Lesson Plans

Education In Action

Check out lesson plans for culturally sustaining instruction and healthy classroom conversations about this nation’s past and present. Over time, we will add original and curated lesson plans with topical and grade filters.

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Lesson Plan

This three-part, six hour series examines this country’s response to one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the twentieth century. Americans consider themselves a “nation of immigrants,” but as the Holocaust unfolded in Europe, the United States proved unwilling to open its doors to more than a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of desperate people seeking refuge. Through firsthand testimony of witnesses and survivors, the series delves into the tragic human consequences of public indifference, bureaucratic red tape, and quota laws.

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This unit for secondary emergent bilingual students (easily adaptable for reluctant readers) is designed to develop students’ confidence and sense of autonomy in reading through the intellectually substantive graphic novel Maus. Maus deals with the traumatic history and enduring legacy of the Holocaust through multiple narratives of a father, mother and son. Ongoing lesson activities involving vocabulary study and reading strategies support students’ comprehension of the novel. Since Maus is the story of a son telling his father’s story, students make personal connections to the text as they interview a family member and retell a story about that person’s past. Students use websites listed in the lesson resources for research into World War II, the Holocaust and human rights. Structured discussion encourages students to relate human rights concepts to events in the novel, historical events and events in their own experience.

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Recently, Texas schools and those in dozens of other states banned books deemed inappropriate by politicians and a few parents, although many have been in school libraries for years. Why are books — especially those about people of color and queer individuals — now being banned? Watch the video clip below from NBC News and use this banned books lesson plan to work through discussion questions and exercises.

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In this lesson, students will explore and discuss the history and context around the Juneteenth holiday in the United States. Topics explored will include the history of racial injustice in the United States, the Civil War and the limitations of the Emancipation Proclamation. Additionally, students will be encouraged to explore the modern significance of Juneteenth and its long-term impact.

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Learn how Rose Schneiderman, an immigrant whose family settled in the tenements of New York City’s Lower East Side, became one of the most important labor leaders in U.S. history. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about Mary Church Terrell, daughter of former slaves and one of the first Black women to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, who became a national leader for civil rights and women’s suffrage. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Tye Leung Schulze became the first Chinese American woman to work for the federal government and the first Chinese American woman to vote in a U.S. election, in 1912. Learn how this inspiring woman resisted domestic servitude and an arranged child marriage to provide translation services and solace to Asian immigrant victims of human trafficking in San Francisco. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about Maggie Lena Walker, the first Black woman to found a bank in the United States. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Students learn about Lois Weber, the first woman director of a feature film, and her impact on silent film and early Hollywood. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about actress Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star, producer and one of the most influential style icons of her time. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about Zitkála-Šá, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, a Yankton Sioux author, composer and indigenous rights activist. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Students will watch three episodes of the UNLADYLIKE2020 series of 26 short films and explore the similarities in issues affecting these women while also identifying the qualities that made them unique. The lessons are about finding common threads between the women and also between the past and the present. This student-centered lesson follows the ‘5E’ instructional model. Students will explore the lives of these incredible figures through a gallery walk, discuss their findings, research events of the present and create their own gallery walk to present their research.

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Sonora Webster Carver became one of the most famous horse divers in the world, diving 40 feet on horseback into a tank of water. Webster was blinded after one of her performances in 1931 but continued to dive horses for another 11 years. Learn how this inspiring woman persevered, undaunted by her blindness. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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In 1916, Margaret Chung became the first U.S.-born Chinese female doctor. Throughout her career, Chung persevered against discrimination based on her race, gender, and presumed sexuality. Learn about Chung’s inspiring career in medicine and her contributions to the U.S. war effort during WWII. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Explore how Bessie Coleman became the first female Black pilot and the first Black person to hold an international license to fly. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about record-breaking swimmer Gertrude Ederle who rocketed to international stardom in 1926 at the age of 20, as the first woman to swim across the English Channel. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Williamina Fleming was a trailblazing astronomer and discoverer of hundreds of stars who paved the way for women in science. Learn about her contributions to the fields of astronomy and astrophysics. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about artist Meta Warrick Fuller, forerunner to the Harlem Renaissance. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about the pioneering industrial engineer and psychologist, Lillian Moller Gilbreth. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about Jovita Idar, a teacher, journalist, nurse and civil rights activist who grew up in Texas and endeavored to expose segregation, lynching and other injustices endured by Mexican Americans in the early 20th century. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Sissieretta Jones was heralded as one of the greatest singers of her generation and a pioneer in the operatic tradition at a time when access to most classical concert halls in the United States were closed to Black performers and patrons. Learn more about this trailblazing classical performer. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series..

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Queen Lili‘uokalani was the first sovereign queen, and the last monarch, of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. At the time of her reign, a new Hawaiian constitution imposed by white Americans had reduced the voting rights of Hawaiian citizens and much of the monarchy’s powers, transferring power to U.S. business owners and missionaries. Learn how Lili‘uokalani fought to restore native Hawaiian rights. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about Annie Smith Peck, one of the first women in America to become a college professor and who took up mountain climbing in her forties. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first American Indian physician and the first to found a private hospital on an American Indian reservation. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about the life and scientific achievements of botanist, explorer and environmentalist Ynés Mexía. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn how Jeannette Rankin became the first woman in U.S. history elected to the U.S. Congress, representing the state of Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Protest songs serve as a means to combat social ills and cover a wide array of topics, including racism, sexism, poverty, imperialism, environmental degradation, war and homophobia. This lesson makes a connection to popular culture by asking students to work in pairs to research and analyze contemporary and historic protest songs.

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This lesson is based on Kagan’s cooperative learning structure: “Find Someone Who…” Determine how much the class knows about Mexican American history and culture in San Antonio.

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Dr. Rolando Avila, in this collection of 40 lesson plans, brings the era of the American Civil War in the opportunity to understand the significant role the region played in the larger conflict.

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In this lesson, students read the book ¡Si, Se Puede!/Yes, We Can!: Janitor Strike in L.A., and discuss unions, strikes and organizing for change. Students then develop questions and interview a staff member in their school to learn about their daily work life. Students determine the criteria for effective letters and write letters to the editor advocating for fair wages and working environments (or another local, contemporary work-related issue). Students draft their letters, then peer review and revise them. Finally, they publish their letters using an online tool, and mail a copy to the newspaper, if desired.

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Learn about the trailblazing, gender non-conforming performer Gladys Bentley with this digital short from Unladylike2020.

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Learn how Louise Arner Boyd defied expectations and gender roles to become a world famous Arctic explorer. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Learn about Martha “Mattie” Hughes Cannon, an accomplished physician, suffragist and the first woman state senator in the United States, elected in 1896 in the state of Utah. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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Corridos, as a world ballad tradition, afford teachers and students a primary source based on an oral tradition that spans nearly two centuries. Corridos reflect the evolving perspectives and concerns of urban and rural working-class peoples from the United States and Mexico. Using the lyrics and music of the corridos along with the accompanying website, students will have the opportunity to analyze written texts, visual images and objects to develop their understanding of various themes, regions and perspectives of North American history.

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This collection of lesson plans and classroom activities was created by educators who participated in the CLAS 2015 Summer Institute in Focus: Latin America Through Film. They were inspired by the film Al Otro Lado (2006), a documentary about the tradition of corridos, a genre of narrative folk ballads developed in Mexico during the 1800s that share about historical events, figures and socially topics.

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From Porciones to Colonias: The Power of Place- and Community-Based Learning in K-12 Education redefines culturally relevant learning in today’s diverse classroom. By integrating an interdisciplinary approach, including anthropology, archeology, biology, geology and history, the CHAPS Program presents an effective method in supporting teachers of the Rio Grande Valley in creating culturally relevant curriculum, while meeting the demands of state and federal mandates. This resource includes eight lesson plans that cover K-12 grade levels.

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Examine the life and legacy of the health, labor and immigrant rights reformer Grace Abbott in this resource from Unladylike2020. Born into a progressive family of abolitionists and suffragettes in Nebraska, Abbott made it her life’s work to help those in need, focusing on fighting for the rights of children, recent immigrants, and new mothers and their babies

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Learn about Charlotta Spears Bass, a crusading newspaper editor and politician who was one of the first Black women to own and operate a newspaper in the United States. This is part of the Unladylike2020 series.

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There are many preconceptions and stereotypes about Latinos and how they have come to the United States. In this activity, students will examine some of the myths and compare these to actual demographic data. A reflective pre-activity is followed by analysis of statistical graphs from the Pew Research Center.

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There are many preconceptions and stereotypes about Latinos and how they have come to the United States. In this activity, students will examine some of the myths and compare these to actual demographic data. A reflective pre-activity is followed by analysis of statistical graphs from the Pew Research Center.

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Students view a clip on the situation of Mexican American students in Los Angeles in the 1960s, and how self-concepts and expectations began to change during the Chicano Movement. Students can respond individually or in small groups, in writing or through discussion. Two extensions offer options for connecting the history to current student activism.

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In this lesson plan drawing on material from Latino Americans, students learn about how regions, such as Texas, New Mexico and California, had established Mexican and Indigenous communities already in place as the United States expanded westward. Students review the different ways that Mexican citizens come to terms with the expansion of the United States and the ways in which they became foreigners in their own lands within a very short time.

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Explore the early days of the United Farm Workers of America under the guidance of César Chavez and Dolores Huerta. See the conditions that led to the organization of a farm labor union and the initial challenges to its work: the strike in Delano and the march to Sacramento. Contrast the leadership styles of its leaders and examine the movement’s use of symbols.

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Structured as game questions, this activity challenges students to identify cities, states and geographical features whose names tell the story of the Indigenous, Spanish and Mexican settlement that pre-dated the United States. The investigative questions can be used alone as a geography trivia game, as a matching activity or in conjunction with analysis of historical maps.

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Any work is potentially open to attack by someone, somewhere, sometime, for some reason. This lesson introduces students to censorship and how challenges to books occur. They are then invited to read challenged or banned books from the American Library Association’s list of the most frequently challenged books.

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The Civil War is a nine-part series that explores the most important conflict in our nation’s history. It saw the end of slavery and was the watershed of a new political and economic order. Heralded as an unforgettable introduction to the conflict when it was released in 1990, the film draws on archival images of 16,000 photographs, along with paintings, lithographs, and headlines, newsreel footage of Civil War veterans, evocative live cinematography of battle sites, interviews with historians, and numerous first-person accounts. The materials on PBS’s Ken Burns in the Classroom include video excerpts, lesson plans and other resources.

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This 90-minute film tells the story of a school in Vermont where each year students are encouraged to practice, memorize and recite the Gettysburg Address. In its exploration of this practice, the film also unlocks the history, context and importance of President Abraham Lincoln’s memorable speech. The Address explores how Lincoln’s historic words can motivate and engage present-day students a century-and-a-half after he delivered a speech that ultimately emboldened the Union cause with some of the more stirring words ever spoken.

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In 1970, the Atlanta Housing Authority opened a public housing community called East Lake Meadows. Before Atlanta bulldozed the housing project in the mid-1990s to make way for new mixed-income housing, many thousands of low-income Atlantans, mostly Black, called it home. Through the stories of former residents, this feature-length film raises critical questions about how we, as a nation, have created concentrated poverty and limited housing opportunity for Black Americans, and what can be done to address it.

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This two-part, four-hour film, tells the story of a U.S. icon whose life-long battle for first class citizenship for all African Americans transcended even his remarkable athletic achievements. Jack Roosevelt Robinson rose from humble origins to cross baseball’s color line in the 1940s. A fierce integrationist, he used his immense fame to speak out against discrimination on and off the field. After baseball, he was a widely-read newspaper columnist, divisive political activist, and tireless advocate for civil rights.

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This two-part, 3.5-hour film tells the story of the first Black boxer to win the most coveted title in sports, “Heavyweight Champion of the World,” in 1908. The film follows Johnson’s journey from his beginnings in Galveston, Texas, to his entry into the world of professional boxing, and documents his struggle, in and out of the ring, to live his life as a free man in Jim Crow America. Jack Johnson’s story is central to understanding America’s ongoing struggle to deal with the question of race.

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This 19-hour series explores the evolution of America’s greatest original art form, focusing on the men and women who could do something remarkable: create art on the spot. Jazz celebrates their music in the context of the complicated country that gave birth to and influenced it, and was in turn transformed by it. This film traces the history of the rise of records, radio, and television, as well as the sufferings of the Great Depression, the nation’s sacrifices during two world wars, and our long struggle over civil rights.

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In this lesson, students learn how the life of an enslaved person changed from the Antebellum period through Emancipation. They analyze primary source documents in order to create a timeline of an individual slave’s life and then watch a clip from the episode Bill of Sale, to confirm their findings.

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Throughout history, books have been banned for a host of reasons, from politically controversial content to profane language or violence. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees that writers may write and readers may read freely, but many books continue to draw scrutiny from certain officials and institutions.

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This two-part, four-hour documentary explores the revolutionary life of one of the 18th Century’s most consequential and compelling personalities, whose work and words unlocked the mystery of electricity and helped create the United States.

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UNLADYLIKE2020 is a series of 26 short films and a one-hour documentary profiling diverse and little-known U.S. women from the turn of the 20th century, and contemporary women who follow in their footsteps.

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Students will learn more about the values and beliefs of their fellow peers through objects brought from home to the classroom.

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Students will reflect on qualities of people who have most influenced them.

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Who are Latinos? What does the term Latino American reference? In this quick, introductory activity, students consider their own preconceptions of Latinos, view a trailer for the documentary series Latino Americans and identify new topics questions to investigate further.

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This lesson drawing on content from Latino Americans examines the evolution of Latino electoral participation with specific reference to the growth of voter participation in South Texas and New York in the 1950s to 1970s, as well as the impact of Latino voters in major elections of the early 2000s. Students will explore early efforts to mobilize disenfranchised voters, examine watershed campaigns and elections and consider major issues, including the politics of immigration. They will reflect on the major paradigm shifts that have occurred within the last 60 years.

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Latinos have come to be part of the United States through many different avenues: immigrants seeking a better life, refugees driven by war, and those who did not move at all, but who found themselves on the other side of redefined borders as the United States expanded. Students will document details of historical characters from the program and plot their movements on a map. In this activity, students will trace the varied stories of becoming Latino in the United States and dispel common generalizations. In addition, they will compare and contrast these stories with the arrival experiences of their own families.

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There has never been a time in U.S. education when standards, objectives and curricula were not embroiled in some controversy. Thomas Jefferson embodies those and other controversies to this day and has become one of the most polarizing personalities in U.S. history. These are all important facts that our students must know in tandem with his highest aspirations. Our students should know his personal paradoxes along with his contributions to democracy.

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“No student should fear bringing their experiences to the classroom. As educators, we must facilitate discussions that include students’ backgrounds, family histories, and how those are tied to our country’s victories and struggles, regardless of the current environment.”

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This lesson is the first lesson of the series The Color of Law: The Role of Government in Shaping Racial Inequity. In this lesson, students examine the local, state and federal policies that supported racially discriminatory practices and cultivated racially segregated housing.

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In this lesson on eugenics, students will analyze original images and documents from the American eugenics movement. They will also discuss how genetics can be used to enhance people’s lives and ways to prevent it from being used as a new form of eugenics. Lastly, they will make connections between the American Eugenics Movement and other historical events, such as the Nazi regime in Germany during World War II.

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In this lesson, students explore the complexities of race, violence and vigilante justice in early Los Angeles. In 1871, the population of Los Angeles was 6,000 people. This diverse population participated in the lynching of nearly 20 Chinese in Los Angeles. Why did the Chinese Massacre of 1871 happen? And what does that tell us about early American Los Angeles? That is the question students must answer through watching a segment of Lost L.A., then reading and analyzing documents to develop their own answer. This lesson works best when students have background knowledge about two key historical trends: lynching and anti-Chinese sentiment in the West.

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This lesson examines the incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry during WWII. Students will analyze primary sources to learn about the consternation caused by the questionnaire that was used to determine the loyalty of the Japanese and Japanese Americans incarcerated in War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps, and the subsequent removal of “disloyals” to the Tule Lake Segregation Camp.

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What was the World War II experience like for the thousands of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast? The activities in this lesson are designed to provide a window into the war years. Using primary sources, students will explore a period in U.S. history when 120,000 Japanese Americans were evacuated from the West Coast and held in internment camps.

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According to many social studies state standards, students will study the development of the nation up to 1850, with an emphasis on the people who were already here, when and from where others arrived, and why they came. However, Asian American histories or contributions are not specifically mentioned in the standards that could inaccurately lead students to believe that Asian American communities did not exist during this time period. In fact, Asian Americans, specifically Filipino Americans, settled in the U.S. as early as 1763. Asian Americans were here at the formation of the United States. Filipino sailors arrived in California as early as 1587. In 1763, Filipino sailors settled in a Louisiana bayou, and became the first Filipino immigrants to settle in the United States, known as “Manilamen.” Along with enslaved people and other people of color, the Filipino immigrants built a small fishing village called Saint Malo. The Manilamen made many contributions, including revolutionizing the shrimping industry.

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This lesson explores the events and legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Students will view C-SPAN video clips of historians and residents of Tulsa to learn what occurred and how it was remembered. Students will use this information to discuss the importance of learning about events like the Tulsa Race Massacre. Video clips in this lesson contain images and descriptions of events that may be disturbing to some students.

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In this lesson, students examine efforts made by African slaves in the New World to resist slavery. The lesson would ideally follow a unit on the colonization of the New World. Students begin by reviewing the geography of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and identifying colonies held by different European powers around the year 1750. They then view segments of the PBS series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross to compare several attempts at resistance and revolt.

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This lesson plan guides students in exploring a special kids’ section of The New York Times titled “Why You Should Know About the Year 1619.” Students will analyze historical timelines and construct timelines of their own.

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