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“Everybody But Me”: The Historical Implications of the Struggle for Civil Rights on Culture, Education, and Politics in the 21st Century

While the Civil Rights era is one of mass importance in the context of American history as a whole, this era is given little attention in the current curriculum of our nation’s elementary and middle schools. Thus, when students enter sixth grade and embark on their middle school journey, they bring very little background knowledge of the subject with them, and therefore, are unable to draw on the prior knowledge necessary to develop a deep understanding of movement, its implications, and its relevance in their lives.

Given their lack of background knowledge on the Civil Rights movement, students are less likely to connect to its important themes, values, and the lessons it provides on social justice, as well as, the nature of change and continuity in history.  Without going beyond the surface level of the “I Have a Dream” speech and Rosa Parks’ momentous decision to remain at the front of the bus, educators are providing a disservice to their students. However, in providing a greater context of the Civil Rights movement and presenting in its relevance to current situations and systems in the United States, educators are able to better reach students and aid them in forging the connection of the historical period to their own lives.

This unit will provide a means for teaching the civil rights movements in a meaningful way for students, presenting the lesser-known heroes of the movement, as well as providing context for many of the more popular events of the period. In exploring relevant themes of race, protest, and social justice in both primary and secondary texts, students will interact meaningfully with the texts and be prompted to respond to these externalities as a means of instilling a sense of empowerment in their own lives.  Additionally, students will engage with a variety of texts, both fiction and nonfiction, to develop a more well-rounded sense of the movement and its complexities, as well as its relevance in today’s society.

Erin Bloom
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