Fires of Freedom by Janet Dewart Bell looks at the contributions of nine unheralded African American women in the Civil Rights Movement. Each chapter is a detailed oral history featuring the type of historical writing all that teachers should be using as models for their students. I found the chapter featuring Medgar Evers’ widow, Myrlie, particularly heart-breaking when she describes visiting the house where her husband was assassinated.

“Today when I visit my former home, which my children and I deeded to Tougaloo College as a museum, I can still see the blood. We needed to get away from that place. Our oldest son, Darrell Kenyatta, reached a point where he refused to eat, he would not study, he would not talk. He went into this very, very angry withdrawal mode. I knew we needed to be away from the house. My daughter would go to bed with her dad’s picture, holding it every night. The youngest one, Van, who was three, would go to bed with this little rifle. I knew that we could no longer live in that house” (p. 201).

Making historical events personal and relevant is the first job of a History teacher. I aspire to help my students see themselves in shaping the future of America. Redressing grievances is part of our Historical DNA. Presenting these resources to your students will help them develop their own understanding of racism, social justice, and the Civil Rights Movement. I hope you will share your work with a supportive community of teachers and together we can help our students move America closer toward the ideals of all men (and women) being created equal.

History Book vs Video Lecture

I operate flipped classroom where students watch video lectures with Zaption questions embedded in them for homework, then we read, practice writing and note-taking drills and complete projects in class. After three years of this work I developed two hypotheses: 1) Students with higher reading scores prefer reading the book to viewing the video lectures; and 2) Students with lower reading scores prefer viewing the video lectures to reading the book.

This week, I asked two samples of students to describe which learning format they preferred. The results soundly debunked my assumptions. While both groups of students preferred the video lectures to the textbook, 36% of students with lower reading levels preferred taking notes from the book rather than viewing video lectures.

Book v VL

Students who favored the video lecture to the book made comments like:

  • I think I am learning more from the videos because they give off more information, they clarify what the topic is about, and I can rewind the video in case I didn’t get that last piece of information.
  • Personally, the video lectures help a lot more than taking notes on the book. I can spend more time on the video, the book is more flat. In the video, main points are emphasized. It’s slightly harder to pick out key points from the book. My brain works better when it comes to listening because when it comes to reading, my eyes tend to skim and I can miss key information.
  • I like the video lecture better because it tells us what to write. You can take your time and you can rewind the video. In the book, it takes a long time looking for what information you are going to write in your notes. When I open the book it’s just like no and it’s not interesting. The book doesn’t capture my attention.

Students who preferred the book to the video lectures made comments like:

  • I think the book helps me better because you can go back and easily find something you missed, you can easily flip through pages to find something, and it is less distracting.
  • Taking notes from the book helps you go at your own pace. You can read as fast or as slow as you want. The book is easier to go back to a sentence or paragraph than the video. The book makes it more simple because you can study and annotate in a way that you will understand.
  • I work better with books, they have less complications. I am a hands-on learner, books get to the point. Video-lectures can have complications. WiFi can go down, you run out of data, problems can happen. Books are always there to be picked up and read.

These results seem to validate the flipped classroom approach. When students view video lectures which preview vocabulary terms, names and events first, they are building background knowledge. Then, when students encounter these terms, names, and events in their reading, they have familiarity with them and it is easier for the new knowledge to “stick.” Regardless of which learning method students prefer when these two methods are paired, the video acts as an anticipation guide priming the pump in a student’s memory and reinforcing the stickiness of the information in the reading. My big takeaway? Remember to listen to your students. It turns out they also are your customers.

History on TV in October

This month’s TV Plus column (p. 26) from The Social Studies Professional features the following films.

Iwo Jima: From Combat to Comrades Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 8:00–9:00pm PST KQED PBS Follow survivors of perhaps the fiercest battle of World War II as they return to Iwo Jima for a Reunion of Honor on the only battlefield where former enemies come together in shared remembrance.

Debt of Honor: Disabled Veterans in American History Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 9:00–10:00 pm PST KOCE PBS/ Steeplechase Films Take an unflinching look at the reality of warfare and disability in this history of disabled veterans. Witness moving interviews with “some of the country’s most prominent disabled veterans.”

American Comandante (American Experience) Tuesday, November 17, 2015, 9:00–10:00pm PST PBS/WGBH Meet William Morgan, the larger-than-life American who rose to power in Cuba during the revolution. His life had it all — adventure and romance, mobsters and spies, and a cast of characters including J. Edgar Hoover, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro.

Up Heartbreak Hill (POV) November 2015 PBS/ American Documentary Thomas and Tamara are track stars at their rural New Mexico high school. Like many teenagers, they are torn between the lure of brighter futures elsewhere and the ties that bind them to home. For these teens, however, home is an impoverished town on the Navajo reservation, and leaving means separating from family, tradition and the land that has been theirs for generations. Take a moving look at a new generation of Americans struggling to be both Native and modern.

History on TV

Dear Parents: Did you know that 55% of your child’s academic vocabulary comes from their Social Studies classes?

Marzano 55%

It is important that students read, view, and discuss historical content in school and at home. The National Council of Social Studies puts together a monthly TV Plus column. This post is reblogged from The Social Studies Professional (p. 28) September 2015. Please consider viewing some of these programs with your child and discussing them around the dinner table.

Civil War

The Civil War (Documentary’s 25th Anniversary) Monday-Friday, September 7–11, 2015. Explore America’s most destructive and defining conflict, brought to life in the epic award-winning documentary produced and directed by Ken Burns. This newly restored high-definition version marks the 25th anniversary of the initial 1990 premiere.

body_life-line_1

Life on the Line: Coming of Age Between Two Nations September 8 and 9, 2015. PBS/Fine Line Films Follow a year in the life of 11-year-old Kimberly Torrez, who crosses the border in Nogales, Mexico, each day to attend school across the line in Arizona. Her father needs a liver transplant; her mother awaits a visa to allow her to live in the United States.

One Two Fronts

On Two Fronts—Latinos & Vietnam Tuesday, September 22, 2015. PBS/Souvenir Pictures Examine the Latino experience during a war that placed its heaviest burden on the working class. Framing the documentary are memoirs of two siblings who stood on opposite sides of the Vietnam War, one as a prisoner of war, and the other a protestor at home.

lord-of-ants-prog

E.O. Wilson—Of Ants and Men Wednesday, September 30, 2015. PBS/Shining Red Productions Review the remarkable life and ground-breaking ideas of biologist E.O. Wilson, founder of the discipline of sociobiology, world authority on insects, and Pulitzer-prize winning writer on the subject of human nature.