The students in my African American History class became particularly interested in the mass incarceration of Black Americans after learning about the systems put in place in Jim Crow America to limit the freedoms promised by the 13th Amendment, to include sharecropping, tenant farming, chain gangs, debt slavery, etc. We drew connections to modern America by viewing the Netflix documentary, 13th.
The resources at the Zinn Education project on the Attica Prison Uprising were a perfect addition to this student-driven unit. We read the demands created by the Attica prisoners and turnkeyed the theme into creating a list of themes for our school.
Students expressed feeling targeted by our school security for dress code and tardy violations disproportionately compared to their white peers. By creating a list of demands similar to the Attica Uprising, students felt empowered and like they had an official voice for the administration to consider. We were even able to get our principal to come into our class for a thinktank as a results of the lists.