Teaching Activities (Free)

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
Cigar Makers' International Union of San Francisco stating "white made" cigars. | Image: University of California System

Cigar Makers’ International Union of San Francisco label stating “white labor” cigars, 1887. Source: University of California System.

A major obstacle to solidarity between workers has been and remains racial discrimination. Racism is so deeply embedded in our society that many students experience it as part of human nature. It’s a Mystery probes some of the social factors that contributed to racism in the 1920s.

One focus of this lesson is to explore why unions participated in racist practices. Unions are not only vehicles through which workers attempt to better themselves and their society, they can also embody elements of the society that their members have a stake in changing.

This is one of the 16 lessons available from The Power In Our Hands from Rethinking Schools.