In my U.S. History class I teach a lesson about the African American experience in WWII using primary sources. Students read the James Thompson editorial “Should I Sacrifice to Live Half American?” from the Pittsburg Courier and the Double V campaign. Students later consider Executive Order 9981, which desegregated the military, and write their own editorial like James Thompson about racial equality in America and in the military.
The book Half American has sparked many ideas to add depth and empathy to this lesson. Additionally, the book was fascinating and engaging to read, and I really appreciate the Zinn Education Project for providing this book to me for free to add to my personal and professional library.
This lesson always sparks very good conversation about what it means to be an American and the important and unique struggle for rights minority groups like Black Americans have led. This lesson gets students to see part of the story of the long Civil Rights Movement that began well before the sit-ins and bus boycotts.
In conjunction with this lesson, I also teach one about the Japanese-American experience in WWII that adds complexity to students’ understanding of rights and freedoms in wartime and how minorities face unique challenges and experiences. All told, this book has added so much to my ability to teach a richer and more complete U.S. stories.