Education is one of our most promising paths as we strive as a nation toward a more perfect union. To foster national healing after centuries of violence and racist terrorism, Americans must find ways to explore and talk about the roots of both injustice and heroic struggle against it. Classroom discussions about Civil Rights struggles in historic places can help communities toward racial healing. In honor of the American pursuit of justice, The National Park Service highlights Teaching with Historic Places lesson plans that focus on Civil Rights and Racial Healing. Created by interpreters, preservation professionals, and educators, these lessons are free and ready for immediate classroom use and are adaptable for most grade levels.
• An American Success Story: The Pope House of Raleigh, NC (124)
Meet Dr. Manassa T. Pope, an African-American doctor and entrepreneur in the early 20th century, and learn about his efforts to gain civil rights well before the modern Civil Rights Movement. Students have the opportunity to research how race relations shaped their community, past and present. Teachers may ask them to explore major events in the area’s history related to race, such as, a race riot, a march, a protest, or an example of interracial cooperation.
• The Battle of Honey Springs: The Civil War Comes to the Indian Territory (68)
Learn how the Civil War created fierce conflicts among American Indian nations who had been moved across the Mississippi River. This lesson plan tells the story of African-American, American-Indian, and European-American soldiers fighting together for the Union, and students may research past and present moments when unique communities reached out across cultural lines to enact social change. (National Park)
• Brown v. Board: Five Communities that Changed America (121)
Learn about the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. Civil Rights and racial healing are at the heart of the Supreme Court’s famous ruling. In this lesson, students explore the efforts of the to end segregation, have the opportunity to study other landmark Civil Rights cases, and compare and contrast local education before and after the ruling. (Monroe Elementary School [now Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site] is a unit of the National Park Service/Robert Russa Moton High School, Sumner and Monroe Elementary Schools, Howard High School, and John Philip Sousa Middle School are National Historic Landmarks.)
• Discover Colonel Young's Protest Ride for Equality and Country: A Lightning Lesson from Teaching with Historic Places, featuring the historic Colonel Charles Young House (Lightning Lesson 2)
Trace the paths an African American cavalry officer took in his life and chart the one he took during World War I, riding horseback from his historic Ohio home to confront racism in Washington, DC.
• First Lady of the World: Eleanor Roosevelt at Val-Kill (26)
Examine how Roosevelt's activities at home reflected her interest in humanitarianism, as epitomized by her leadership in the creation of the UN's Declaration of Human Rights. Following in the footsteps of Eleanor Roosevelt, this lesson pushes students to engage in social reform in their own communities and consider their own positions on human rights activism. (National Park)
• From Canterbury to Little Rock: The Struggle for Educational Equality for African Americans
Understand the magnitude of the struggle involved in securing equal educational opportunities for African Americans and examine how Prudence Crandall challenged the prevailing attitude toward educating African Americans in New England prior to the Civil War. Students will study African American activists and white allies who put their lives on the line for African American Civil Rights, and they will compare and contrast attempts to desegregate schools in the 19th century to the attempts of the 20th century. (Little Rock Central High School is a National Park and National Historic Landmark/Prudence Crandall Museum is a National Historic Landmark)
• Glen Echo Park: Center for Education and Recreation (24)
Trace the evolution of this Maryland site from a chapter of the Chautauqua movement, to a racially segregated amusement park, to a national park. Because racial segregation is part of the site’s history, students have the opportunity to research the history of their community to see what groups faced prejudice in the past and those who are facing it today. (National Park)
• "Journey from Slavery to Statesman": The Homes of Frederick Douglass (147)
Follow Frederick Douglass on his journey from life as a slave to that of a respected statesman and investigate how three homes reflect the different phases of his life. In this lesson about slavery, injustice, and racism, students study Douglass’ life. They have opportunities to research 19th century “solutions” to slavery as well as the injustices we face in society today. (Wye House, the Nathan and Polly Johnson House, and Cedar Hill are National Historic Landmarks. Cedar Hill and the Nathan and Polly Johnson House are each a resource of a National Park.)
• The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House: African American Women Unite for Change (135)
Learn about Mary McLeod Bethune and how she and the organization she founded promoted political and social change for African American women. This lesson has students examine the Civil Rights work of African American women, and students may then explore social issues facing women of color in their own community-- both in the past and present. (National Park)
• Discover the Mary Ann Shadd Cary House (Lightning Lesson #1)
Follow the footsteps a free African American woman who defied an oppressive culture and broke barriers in education, newspaper publishing, and law before and after the Civil War. This lesson plan offers insight into race and gender, by looking at the biography of a black, middle class free woman. Exceptional in many ways, Shadd Cary's adult life and her civic activism took place during both the slavery and Reconstruction eras. (National Historic Landmark) (National Park)
• New Kent School and the George W. Watkins School: From Freedom of Choice to Integration (104)
Learn about the U.S. Supreme Court case that forced the integration of public schools and meet the individuals who experienced segregation, fought to dismantle the institution, and integrated the public school system of New Kent County, Virginia. Because this lesson plan deals with a relatively recent Civil Rights event, students may collect oral histories about desegregation in schools and businesses to understand a wide range of perspectives on the period.(National Historic Landmark)
• New Philadelphia: A Multiracial Town on the Illinois Frontier (130)
Learn about Free Frank McWorter and how archeology can help tell the story of the interracial town he founded in the years before the Civil War. Students describe the role of African Americans in securing their own freedom. Activities include evaluating the effects of early Black Codes and later Jim Crow laws as well as other restrictions that kept communities racially segregated.
• The Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March: Shaking the Conscience of the Nation (133)
Learn how people in Selma, Alabama, and national civil rights organizations worked together to end the unconstitutional denial of voting rights to African Americans in the South. The struggle for Civil Rights is synonymous with “Selma,” and in this lesson students will study non-violent protest, conduct oral histories of civil rights protests in their own community, and learn about the oppressive conditions that led people to march. (Brown Chapel AME Church and the First Confederate Capitol are National Historic Landmarks)
• Separate But Equal? South Carolina's Fight Over School Segregation (158)
Discover South Carolina's 1951 "separate but equal" school building program and learn about the Briggs v. Elliott case, one of the lawsuits combined with Brown v. Board of Education. In this lesson, students have the chance to examine “massive resistance” and the reactions of white Americans to Civil Rights, listen to black and white experiences of the desegregation era, and research African American schools in their own community.
• Ulysses S. Grant and Julia Dent Grant at White Haven Farm: The Missouri Compromise in American Life (154)
Discover the personal experiences of Americans in a nation divided politically on the issue of slavery through the early life of Ulysses S. Grant, who lived on a Missouri farm with his wife Julia Dent Grant and her slave-holding family in the 1850s. The lesson activities expand on Grant’s complicated relationships with minorities with opportunities for students to study his policies for women, African Americans, Chinese Americans, and Native Americans during his presidency. Students may study the concept of privilege in relation to this topic. The lesson also provides opportunities to learn about the first-person accounts and individual experiences of enslaved Africans. (National Park)
• The Trail of Tears and the Forced Relocation of the Cherokee Nation (118)
Understand the factors that contributed both to the forced removal of the Cherokees off their homelands and to painful divisions within the tribe. Because this lesson deals with legal rights and treaties, students have the opportunity to research the history of their own community to see how treaties with Native Americans impacted the area where they lived and who lives there today. (The Trail of Tears is a National Historic Trail./The Major Ridge House and John Ross House are National Historic Landmarks.)
• The War Relocation Centers of World War II: When Fear Was Stronger than Justice (89)
Learn what led the U.S. government to confine nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry to relocation centers in remote areas of the country during World War II. Building on what they learn about Japanese internment, students can research moments when heightened fear led to responses against specific communities in the past and those facing particular pressures in the present day.(Manzanar is a National Park and National Historic Landmark. Rohwer is a National Historic Landmark.)
To learn more about TwHP's other lessons, visit the Lesson Plan Descriptions page.