African American

COINTELPRO: Teaching the FBI’s War on the Black Freedom Movement

Teaching Activity. By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca. 29 pages. Rethinking Schools. Through examining FBI documents, students learn the scope of the FBI’s COINTELPRO campaign to spy on, infiltrate, discredit, and disrupt all corners of the Black Freedom Movement.
Time Periods: 20th Century, People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974, Post-Civil Rights Era: 1975 - 2000
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Democracy & Citizenship, Organizing, Racism & Racial Identity
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The Color Line (Lesson) | Zinn Education Project

The Color Line

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. A lesson on the countless colonial laws enacted to create division and inequality based on race. This helps students understand the origins of racism in the United States and who benefits.
Time Periods: Colonization: 1492 - 1764, 18th Century
Themes: African American, Laws & Citizen Rights, Native American, Racism & Racial Identity, Slavery and Resistance
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Constitution Role Play: Whose “More Perfect Union”? and The Constitutional Convention: Who Really Won?

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. 23 pages. The U.S. Constitution endorsed slavery and favored the interests of the owning classes. What kind of Constitution would have resulted from founders who were representative of the entire country? That is the premise of this role play activity.
Time Periods: 18th Century, Revolution & Constitution: 1765 - 1799
Themes: African American, Democracy & Citizenship, Laws & Citizen Rights, Racism & Racial Identity, Slavery and Resistance, Social Class
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The Draft Riot Mystery

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. Students are invited to solve a mystery, using historical clues, about the real story of the Draft Riots.
Time Periods: 19th Century, Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864
Themes: African American, Democracy & Citizenship, Immigration, Racism & Racial Identity, Slavery and Resistance, Social Class, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements
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The Election of 1860 Featured Image

The Election of 1860 Role Play

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. A role play based on the election of 1860 allows students to explore the political debates of the time and the real reasons for the Civil War.
Time Periods: 19th Century, Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864
Themes: African American, Slavery and Resistance, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements
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Five Years After the Levees Broke: Bearing Witness Through Poetry (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Five Years After the Levees Broke: Bearing Witness Through Poetry

Teaching Activity. By Renée Watson. 7 pages. Rethinking Schools. A teacher's reflection on the power of poetry to spark critical discussion and reflection on current issues of inequality surrounding disaster response in the United States.
Time Periods: 21st Century, 2001 - Present
Themes: African American, Climate Justice, Environment, Art & Music, Language Arts, Laws & Citizen Rights, Media, Racism & Racial Identity
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The Fugitive's Song | Zinn Education Project

Frederick Douglass Fights for Freedom

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. A lesson to introduce students to the numerous and varied ways African Americans resisted their enslavement, using the autobiographical Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
Time Periods: 19th Century, Early 19th Century: 1800 - 1849
Themes: African American, Slavery and Resistance
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How Red Lines Built White Wealth: A Lesson on Housing Segregation in the 20th Century

Teaching Activity. By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca. Rethinking Schools. The mixer role play is based on Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law, which shows in exacting detail how government policies segregated every major city in the United States with dire consequences for African Americans.
Time Periods: 20th Century, 21st Century
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Economics, Laws & Citizen Rights
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collage of six Black abolitionists in the United States.

‘If There Is No Struggle…’: Teaching a People’s History of the Abolition Movement

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. 16 pages. Rethinking Schools. In this role play, students become members of the American Anti-Slavery Society, facing many of the real challenges to ending slavery.
Time Periods: 19th Century, Early 19th Century: 1800 - 1849, Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Democracy & Citizenship, Laws & Citizen Rights, Organizing, Racism & Racial Identity, Slavery and Resistance
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It’s a Mystery—White Workers Against Black Workers

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond. 8 pages. In this “mystery” activity, students receive clues and discuss some of the factors that contributed to the intensification of racism in the 1920s in the United States.
Themes: African American, Labor, Racism & Racial Identity
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Lessons in Solidarity: Grady Hospital Workers United (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Lessons in Solidarity: Grady Hospital Workers United

Teaching Activity. By Larry Miller. Rethinking Schools. Story and discussion questions about a teacher's own experience of labor solidarity.
Time Periods: 20th Century, People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Labor
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Poetry of Defiance: How the Enslaved Resisted

Teaching Activity. By Adam Sanchez. Through a mixer activity, students are introduced to the various ways that enslaved people resisted the brutal exploitation of slavery. The lesson culminates in a collective class poem highlighting the defiance of the enslaved.
Time Periods: Revolution & Constitution: 1765 - 1799, 19th Century, Early 19th Century: 1800 - 1849, Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864
Themes: African American, Language Arts, Slavery and Resistance
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Presidents and Slaves: Helping Students Find the Truth (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Presidents and the Enslaved: Helping Students Find the Truth

Teaching Activity. By Bob Peterson. 7 pages. Rethinking Schools. How a 5th grade teacher and his students conducted research to answer the question: “Which presidents owned people?” Available in Spanish.
Time Periods: 18th Century, 19th Century
Themes: African American, Education, Racism & Racial Identity, Slavery and Resistance
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Reading Between the Lines: An Art Contest Helps Students Imagine the Lives of Runaway Slaves (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Reading Between the Lines: An Art Contest Helps Students Imagine the Lives of Runaway Slaves

Teaching Activity. By Thom Thacker and Michael A. Lord. 4 pages. Rethinking Schools. An art contest is used as the basis from which students can examine primary historical documents (advertisements for runaway slaves) to gain a deeper understanding of the institution of slavery in the North.
Time Periods: Colonization: 1492 - 1764, 18th Century, Revolution & Constitution: 1765 - 1799, 19th Century, Early 19th Century: 1800 - 1849, Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864
Themes: African American, Racism & Racial Identity, Slavery and Resistance
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Reclaiming Hidden History: Students Create a Slavery Walking Tour in Manhattan (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Reclaiming Hidden History: Students Create a Slavery Walking Tour in Manhattan

Teaching Activity. By Alan J. Singer. Rethinking Schools. How a teacher and his students organized a tour of the hidden history of slavery in New York.
Time Periods: Colonization: 1492 - 1764, 18th Century, Revolution & Constitution: 1765 - 1799, 19th Century, Early 19th Century: 1800 - 1849, Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864
Themes: African American, Racism & Racial Identity, Slavery and Resistance
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Michele Roberts, environmental justice coordinator | Zinn Education Project

The Red Dot of Environmental Racism

Teaching Activity. By Alma Anderson McDonald. A teacher looks back on her childhood to discover the meaning of environmental racism. Linda Christensen offers ways to teach about this story with students.
Time Periods: 21st Century, 2001 - Present
Themes: African American, Climate Justice, Environment, Economics, Racism & Racial Identity
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A Revolution of Values

Teaching Activity. By Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 3 pages. Text of speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the Vietnam War, followed by three teaching ideas.
Time Periods: 20th Century, People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Imperialism, US Foreign Policy, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements
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School Days: Hail, Hail, Rock ‘n’ Roll! (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

School Days: Hail, Hail, Rock ‘n’ Roll!

Teaching Activity. By Rick Mitchell. Rethinking Schools. Description of a course on the history of music in the United States.
Time Periods: 20th Century, People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: African American, Art & Music, Civil Rights Movements, Racism & Racial Identity
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