Jim Crow and Apartheid: Walking hand in hand to the Promised Land

Author: Stacia D. Parker

School/Organization:

Parkway West High School

Year: 2007

Seminar: 20th Century American Literature

Grade Level: 9-12

Keywords: Harlem Renaissance, think globally, South Africa, African American History, political literature, America, Apartheid

School Subject(s): Activism, English, Literature, Writing, African American Literature, Social Studies, History, Political Science, African American History, American History, Global History

“That justice is a blind goddess is a thing to which we black are wise, her bandage hides two festering sores, that were once perhaps her eyes” — Langston Hughes

Early political literature is populated by the voices of a lot of men and only a handful of women. Only those voices were deemed appropriate to represent America and the American experience. Nowhere, does one find the voices of any other people concurrently experiencing cultural, social, and political influences during this period in history. In particular, this omission has led many to infer that African –Americans lacked the intellectual capacity or experiences to write evocatively during this time period. (with the exception of Phyllis Wheatly). However, this notion was seriously challenged through the course of American history.

Students need to be made aware of how this one-dimensional point of view significantly alters their understanding of “other voices” and the role their literary contributions have made in changing the political landscape in America from their marginalized existence in America. To begin the discovery process of how writing has been used to advance political agendas one must examine the role of government in maintaining and promoting a just society. Of course a just society is relative to one’s position in society and justice is elusive if one feels powerful or powerless. To indelibly imprint the ubiquitous idea of “justice for all,” the founding fathers repeatedly advanced the idea via The Declaration of Independence, The Emancipation Proclamation, The Bill of Rights, and The Constitution. Each of these documents served as a perpetual icon to American citizens that life, liberty, and justice for all was the bedrock of our nation.

Thousands of miles away Black Africans in South Africa were living under the system of Apartheid which consisted of numerous laws that allowed the ruling white minority who created, condoned, and perpetuated a system of racial oppression and discrimination that existed for over half of a century. Black Africans were called “kaffir,” forced to live in segregated ghettos, and mandated to carry papers at all times when traveling to “all white” cities. In 1976 the United Nations condemned a newly- formed ghetto called Transkei because it practiced racism and denied its inhabitants basic human rights. Unfortunately, this condemnation did not prevent the arbitrary and capricious transfer several years later of one million blacks to another ghetto, Swaziland. Black Africans had no say in the matter.

While there would be no public displays of integration like in the United States, serious economic and social sanctions from around the world created enough pressure for white South Africans to ultimately move in the direction of a truly democratic government. The journey from Apartheid to democracy was arduous and required strikes, sit-ins, and keeping the world focused on its plight. Students must recognize the internalized attitudes, values, and beliefs of the oppressors to understand how oppressed people ultimately transcended oppression and discrimination to become active citizens in countries that proudly promotes “liberty and justice for all.”

As students prepare for living, learning, and working in the 21st century it is necessary for schools to teach students to act locally while thinking globally. To support this practice I believe that students’ course of study must not be limited to events of historical significance solely in the United States. Students should also assess the impact of the event on other countries. By making real world connections between the events, students are able to identify parallels, make inferences, and develop an alternate point-of view to promote resolutions to the aftermath of the events.

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Full Unit Text
Overview

Early political literature is populated by the voices of a lot of men and only a handful of women. Only those voices were deemed appropriate to represent America and the American experience. Nowhere, does one find the voices of any other people concurrently experiencing cultural, social, and political influences during this period in history. In particular, this omission has led many to infer that African –Americans lacked the intellectual capacity or experiences to write evocatively during this time period. (with the exception of Phyllis Wheatly). However, this notion was seriously challenged through the course of American history.

In fact, African-American writing became a prominent feature of both African- American protest culture and American public life. Although denied a political voice in national affairs African-American authors produced a wide range of literature to project their views into the public sphere. Autobiographies and personal narratives recounted the horrors of slavery, newspapers vigilantly denounced racism in its various forms, and poetry, novellas, speeches, sermons and pamphlets told of racial pride and redemption. In spite of this proliferation of texts when students read, reflect, and respond to African- American writers in the canon their view is usually restricted to reading about enslaved people and the writers, musicians, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance.

While the literary contributions of the artisans of the Harlem Renaissance are an integral part of African-American and American life; there are other equally significant texts that celebrate, rejuvenate and elevate the voices of African-American people and their experiences in America. This collective body of work included protest and defiance texts but those stories were never anthologized …rather they were relegated to stand alone texts creating the impression that surviving, resisting, escaping and transcending oppression and discrimination were isolated events. Not only were these events important, in some instances, they served as a platform for permanent change. Thus the absence of aggregated texts has caused many students to miss the important continuum between enslavement, reconstruction, segregation and the Civil Rights Acts.

Students need to be made aware of how this one-dimensional point of view significantly alters their understanding of “other voices” and the role their literary contributions have made in changing the political landscape in America from their marginalized existence in America. To begin the discovery process of how writing has been used to advance political agendas one must examine the role of government in maintaining and promoting a just society. Of course a just society is relative to one’s position in society and justice is elusive if one feels powerful or powerless. To indelibly imprint the ubiquitous idea of “justice for all,” the founding fathers repeatedly advanced the idea via The Declaration of Independence, The Emancipation Proclamation, The Bill of Rights, and The Constitution. Each of these documents served as a perpetual icon to American citizens that life, liberty, and justice for all was the bedrock of our nation.

However those ideals were not incorporated with integrity. If that had been the case, then the same nation would not have created, condoned, and perpetuated a system of racial oppression and segregation for 100 years after slavery was abolished. In fact, many are keenly aware of this fact yet fail to make the correlation that justice is still not provided to everyone (racial profiling, redlining, and gentrification). What is less noted is the fact that untold numbers of Jim Crow era African-American men, women, and children who were denied justice, valiantly resisted white supremacy below the Mason Dixon Line.

The choice to resist racial oppression in the South was often dangerous and sometimes fatal. Despite the imminent possibility of lynching African-Americans braved more than 400 state laws, constitutional amendments, and city ordinances legalizing segregation and discrimination that were passed in the United States between 1865 and 1967. These laws governed nearly every aspect of daily life, from education to transportation, from health care and housing to the use of public facilities. Against this backdrop students will explore how African-Americans and others created an identity in a society that treated them as inferior and invisible. This practice was not exclusive to America.

Thousands of miles away Black Africans in South Africa were living under the system of Apartheid which consisted of numerous laws that allowed the ruling white minority who created, condoned, and perpetuated a system of racial oppression and discrimination that existed for over half of a century. Black Africans were called “kaffir,” forced to live in segregated ghettos, and mandated to carry papers at all times when traveling to “all white” cities. In 1976 the United Nations condemned a newly- formed ghetto called Transkei because it practiced racism and denied its inhabitants basic human rights. Unfortunately, this condemnation did not prevent the arbitrary and capricious transfer several years later of one million blacks to another ghetto, Swaziland. Black Africans had no say in the matter.

While there would be no public displays of integration like in the United States, serious economic and social sanctions from around the world created enough pressure for white South Africans to ultimately move in the direction of a truly democratic government. The journey from Apartheid to democracy was arduous and required strikes, sit-ins, and keeping the world focused on its plight. Students must recognize the internalized attitudes, values, and beliefs of the oppressors to understand how oppressed people ultimately transcended oppression and discrimination to become active citizens in countries that proudly promotes “liberty and justice for all.”

Rationale

As students prepare for living, learning, and working in the 21st century it is necessary for schools to teach students to act locally while thinking globally. To support this practice I believe that students’ course of study must not be limited to events of historical significance solely in the United States. Students should also assess the impact of the event on other countries. By making real world connections between the events students are able to identify parallels, make inferences, and develop an alternate point-of view to promote resolutions to the aftermath of the events.

To underscore this point writer Geoffrey Davis uses the following epigraph to describe South Africans reclaiming their history in response to apartheid.

“A lot has been going on around,” I said. “What?”

“I mean, good lord, railways are being cut, buildings are bombed, police stations are being attacked, there are guns and guns all over wherever one goes,” I said.

“The people are claiming their history,” he said.

The author, Mongane Wally Serote included the above dialogue between a journalist and his nephew in the final scene of his novel To Every Birth Its Blood to remind his countrymen that there were other ways of “claiming history” than its reconstruction in literature as part of a resistance movement. A more practical approach for the Black people of South Africa was to obtain knowledge of the history of their oppression and of the continuing struggle against it as a tool to map strategies to end apartheid and to establish a just social order in its stead.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. utilized this precise strategy when he studied the teachings of Mohandas Gandhi and Protestant reformer Martin Luther. In adopting the philosophy of nonviolence combined with sit-ins, marches, boycotts, and strikes he was able to effectively dismantle the legacy of Jim Crow. As a result of being non-violent in the face of attack dogs, water hoses, Billy clubs and jail he inspired a nation to follow him. In the Letter from Birmingham Jail he urged friend and foe to “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you,” as Jesus would do. These teachings are as relevant today as they were when Africans and African-Americans fought to dismantle the system of racial oppression established in their respective countries.

Teaching and learning require that students make authentic text-to-text connections as well as text-to-self connections. These connections enable students not only to deepen their understanding of what they have read but also to reflect on the relevance of the text to their life. Often students lament that reading is “boring” but what they are really saying is they cannot connect with any character, location, or event in the text. Therefore, the lack of connection interferes with students desire to engage the text without bias and retain essential information to “show what they know.” As a means to bridge this gap I’ve selected historical fiction, protest speeches, film, artwork and music to help engage students in the 4 primary modes of learning. I hope that the art pieces in language arts will engage students’ curiosity to get the big picture and contribute their voices to contemporary issues that affect them (Don Imus, and the use of the “N word”, to give a single, recent example).

Ultimately, students will find their voices not just in the printed word but also the spoken word accompanied with visuals. This is a generation that grew up with cell phones, chat rooms, I pods, YouTube, laptops, desktops, MP3 players, and streaming videos. So, it’s highly probable that they would create a video to express their displeasure and blog it across America. I hope the activities and lessons presented in this unit will provide strong examples of socially responsible forms of expression that encourage a wider audience to listen to their plight. Although freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the people to peacefully petition the government for a redress of grievances are ‘inalienable rights’ in America, it is equally important for students to recognize these rights are rarely guaranteed outside of America. In fact, censorship, banning of books, plays, theater performances and burning of printing presses in South Africa served as cornerstone of maintaining white dominance and Black oppression.

Students will learn that that writing has been used to protect rights of the privileged and make political statements during the past four hundred years and how to recognize the elements of political speeches, texts, films, cartoons, and educational materials, and current events (Jena 6). Students will reflect on the events that have shaped the world and how authors, the oppressed and their oppressors have responded to these events. The core questions that will be explored are: How does literature become an element of cultural history? How does fiction record the “truth” about society? What is the role of propaganda in our society? Does language have the power to control the thoughts and actions of the individual? The texts these questions will be explored in: letters, essays, speeches, novels, documentaries, and music.

The English 4 class is absent of a core curriculum (daily lessons); however, the planning and scheduling timeline raises the question of when and how is literature political? The following readings will help students examine this question through a myriad of lenses. The primary text readings for this unit are Long Walk to Freedom, Cry, the Beloved Country, Kaffir Boy, The Fire Next Time, Native Son, and Fences with excerpts from court cases, and other integration novels. This curriculum unit will respond to this question with writings from these “other voices” in America who have often been examined more for their literary styles than the content of their writing. Hopefully, this expansion of thought will open minds to ways of thinking, feeling, and seeing that are different than the norm. The standards being addressed are: reading, analyzing, and interpreting literature, types of writing, quality of writing, and having students read a wide variety of literature in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions of the human experience.

To become intimately familiar with the human experience of oppressed people students must walk in ‘different’ shoes from the past. The past includes: Black Codes, the Ku Klux Klan, poll taxes, miscegenation statues, lynchings, and Jim Crow’s separate but equal laws. Ironically, through observation, students today are oblivious to any hint of inequality. Their ‘unconscious’ behavior partially exists because they are unaware:

  1. of the struggles that shaped their present societal position,
  2. of the conditions that necessitated those struggles,
  3. of the people who died (pioneers) fighting against the inhumane conditions that defined their lives.

Moreover, their lack of knowledge about their past sharply diminishes their ability to protest effectively against overt racial discrimination or detect subtler forms.

Knowing that students instinctively are reactive to incendiary situations I hope to challenge them to become proactive through vigilantly practicing      ‘nonviolent’ methods. English novelist, Edward Lytton wrote “the pen is mightier than the sword” to remind us that problems are solved more effectively through communication with words rather than weapons and violence. Many students find it hard to believe this aphorism in a city that daily witnesses random acts of violence. Yet, they can experience political literature around debate, discussion, speeches, essays, editorials, and media critiques and presentations. Also, multiple modes of assessment will be included to enable instruction to be differentiated according to how students learn. The culminating activity for this unit will be an exercise entitled emotional imagination because students need to attune themselves to the nuances of language so they can respond emotionally and intellectually to literature. If these nuances are mastered then students will truly lend their voices to America’s literary landscape.

Objectives

Reading: Students will

Locate various texts, media, and traditional resources for assigned and independent projects before reading.

Evaluate the political, social, religious, and ethical influences of the historical period

Evaluate author’s choice of genre Analyze and explain characterization

Compare and contrast texts using themes, settings, characters and ideas Demonstrate after reading understanding and interpretation of both fiction and nonfiction text, including public documents

Make and support with evidence, assertions about the text

Differentiate fact from opinion across a variety of texts by using complete and accurate information

Identify the use of proper references or propaganda techniques where present

Writing: Students will

Write poems, plays, and essays

Apply various organizational methods Use primary and secondary sources

Write expository and persuasive pieces with a clearly stated position or opinion

Write using well-developed content appropriate for the topic and include an effective introduction and conclusion

Edit writing using the conventions of language

Use precise language and different types and lengths of sentences

Speaking/Listening: Students will

Listen to selections of literature Relate them to previous knowledge

Predict solutions to identified problems Summarize and reflect on what has been heard

Speak using skills appropriate to formal speech situations Pace the presentation according to audience and purpose

Adjust stress, volume, and inflection to provide emphasis to influence the audience

Strategies

As new topics are introduced students struggle to understand unfamiliar ideas and information. Students who have background knowledge about a topic have an advantage because they can connect the new information they encounter to what they already know. The teacher’s responsibility is to help student’s build background knowledge so that they can read independently to gain new information. In guiding student’s to make text –to- world connections they build history, political, and literature concepts to form a context for learning new information. The strategies selected are primarily designed to teach comprehension and enhance understanding.

Text Rendering: Students take a few minutes to preview the selected reading passage and mark the sentence, the phrase, and the word that they think is particularly important for to understanding the author’s purpose.

  1. First Round: Each student shares a sentence from the text that he or she thinks or feels is particularly significant
  2. Second Round: Each student shares a phrase that he or she thinks or feels is particularly significant
  3. Third Round: Each person shares a word that he or she thinks or feels is particularly significant
  4. The small group(4 students) discusses what they heard and what it says about the document
  5. The large group(whole class) shares the words that emerged and any new insights about the document

Note: A sentence, phrase, word 3-column response sheet is distributed to each student and compiled into a gallery walk

Gallery Walk: After reading a selection, or participating in a discussion, participants examine and discuss comments, questions and personal responses. Comments are written on chart paper and posted in the classroom as an art gallery. Participants walk from chart to chart to examine content.

Quickwrite: A 2 to 5 minute exercise that lets students use the act spontaneous writing to discover what they already know. Quickwrites are sometimes called freewrites. When this same approach is used to generate ideas visually, the strategy is called a quickdraw.

Silent Mind Map: A silent mind map is a semantic mapping activity that generates and shares ideas about a topic in a quiet but effective way. A piece of chart paper is placed in the center of the table with the topic printed in the center. Four to six participants with different colored markers draw lines, starting from the center, and add words, concepts and ideas related to the topic. As new concepts and words appear, participants draw lines from them and add related words, ideas, and concepts, all associated with the topic in the center. No words are spoken during the activity which last for 20-30 minutes which is why it is called “Silent Mind Map.” When time is up, maps are posted and participants can do a gallery walk looking at all of the maps. This is an excellent activity to serve as a springboard for a writing activity since the class has generated ideas.

Literature Circles: literature circles place students in charge of their learning while providing a comfortable context for applying reading strategies. Their second function is to serve as models of positive/productive discussion skills, for example, supporting a position with evidence from the text. Students in literature circles are commonly assigned the following roles:

  1. Discussion Facilitator-Is responsible for creating group cohesion so that each member who wants to speak is heard within time available. Keeps the group on track to finish on
  2. Recorder-Is responsible for completing graphic organizer (T-charts, double entry journal, etc) with group’s words, thoughts, and ideas that accompany text.
  3. Word watcher- Is responsible for identifying words that student’s may not know and thus interfere with comprehension. A consensus must be reached in the group for the words to be reported out to the entire class. (Limit 5)
  4. Reporter-Is responsible for reporting groups findings to the entire class
  5. Encourager-Is responsible for making everyone feel a part of the group by positively encouraging each member’s participation

Reciprocal Teaching: helps students focus and monitor their reading. Students take on four critical roles; they predict content, question and clarify their understanding of that content, and summarize what they have learned. The model always includes four fundamental and critical BDA strategies.

  1. Questioning poses questions based on a portion of a text the group has read, either silently or
  2. Clarifying resolves confusions about words, phrases, or concepts, drawing on the text when
  3. Summarizing sums up the content, identifying the gist of what has been read and
  4. Predicting suggests what will happen next or be learned from the text Reciprocal teaching has many variations, usually depending on the size of the group, level of teacher modeling, and assignment of roles. Additionally, think alouds are integral parts of this process because students need opportunities to listen as real readers struggle with real world texts.

Classroom Activities

The Journey

Tableau: The Arrival

Introductory Activity

Have students imagine this scene:

As the ship arrives in New York Harbor, immigrants crowd onto the deck to get a look at the Statue of Liberty. Imagine their feelings—relief that a long and miserable journey has ended; thankful for having arrived safely; awed at the sight of the Statue of Liberty; excited about arriving in American and coming closer to their dreams; fearful and confused about what lies ahead.

Ask students to reflect on this scene, and then have each one write a brief monologue to use when role-playing. Students assume the positions of immigrants crowding the railings of the ship as it arrives in New York Harbor. Students freeze in position until tapped on the shoulder. When tapped, the student speaks on his/her thoughts about the life he/she left behind, other family members, future plans, and feelings upon seeing America at last.

Students will write from the perspective of either a black South African or an African- American who experienced racial oppression in the deep South. They are going to be denied the rights, privileges’, and freedoms they have heard so much about; instead, they are going to be shipped to designated living areas. The South African recognizes this area as a homeland, and the African-American recognizes the area as a Jim Crow state.

Students will write a dialectical journal that includes a family tree and a short family history for their respective identity. Hence, they have begun “the journey” of walking the proverbial mile in another mans shoes. As the unit proceeds students will periodically record insights in this journal as a method of continuously identifying with their racially oppressed elders and their quest for freedom.

Lesson 1: African-American Living Conditions That Resulted from Slavery

Anticipatory Set

Students will view the video “The Promised Land: Anywhere but Here” (30 minutes). After watching the video students will place the following events in chronological order:

  1. Universal Manhood Suffrage is
  2. Discrimination in jobs and housing is
  3. Slaves are declared property and without rights under the
  4. The Supreme Court upholds the “separate but equal”
  5. The Supreme Court outlaws segregation in
  6. Blacks are given
  7. Involuntary servitude is outlawed in the
  8. Montgomery Bus Boycott
  9. Slaves in rebellious Southern states are set
  10. Slaves are left out of the ideas that “all men are created ”

Objectives

Students will understand:

  1. The institutions of slavery, Jim Crow, and Apartheid were not eradicated by laws alone
  2. The Civil rights Era provided many examples of organized protests that were highly effective in influencing change

New Concept and Skill

Students will analyze the Constitution and Bill of Rights for language, ideas, and evidence to support the position that the founding fathers did not consider blacks as citizens or human.

Modeling

Teacher will narrate a PowerPoint presentation entitled “The Civil Rights Movement” and distribute copies of the notes for students to use in their library research assignments.

The most important idea is for students to comprehend that although African-Americans had been set free, the systems that followed still created the economic, cultural, and psychological conditions of discrimination and oppression.

Check for Understanding

Students will compete against one another in “Black Facts” Jeopardy game.

Guided Practice

Students will conduct library research on Jim Crow Era, Apartheid, and Slavery in the United States and submit a flow chart describing the sources they will use, aspects of the topic they will cover, and what their final presentation will look or sound like.

Independent Practice

Students will write the outline for their essays citing 3 reasons to support their position as they anticipate a counter argument to their position.

Closure

  1. “What Happened to the Dream?”—has it been deferred or redefined or dried up and lost? (Persuasive Essay)

Lesson 2: Tolerance

Anticipatory Set

Students will express their belief systems or questions regarding race, hate groups and why race matters. The teacher will objectively present information and treat all students and their opinions with equal respect and dignity. Guidelines governing acceptable and unacceptable behaviors during discussion will be reviewed at the beginning of class.

Objective

Students will be able to:

  • Identify and recite the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of speech
  • Identify three major hate groups represented in the United States, and the basic beliefs of their
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the laws that protect these American citizens.

New Concept and Skill

Students will dissect the anatomy of a hate group like the Ku Klux Klan, White Aryan Nation to understand the connection among hate groups, hate speech, and hate crimes.

Modeling

Teacher will ask students to think about “What is Truth?” While the students are thinking, the teacher will write three (3) possible responses on the board that are closely related but separated as a fact, inference, judgment or opinion. Next, teacher will solicit the class’s input by asking which statement is correct. After students respond, the teacher will explain that all of the responses could be considered truthful based on the student’s interpretations, traditions, cultures, languages, belief systems or religions.

Guided Practice

Class will be divided into five (5) groups. Each group will select a classmate who will portray a major white supremacist leader. Group members will have researched their chosen group that included cultural information, history, and the fundamental beliefs of the group’s philosophies. Group leaders will form a panel to explain their ideologies and views in relation to hate groups.

Check for Understanding

Students will view and respond to the Emmett Till film to demonstrate their understanding of how hate groups operate, examine the choices white people made, and to connect the history of lynching to the murder.

Independent Practice

Students will write about situations where they feel they need to have their voices heard in present day America. Furthermore, they will write an essay entitled “Emmett Till – Choosing to Remember” the focal point of the essay is whether he was significant enough to be remembered in the 21st century & why?

Closure

Class will conduct a mock trial to bring Emmett Till captors to justice 30 years after the attack.

[Please see PDF attached above for additional lesson plans]

Bibliography

Metress, Christopher, The Lynching of Emmett Till: A Documentary Narrative, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002

Moody, Anne, Coming of Age in Mississippi: The Classic Autobiography of Growing up Poor and Black in the Rural South, New York, Dell Publishers, 1968

Whitfield, Stephen J, A Death in the Delta: The Story of Emmett Till, New York: Free Press; London Collier MacMillan, 1988

Eyes on the Prize: The Civil Rights Years, Documentary, Episode 1, “Awakenings (1954- 56)

Davis, Geoffrey V, Voices of Justice and Reason, Apartheid and Beyond in South African Literature, Cross/Cultures 61, Amsterdam, 2003

Meyer, Michael, The Bedford Introduction to Literature Reading, Thinking, Writing, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005