In my AP English Language class, which focuses on non-fiction, I use several texts to explore systemic injustices including The Color of Law. I use excerpts from Chapter 4, “Own Your Own Home” in conjunction with Chapter 4 from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and ask students to compare how Jurgis and his family suffer exploitation with what happened to African Americans.
I use period pamphlets and maps, particularly redlining maps, so the students can study them using graphic organizers from the Library of Congress or National History Day. It’s important for the students to explore the documents within the framework of Rothstein’s text and a guiding set of questions rather than have me tell them what they’re seeing.
I also incorporate excerpts from Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow to compare the explicit government regulations that result in systemic racism with Chapter 5, “Private Agreements, Government Enforcement.” We examine government statutes to determine what the law actually says, as opposed to what is enforced. Bringing in the historical Green Book and excerpts from James Loewen’s Sundown Towns also provide students with sometimes unexpected perspectives from which to consider the past.