Lorraine Dresch

I did the When the Impossible Suddenly Became Possible: A Reconstruction Mixer by Adam Sanchez and Nqobile Mthethwa with my Africana Studies class. It took one day to read and annotate their character files, two days for the actual mixer portion, and one day for the debriefing conversation.

This is a small class of 8 students, mostly 9th graders, so we had a lot fewer characters in our mixer than in the original version! However, due to the size of the class, students had to speak to every person in order to complete the handout, so it was a good opportunity for shy students to practice exchanging ideas with their peers and feel more comfortable going up to people in the class. The activity built a better sense of community in the classroom because they needed each other, rather than only looking to the teacher for information.

During the debriefing conversation at the end of the activity, students made insightful connections between social movements during this historical moment and those in the Civil Rights Era. One student pointed out how female members of the Civil Rights Movement and those who might not have been considered “respectable” enough, like Claudette Colvin, are frequently left out of the narrative of civil rights, which is similar to how men such as Wendell Phillips centered Black men in the movement for Black rights.

Several students were bewildered and flabbergasted that they had never been taught about the racism of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. One student said, “I learn something new every day in this class that challenges what I thought I knew! If you would have asked me who fought for women’s right to vote, I would have immediately told you Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Now I know they were mainly fighting for white women’s rights.” This led to an insightful conversation about dominant historical narratives of activists and how they flatten the complexities of striving for and achieving change for marginalized groups in the U.S.

Thanks for an excellent learning experience, Zinn Ed Project!