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Music’s Effect on Community Resilience

Author: Theresa Eck


Academy at Palumbo

Year: 2023

Seminar: Music and Healing in Philadelphia

Grade Level: 9-12

Keywords: Advanced Placement U.S. History aka APUSH, analyzing historical evidence, free black communities in the early republic, Music, music’s effect on history, Philadelphia history, social emotional learning in history

School Subject(s): Social Studies

This Social Studies unit is designed for 11th graders in Advanced Placement (AP) US History but can be adapted for any 11th grade history class. It is always difficult for AP teachers to cover all of the content that the College Board lists as fair game on their assessment in May. This is compounded when teaching content that still includes problematic interpretations for example, or too many assessment questions on traditional curriculum topics focused on white male contributions to American identity, political power, and economic achievement. To be fair, College Board has been making efforts to adapt itself. It has been trying to diversify its decision makers, hiring more assessors from diverse backgrounds, create an African American AP History course but even in this has proven too avoidant, in revising its curriculum. The result is that many students expect to not be represented in these history curriculums. This is particularly true in Philadelphia classrooms where over 20% of my students are first generation immigrant families who come from Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East. In addition, though 100% of students receive free lunch, it isn’t because family members lack education: 15% of my students come from households where an adult holds an advanced degree—often from another country that is not recognized as valid in the United States; the issue is compounded if we consider siblings pursuing degrees. All this is to say that I cannot assume that any one culture is more prevalent than another in our school—cultural differences dominate.

In response to the diversity represented by the students, in this unit we will look at how the political will to fight for equality has been influenced by music. We will begin by looking at Philadelphia as a beacon for the black community and how music contributed to that. We will then go through American history, with an anchor in Philadelphia, to see how music influenced the movement for equality. Music creates a sense of cohesiveness in community, regulates individual and collective emotions, and spreads ideas with emotional impact. We will parallel learning about how music affects the brain so that students can see why music causes such inspiration and also so that students can understand how their brain creates thoughts to make feelings to motivate behavior. This is particularly relevant to their lives, as the U.S. Surgeon General cited adolescent hospitalizations for depression have doubled in the last 10 years and 25% of girls have a suicide plan.

Download Unit: Eck-T-Unit.pdf

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Full Unit Text
Unit Content

I teach 11th grade AP US History in an ethnically diverse magnet school in Philadelphia. Most of my students come into the class with grade level reading skills, meaning they need only minimal instructional support, such as vocabulary, to access the college level readings required in an AP course. More often they need support in writing evidence- based arguments that the College Board will accept as a thesis so we will use the essential question “evaluate the extent that music caused change in society” to acquire the skills required to make sound arguments. Consider also that 12% of my students are just below their grade reading level which makes AP readings frustrating and hence need additional reading strategies such as chunking or graphic organizers.

Part of the AP US History curriculum is required to cover the idea that “New demographic and social developments changed US culture and led to significant political and moral debates that sharply divided the nation”. I cannot assume that the entire student body will meet these ideas at the same point of exposure, some will have background knowledge in the idea of brain science, psychology, status quo, and/or content history, etc.  We will use short quotes from both secondary source experts and primary sources to gain insight. Graphs and map visuals will also be used. Lecture will be given to introduce the framework around the time period or brain principle. Then, students will use those anchors to drive their research for evidence to support a hypothesis on the extent music did or did not influence a change. Their finding will be reported out.

My students are still adjusting to being back from online learning and the spring has manifested an additional challenge of fatigue. I sense the gratitude of not being socially isolated from last year’s class has faded, yet the feeling of being work overload remain. I hear the students express frustration with work to one another more and more, not just from one specific class, as I have in past years. My hope is that the compelling nature of music as a universally understood, intuitive, and emotional experience coupled with paralleling the history of social justice movements with hooks to understanding the ones we experience in our lives will inject some passion and natural curiosity into what we are learning.

Teaching Strategies

Lecture on the Idea of Philly as a Beacon City with Guided Notes and then Music’s Effect on the Brain – Students will need direct instruction on some concepts due to the time constraints of the course. Lectures will be limited to 7 min intervals with breaks in delivery for questions and notetaking.

Personal Family History – Once we talk about Philly as a beacon city for the black community, as it has a strong church presence and flourishing middle class, we will ask students to share the experience of their families, parents, grandparents, about ways in which music enhanced or was silenced in political struggle in their countries of origins i.e., Muslim countries might not allow for musical expression of any sort outside of Qur’anic recitation for example.  This will give context to not just US history and give a wider scope by comparing with the relationship between music and social movements, political participation, in other nation states. In addition, it promotes buy in for the students and community as students share piece of themselves.

Inquiry Based Learning – Student explore a real issue of social justice that affects us today and will apply both the lessons learned from previous movements and use evidence to argue the extent of music’s effect on this current justice push. I will ask open ended questions but I want students to come up with their own as well. I want them to ask “How can we tell if something was impactful or not? What should we look for as evidence?” I do not have all the answers, also I do not want to impose assumptions I have about movements on my student narratives. They need their narrative to make sense in their own lives.

Teaching Strategies

Think Pair Share – In order for me to quickly assess evidence of thinking, foster community, and allow students the opportunity to process thoughts into memory, the strategy of turning and talking, also known as Think Pair Share will be employed after every prompt on the notetaking doc.

Jigsaw – In order to foster collaboration and to attack a large amount of research at once, we will divide and conquer. Each student will be given a manageable amount of research, from a vetted website, with a guided note organizer to report out from.

Guided Notes – Used to help students keep themselves accountable for covered content through the lectures and webquests. Points of the guided notes also ask students to reflect on concepts by having them write things in their own words or apply content to specific questions. Reflections and feedback given from students have been asking more recently to have concrete questions to answer, these notes are a way to allow for open/creative responses while still giving students a framework to feel they are on the right track.

Art and Primary Source Analysis – Used in the lecture to illustrate how music may be powerful at certain times. We will look for where the artist made a conscious choice in their art or their words to communicate what is important to their culture, and then ask ourselves how impactful it was to the individual, community, or larger society. . This is important in showing that I am not making assumptions or trying to put my bias into the ideas communicated.

Secondary Source Analysis – College Board requires that student decipher secondary sources and apply those ideas to historically defended arguments. I give students a choice of which quotes to decipher so that they can attack a quote at the level the are either comfortable in, or interested in but I will offer a variety of them on topics of brain science and history content.

Self-Assessment – Used to shift ownership of learning to students while getting a snapshot of their emotional comfort with absorbing this material. They need to reflect on learning to absorb it and the exercise of checking in with oneself and communicating that to a teacher can be a powerful exercise. After each lesson, students are identifying their comfort using a scale. Asking “What is standing out to you so far?” “What have you learned?” “What are you most proud of yourself for doing in this unit?” in the middle of the unit and the end help keep them motivated and will give me key insight into how this experience is going for them.

WebQuest Research – A Webquest allows students to work at their own pace and learn more detailed information about a specific topic being studied and creates a greater sense of importance for that topic. I ask students to read evidence anchoring the ideas of music and social cohesion, emotional regulation, and spread of cultural values. They will also be given resources to explore social justice movements. This exercise will provide the researched evidence to support thesis statements on continuity and change. In both exercises, students will be given one reputable website in order to begin their search as well as specific questions to answer in their notetaking doc.  Finally, students will be asked to do their on search via monument audit and take guided notes on what they find to support a thesis claim.

Thesis Writing and Argumentative Essay – Students need to learn how to write a thesis for college and also for the APUSH test administered through College Board. Students get a point on 2 of the 3 free responses sections of the test for making an argument relevant to the prompt that has at least two categories of analysis.

Classroom Activities


Day One:

Materials: Slide Deck on  Philly as a beacon city for free black people in the revolutionary era which will set up a scene to apply the musical impact to

  1. DO NOW: Remind students that one of the themes in APUSH is American Identity. Post APUSH standard: “New demographic and social developments changed US culture and led to significant political and moral debates that sharply divided the nation”. Have students annotate the objective by underlining key words, circling key verbs, and write what questions may need to be answered to complete the key verbs. Share out results.
  2. Have students write thoughts/connections/feelings about the quote from “Without it no Music: Cognition, Biology and evolution of musicality on pg. 5, “The uniqueness of music to humans, it’s universality across cultures and early emergence in development are consistent with music as an evolutionary adaptation. However, the flexibility and generativity of music and its rapid change over time are consistent with cultural transmission rather than adaptation. According to Trainor, adaptation and cultural transmission underlie the origins of music.” They will then Think-Pair-Share. The hope is that students will summarize the argument that it is both evolutionary, cultural, and transformative to address the continuity and change skill asked by College Board.
  3. Next, we will delve into the idea that music has/can be used to change society. Students will be asked to write the essential question in their notes: “Evaluate the extent that music changed society?” How can we tell if something was impactful or not? What should we look for as evidence?”. Students will brainstorm, as a class, what may be used as evidence and write those down. Instruct students that this list may be used as a reference later when they are doing their research.
  4. Next, I will tell students that we are going to try and focus on how music changed Philly in particular and then, if we have time or it becomes relevant, we will look outside of our city. So, make a sub heading for Philly in particular in their notes.
  5. Next, we will get some context on the history of Philadelphia. I want them to know that the Lenape tribe were the original inhabitants, that they are still an active tribe, and that they had been displaced.
  6. Next we will get some demographic stats from late-1700s to try and visualize societal makeup and legal status of enslaved and indentured servants to get an idea of the starting point for civil rights, particularly voting and abolition.
  7. Explain the Homework, which is to ask family if they had music they could or could not promote. We are hoping the diversity in first generation immigrant students will have a chance to add that point of view to the community and give us a wider scope to compare the US social justice movements and music with international examples. Students will post their interview answers on Google classroom, which will be visible to all. Students will be instructed to respond to 2 other posts and we will open up discussion of results both at the beginning of the next class and the day after (in case some students were not able to complete the homework overnight).
  8. Exit Ticket: “What is standing out to you so far?” “What have you learned?” “What are you most proud of yourself for doing in this unit so far?

Day Two:

Materials: 2nd: Music’s effect on the brain and use of music for abolitionism…deep listening (be in place and use your place)

  1.  Open with scrolling the posts to the Homework question from the day before. Ask students to respond to 2 posts and discuss answers.
  2. Ask students “In what ways can we tell music enhanced or was silenced in political struggle?” “Was metaphor or double entendre needed in any of these examples?”
  3. DO NOW: Check out the brain images and write down 3 things you can tell. I hope to extract that the more basic survival functions are at the stem and that relational functions are in middle and abstract are in pre-frontal.
  4. Explain the 3 selves. I avoided using the triune brain images and using the reptilian, mammalian, thinking brain analogy because research is suggesting that our brain is more adaptive than this simplistic theory.
  5. Discuss: What do you think of the idea that music is a bridge between emotional and logical self? That is can help us get to “sense” about our emotional experiences and how we fit into our relational selves? in order to have students assign value to music’s capability to do this in their experience and apply it to looking for evidence in the larger community.
  6. Next, I will present the quotes from academic studies done and have the students discuss whether they agree or not at their tables. I want them to have a chance to digest the ideas, and also prove to me that they have reflected on them. As I walk around and listen, I can correct any misunderstandings. Since we will be using these concepts for the rest of our research, it is important to check and make sure we are all operating with a baseline theory. Then, students will be asked to find a historical example to either back the evidence up or refute it. We will then share out results.
  7. Tell students that tomorrow we will be going back to early republic Philadelphia to apply what we have learned to history.


·         District:  see “Standards Addressed” in the appendix

·         State: CC8.5.11-12I, CC.8.5.11-12.G, CC.8.6.11-12.B

·         National:  see “Standards Addressed” in the appendix

Evaluation: Notes will be checked for accuracy.


Materials: Slide Deck

Timeline: 2 days


·         District:  see “Standards Addressed” in the appendix

·         State: CC8.5.11-12I, CC.8.5.11-12.G, CC.8.6.11-12.B, CC.8.5.11-12.D,  CC.8.5.11-12.J

·         National:  see “Standards Addressed” in the appendix

Evaluation: Thesis Statements, Exit Tickets


  1. Again, open with scrolling the posts to the Homework question from the day before for new posts. Ask students to respond to 2 posts and discuss answers.
  2. Ask students “In what ways can we tell music enhanced or was silenced in political struggle?” “Was metaphor or double entendre needed in any of these examples?”
  3. DO NOW: Thoughts/feelings/connections to the quote “Difference must not be merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within interdependency of different strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways to being in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters” – Audre Lorde
  4. Students will complete this classwork and a group to gain context and then apply the concepts of music’s impact on the brain to early republic Philadelphia, specifically the black community.
  5. Once context is gained, particularly achievements and challenges of the era, students will ask themselves: How might music have helped achieve some of these gains in their civil rights struggle or foster resilience against oppression? How might it have fought against ideas of white supremacy?
  6. Historical evidence of music specifically is shared in the slide deck as well.
  7. Students can then opt to individually, or with a partner, write a thesis statement to the prompt: Evaluate the extent that music influenced cohesion in the black community from 1700-1850.
  8. Exit Ticket: “What is standing out to you so far?” “What have you learned?” “What are you most proud of yourself for doing in this unit?

Materials: Essay Directions and Rubric

Timeline: 1 day


·         District –  see “Standards Addressed” in the appendix

·         State: CC8.5.11-12I, CC.8.5.11-12.C, CC.8.5.11-12.G, CC.8.6.11-12.B

·         National – see “Standards Addressed” in the appendix

Evaluation: see Rubric


  1. Have students pick a topic, try to get a variety of time periods covered.
  2. Students will research an era and find a song with a socially conscious message and analyze the effect it had on the movement.
  3. Exit Ticket: “What is standing out to you so far?” “What have you learned?” “What are you most proud of yourself for doing in this unit?



Dr. Fisher, Janina. (2022). The Living Legacy of Truama Flip Chart.

Randall, William and Rickard, Nikki. (2017). Reasons for personal music listening. The Psychology of Music. Vol 45 (4) 479-495

Brewster, Bill. (2014). Last Night a DJ Saved my Life. Grove Press

Orejuela, Fernando and Shonekan, Stephanie. (2018) Black Lives Matter and Music. Indiana University Press

Africans in America.

Muller Lecture Notes

Richardson, David. The Emotional Life of the Brain

Honing, ten Cate, Peretz, Trehub. (2015). Without it no music, biology and evolution of musicality. Philosophical Transactions. The Royal Society Publishing

Smith, Eric Ledell. “The End of Black Voting Rights in Pennsylvania” The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Music and the Brain Slide Deck

Revolutionary America Slide Deck

Free Black Philadelphia Music Classwork

Context Example: Philadelphia 1776- 1870

         During its first 50 years the United States transformed itself from a small republic into an expansive democracy for white Americans. The nation tripled its population, doubled in size, and extended slavery to parts of the Western frontier. For black Americans, this same period was a contradictory mix of community-building for free blacks and cementing enslavement for those not yet emancipated. Slavery grew stronger, as the invention of the cotton gin and a booming Southern economy fueled the push westward. In cities like Philadelphia, free blacks sought equal participation in American society by building churches and schools, forming beneficial societies, and petitioning their state legislature. In the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), several slave uprisings, including Gabriel’s Rebellion (1800), Denmark Vesey’s Plot (1822), and Nat Turner’s Revolt (1831), were poignant reminders of the human desire for freedom — regardless of the bloody consequences.
You will get into a group of 6 and each person will take their doc section and fill in their part, then share out parts so that each person has access to a full doc.

LINK                              FILL IN NOTES FOR THESE:

Whoever’s Birthday is 1st



Status of Free or Slave Geographically As the Nation Grows Slavery is Outlawed by 1790 in these states:


Slavery is Outlawed in these states as they enter the Union (these states were not original 13):


Slavery is incorporated into these states by 1790:


Slavery is expnded in these states/territories as they enter the Union (these states were not original 13):


Whoever’s Birthday is 2nd



Free Black Philadelphia Vibe of Philly and Evidence of it:


Statistics to Show Racial Makeup of the City:


Differences between being poor and being middle class:


Anthony Benezet:




Whoever’s Birthday is 3rd



Philadelphia’s Role in the Resistance American Society of Free Persons of Colour:


First black public school:


Black women in Philadelphia:


The Forten women:


Whoever’s Birthday is 4th



The Black Church Richard Allen:

Mural of him

Absalom Jones:


African Church of Philadelphia:


Rebecca Cox Jackson:


Whoever’s Birthday is 5th Name:


Colonization Instances of racist legislation in Philadelphia:


American Colonization Society:


People who were pro-colonization and why:


People who were anti-colonization and why:


Whoever’s Birthday is 6th Name: Conspiracy and Rebellions 1791:  St. Domingue AKA Haitian Revolution:


1799: Gabriel Prosser’s Rebellion:


1818: Denmark Vessey’s Rebellion:


1831: Nat Turner’s Rebellion:


EXAMPLE Growth and Entrenchment of Slavery Cotton gin: invented in 1793, makes cotton production 50x faster which makes slavery so profitable the South ‘slave power’ digs in rather than yield to the ideals of the 1776 seen in the North

–          the value of the total United States crop leaped from $150,000 to more than $8 million

–          At the same time the textile industry up North was the South’s best customer


1790 there are 697,897 slaves in the US

1810, there were 1.2 million slaves, a 70 percent increase


Slavery expands to new Western states: 100,000 slaves moved to West between 1790-1810

500,000 slaves will move by 1860


Black families were subject to separations, even free black families had to fear kidnappings


As slavery gets worse, it causes more oppostion to it, which also causes the South to be increasingly hostile against any attempt to stop it


EXAMPLE: 75% of Southern whites did not own slaves

Poor whites assist in the slave system (even though it suppresses the wages they could get if everyone got paid for work) in part b/c they are told they are not at the bottom of the social rung.

–          Assist in suppressing rebellions

–          Assist in “musters” to practice for rebellions

–          Vote (once the property requirement is lifted in all but VA and NC) for ‘slave power’ candidates

–          Told to fear free black communities taking jobs, seeking revenge for oppression, etc.

EXAMPLE Growth of Industry

South stays agricultural b/c business leaders are making money while the North industrializes

–          Leaves most Southerners (non-business) more poor than those in the North or West

–          One reason why the South loses the war, b/c they didn’t keep up technologically

EXAMPLE Map of arable land

B/c the land is so depleted and over cultivated from growing tobacco, rice, cotton in the land is wanted (and to allow slave labor) in Western states as the US expands


This causes MORE conflict b/c the Missouri Compromise of 1820 already set the line and even that was not enough for many b/c abolition of slavery was still their ultimate goal.

Part 2:

Now that you have some historical background, find a piece of historical evidence (google is fine) that you can apply the brain and music concepts we have covered too. How might music have helped achieve some of these gains in their civil rights struggle or foster resilience against oppression? How might it have fought against ideas of white supremacy?



Part 3:

Write a thesis statement to the prompt: Evaluate the extent that music influenced cohesion in the black community from 1700-1850.




Socially Conscious Music Essay:


Think of a historical era you want to research more about and look at how music effected the outcomes for this movement. Particularly focus on Philadelphia, and then branch out if you need to

Ideas of time periods to address..

Use of music during Jim Crow/Great Migration

Use of music for women’s rights to vote

Use of music for gay rights

Use of music for civil rights movement

Use of music for gun violence/police brutality today/BLM

Also, ask yourself: What now? What do we do with this info as Philadelphians?

Directions: Choose a song (or multiple songs for compare and contrast) with a social message (this song can be from any era) and analyze its historical context. Focus on the lyrics and address the following questions below in essay form. Your essay must be at least 500 words. There is no word limit. Due by . This assignment will require additional research to address some of the following questions.

  • To whom is the song addressed?
  • What issues, problems, or events are presented in the song?
  • Does the song seem to be written in response to a specific event?
  • What points of view or attitudes are revealed?
  • What were the circumstances at the time the song was released?
  • Does this song suggest any solutions to the issues/problems addressed?
  • How effective is this song as a social protest?
  • What, if any, relevance does this song have to American/Philadelphian society today?



Appendix A – Standards Addressed

District Standard – The SD of Philadelphia, while adhering to PA Standards for Reading and Writing in History, also cites “social studies is meant to enhance students’ understanding of their society and their world, with that enhanced understanding comes the seeking out of solutions to our society’s issues.”

PA Standard – CC.8.5.11-12.C – Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

PA Standard – CC.8.5.11-12.D – Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).

PA Standard – CC.8.5.11-12.G – Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

PA Standard – CC.8.5.11-12.I – Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

PA Standard – CC.8.5.11-12.J – By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 11–CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.

PA Standard – CC.8.6.11-12.B – Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.

National Standard:

Content Topic 5.11: College Board (the national organization AP students will take their test with) requires students to “Explain how and why Reconstruction resulted in continuity and change in regional and national understandings of what it meant to be American”

Content Topic 6.3.II.C: Facing increased violence, discrimination, and scientific theories about race, African American reformers continued to fight for political and social equality in the “New South” from 1877-1898.

Content Topic KC 8.2.III.F: The 1970s saw growing clashes between conservatives and liberals over social and cultural issues, the power of the federal government, race, and movements for greater individual rights.

Content Topic KC 8.3.II: New demographic and social developments changed US culture and led to significant political and moral debates that sharply divided the nation between 1945-1980.

Content Topic KC 9.2.II: The US population continued to undergo demographic shifts that had significant cultural and political consequences.

  • KC 9.2.II.C: Intense political and cultural debates continued over issues such as immigration policy, diversity, gender roles, and family structures.

Skill: Analyzing secondary sources. Students will be able to examine a secondary source and describe the author’s argument, how well the author supports the argument with evidence, and how it relates to other historical interpretations.