Separate but Never Equal
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
After reading the article “Separate but Never Equal” by Mara Rockliff, students compare/contrast lives of black and white people during segregation.
- Analyze text structures, including comparison and contrast
- Understand what segregation was like during the 1960s.
- Copy of the article “Separate but Never Equal” by Mara Rockliff (An introductory article for the novella, The Gold Cadillac by Mildred D. Taylor. An alternative might be "I Was Not Alone -- an interview with Rosa Parks" by Brian Lanker from I Dream a World.)
- Venn Diagram
- White Board
- Pencil and Paper
Set Up and Prepare
Copy article and Venn diagram for each student
- Begin lesson by showing students a short presentation or clip of the Civil Rights Movement. Pictures can be easily located on the Internet. One Web site that I use is http://www.infoplease.com/spot/civilrightstimeline1.html
- Ask students questions that will allow them to reflect on the circumstances preceding the Civil Rights Movement. This will spark a lively discussion. Examples:
- Did you know at one time there were separate drinking fountains and restrooms for whites and African Americans?
- Do you realize that at one time there were restaurants in which African Americans were not allowed to eat?
- Have students read “Separate but Never Equal” by Mara Rockliff, which describes segregation in the 1960s. Students may need help with vocabulary such as segregation, sit-ins, sue, suit, and inequalities.
- Discuss the article with students by asking the following:
- What is Plessy v. Ferguson?
- Why did some African-American parents sue their school district in 1949?
- How long after that did it take for the Supreme Court to rule that separate schools were unequal and what was the name of this famous case?
- In the opening quotation; John Lewis, U.S. Congressman and Civil Rights leader, makes three comparisons, what are they? Provide students with some background knowledge about John R. Lewis. Explain to them that he organized sit-ins and other non-violent protests at segregated lunch counters and other facilities in the South during the early 1960s. These demonstrations helped to raise public awareness of the injustice of segregation, leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- Another option for guiding the discussion on the article would be to draw a two-column chart on the board labeling one column “white” and the other “black.” Have students fill in, or you can fill in, details from their responses about the drinking fountains, movie theaters, buses, shopping, and restaurants.
- Have students complete a Venn diagram independently comparing and contrasting the schools attended by black children with those attended by white children. Allow the students to discuss with their peers.
- Explain to students that many people have risked their lives to fight racism. For homework, have students brainstorm a list of people who have fought injustice and their efforts. Tell them to ask their parents for help with this.
- The next day divide students in groups of three to four and encourage them to share their information about the people who fought racism. Have members of each group merge their lists on a large poster paper so other groups can compare.
- Have each group select one person that they discussed and research that person. Information should be presented to class.
Supporting All Learners
- The lesson uses cooperative activities that can help lower level students and ELL students.
- Independent activities allow higher level students to take on a greater challenge.
- Students can research legal cases such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education
- Invite a speaker who actually lived during this time and fought for equality.
Encourage students to ask interview relatives about this era and to compare their experiences during the 1960s with the students' own experiences in the present day.
- Did students read the assigned article?
- Did they complete the Venn diagram?
- Did each member of the group participate and contribute to the poster activity?
- Did each member of the group participate and contribute to the research presentation?