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What is Home?

Author: Jeannette Moon


Penn Alexander School

Year: 2023

Seminar: W.E.B. Du Bois and Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward

Grade Level: 6-8

Keywords: Wayward Lives, Home, survey, storytelling, Seventh Ward, Raisin in the Sun, maps, mapping, Hansberry, Genre Analysis, Du Bois

School Subject(s): ELA

Grounded in W.E.B. Du Bois’ mapping and analyses of The Seventh Ward in The Philadelphia Negro, this unit explores the essential question of “What is home?” In this unit, students will define home for themselves through text and map analyses culminating in an option of three end of module assessments. For this assessment, students will choose and include an analysis of the choice they made between defining home via a map, argumentative essay, or narrative.  Students will explore and analyze primary and secondary documents throughout the unit starting with Du Bois’ Seventh Ward maps. As they move through the unit, students will practice form, tone, and genre analysis that they will then apply to their peers and their own writing.

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Unit Content


I teach seventh and eighth grade Literacy at Penn Alexander School. This is my third year teaching at this school and my tenth teaching overall. Prior to PAS, I taught in East Los Angeles.  I have only ever taught middle school ELA. Currently, I teach two blocks of seventh grade and one of eighth. Students travel in cohorts and are not tracked aside from math class. The majority of the eighth grade I have taught before, having looped with them through the pandemic Zoom year.

As all communities are, PAS is a unique one. It is located at the intersection of 43rd and Spruce, known to some as University City and others as West Philadelphia. The school has its hand in both producing and being the product of the oft-reported gentrification of West Philadelphia. PAS is purposefully shielded from the budget constraints of the School District of Philadelphia with funding from the University of Pennsylvania and an active Home School Association determined to create, in this one community school, proof that public education works.

Whatever the causes and effects of extra funding, median housing prices, and a Blue Ribbon are, the school serves a demographically diverse population. So much so that in each of my classes there is not a clear racial, religious, or socioeconomic majority. Amidst this complexity, one hope for middle school ELA is that it fosters for students the skills and criticality necessary to understand themselves and their community.

Curricularly, PAS uses Wit and Wisdom. I replace one unit per grade with a teacher created unit to supplement what exists. I hope to integrate this W.E.B. Du Bois based curriculum, with a subsequent Raisin in the Sun unit exploring “How do one’s race, class, and/or gender influence an individual’s goals or aspirations?” As Lorraine Hansberry was taught and influenced by Du Bois, students too will be able to track ideas and concepts across time and genre.

Essential Question: What is home?

This unit will be guided by the essential question of “What is home?” With this question, students will establish for themselves their own definition of home. In doing so, we will consider individual interpretations and societal constraints that define the idea and reality of home.

The abstract question will be anchored by Du Bois’ writing and surveying in both The Philadelphia Negro and other texts. Through analyses of Du Bois’ work and experience, students will be both exposed to and critical of Du Bois’ ideas of home. A historical figure whose relevance expansive reach spreads across academic disciplines, Du Bois will provide multiple access points for students to consider home (Hunter; Jones-Everly and Dean).

For students who are in the Penn Alexander School catchment, the Seventh Ward as Du Bois understood it, is geographically and temporally distant. Yet ideas Du Bois presented, and the skills and criticality necessary to read said ideas are necessary for students’ understanding of their own homes.

Throughout the unit, students will describe home for themselves, gain context for how society defines home, and explore the effects of home. Each of these sections of the unit will culminate in an informational paragraph.

At the end of the unit, students will discuss their ideas for each section in a seminar. From this seminar, students will collaborate or work individually to create a definition of home either through an annotated map with explanatory essay, an argumentative essay or a personal narrative with integrated citations. In addition, students will include a caption for their end of module gallery walk that explains the choice of medium they made–why I chose to present my story with a map, essay, narrative etc.

Focusing Question: How is home described?

Starting with the seemingly concrete skill of mapping, students will explore Du Bois’ survey and techniques used in The Philadelphia Negro to then create their own map. Charged by the University of Pennsylvania, Du Bois used surveys and observation to categorize the people of the Seventh Ward of Philadelphia: “For Du Bois, observations of human action were essential for understanding and changing society…Du Bois viewed groups as entities with collective traits that could be statistically described” (Zuberi 148). These observations would ultimately serve Du Bois’ analysis explanation of the city’s “negro problem.”

Du Bois used the perception of mapping as a concrete metric to legitimize his research. Methodical and thorough, each of Du Bois’ assertions in The Philadelphia Negro is supported by charts and statistics. However, Du Bois explains “We remained unrecognized in learned societies and academic groups. We rated merely as Negroes studying Negroes” (Farland, 1037). Du Bois navigated the paradoxical nature of sidling up to the academic class that had hired him (but only for a little while ) with maps.

Students will explore this paradox by first analyzing the effect of Du Bois’ choices in survey question, category, color etc. While seemingly quantitative in nature, the map categories upon analysis may be understood as conditional. Students will later apply the analytical skills they used with Du Bois’ maps to create their own map categories and surveys. In doing so, they will start to gain a foundation for the nebulous nature of home.

Focusing Question: How does society define home?
Individual Perception

As Du Bois did in his analyses, students will then explore the idea of how society and societal factors impact home. Originally printed in The Atlantic and later in The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois describes the idea of “double consciousness.” He defines this as the “sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity” (“Strivings”).

This essay overlaps with Du Bois’ time surveying the Seventh Ward. As he was surveying Black Folk and the environment of the Seventh Ward, Du Bois was simultaneously observing and analyzing the ways in which his race affected others’ perceptions of himself. Du Bois’ analyses at the end of The Philadelphia Negro describe too the effects of perception on the lives of the residents of the Seventh Ward in a section of Chapter 16 entitled “Color Prejudice”: “The difficulties encountered by the Negro on account of sweeping conclusions made about him are manifold…” (The Philadelphia Negro 339).  Du Bois then includes the results of his surveys with various examples of Black Philadelphians’ employment being hindered by these “sweeping conclusions.”

Having been hired in part because of his shared Blackness with the subjects of his sociological study, Du Bois was intimately familiar with parts of the experiences of the residents of the Seventh Ward.  He deftly describes and analyzes aspects of prejudice against Black people. However, as he categorized a section of these same residents as “Vicious and Criminal,” he distinguished himself from this community and “…the community did not fancy itself as an ‘other’ in need of a great intellectual savior; indeed, there was an obvious tension between Du Bois and the city’s Negro elite” (Zuberi 149).  This disconnect is fictionalized in Wayward Lives as Du Bois’ dress and interloping nature is emphasized: “[Du Bois] was desperate to believe that the refinement of style  might make plain what escaped the gaze of the white world–every Negro was not the same” (Hartman 84-85). By describing and researching “color prejudice” Du Bois had the dual effect of validating his own experience while distinguishing himself from certain residents of the Seventh Ward. Du Bois’ expertise and understanding has limits.

Each of these three texts provides a distinct lens into Du Bois’ ideas about and relationship to racial prejudice. Throughout “Strivings of the Negro People” and The Philadelphia Negro, Du Bois philosophizes and proves the tangible effects of prejudice held against Black people. Wayward Lives provides a narrative version of the complexities that Du Bois embodies as the observer of racial prejudice and the disconnect between his sociological subject matters and himself. Students will explore the relationships between these three texts both in style and in what together they are arguing about how outward perceptions may affect how home is defined. As the residents of the Seventh Ward are not a monolith, neither is Du Bois. Rather than singularly codify Du Bois own “double consciousness” as any one descriptor, students will have the opportunity to analyze the truth of all three of these texts.

Systemic Factors: School

While there are perhaps infinite systemic factors that affect how society defines the concept and reality of home, this unit will explore school for its particular relevance to the students who will be engaging in this unit in said school.

In The Philadelphia Negro, Du Bois sidelines and deprioritizes education stating that, “…the problem of education is still large and pressing; and yet considering [the residents of the Seventh Ward’s] ignorance in the light of history and present experience, it must be acknowledge that there are other social problems connected with this people more pressing than that of education…” (The Philadelphia Negro 95). In contrast to Du Bois’ systematic description of color prejudice, he posits that educational shortcomings like poor attendance are in part the responsibility of the Black individual: “It cannot be said that Negros have fully grasped their great school advantages…” (The Philadelphia Negro 96).

Du Bois’ narrative of individual responsibility is intertwined with his high praise of the existing schools like The Institute for Colored Youth which he describes as “popular and useful” (The Philadelphia Negro 95). Fundamental to Du Bois’ assertion that individuals have a shared responsibility to their schooling his trust in the existing educational institutions.

Decades later in 1935, he expounds on his ideas about schools: “…theoretically, the Negro needs neither segregated schools nor mixed schools. What he needs is Education. What he must remember is that there is no magic, either in mixed schools or in segregated schools. A mixed school with poor and unsympathetic teachers, with hostile public opinion, and no teaching of truth concerning black folk, is bad. A segregated school with ignorant placeholders, inadequate equipment, poor salaries, and wretched housing, is equally bad.” (“Separate Schools” 365). Here Du Bois is less focused on the binary nature of segregated versus mixed schools but rather the quality of education. The through line across these two texts is Du Bois’ necessitating quality education regardless of race. He constructs a nuanced view within the perceived binary of segregated versus integrated, systemic issue vs. individual responsibility.

This nuance continues in the conversation about de facto school segregation today. As portrayed in the This American Life podcast “The Problem We All Live With” different students have different relationships to the illegal but practiced segregation of their schools. With insight into the segregation of today, students will have an opportunity to place themselves in the context that both Hannah Jones and Du Bois describe in order to build their own argument. Based on these three texts, students will have the opportunity to construct their own nuanced opinion using these texts as sources.

Focusing Question: How will we tell the story of home?

Du Bois was not limited to surveys and sociological studies. At this point in the unit, students will have read philosophical essays of Du Bois in addition to the traditionally more quantitative sociological study of The Philadelphia Negro. They will also have read fictionalized versions of Du Bois in Wayward Lives. Later in his career, Du Bois himself would also write fiction.  He “Tout[ed] the ‘literary possibilities’ of the ‘severely scientific’ Lowndes county study, DuBois foretold his occupational shift from science into literature, and his embrace of the ‘efficient means of publicity’ available in the literary realm” (Farland 1019). This point in the unit will be where students mimic Du Bois’ expertise in different genres. They will choose for themselves which genre is most effective and true to their own definitions of home based on the strengths and limitations of the kinds of texts they have analyzed. .

Transition to next unit

Home will continue to be a motif in Raisin in the Sun as students dive deeper into racially restrictive covenants and white flight. In order to lay the foundation for these more contemporary historical phenomena, students will start with an exploration of the precursor to the 20th century depicted in Raisin in the Sun that is exemplified by The Seventh Ward.

With the background knowledge gained throughout this Du Bois unit, students will have established context for how Hansberry was influenced by Du Bois and how that influence is seen in The Raisin in the Sun.

Teaching Strategies

What is home?

The unit’s essential question is “What is home?” Culminating in an end of module assessment that explores this question, the rest of the unit is divided into sub-questions that explore different elements of the essential question.

How is home described?

First, students will create their own maps of their neighborhoods. Much like how Du Bois quantified the people of the Seventh Ward, students will be able to choose or create categories for their own communities. Students will need to build background knowledge of both Du Bois and The Philadelphia Negro and will do so with a scavenger hunt across multiple texts. Once this background knowledge is established, we will start with a close read of Du Bois’ map of the seventh ward.

We will start by analyzing the effect of Du Bois’ choices–What is the effect of calling a group of people “Vicious and Criminal? Why might Du Bois have done this? Students will then turn this own criticality to their own maps and that of their peers by analyzing the effect of each choice–Why did you choose the area you chose? The legend categories? The colors? Students will then use narrative writing to create a story from the point of view of their own maps. These maps will serve as a foundation for students to begin engaging critically both with Du Bois’ writing as well as their own.

In preparation to create their own maps, students will explore the relationship between Du Bois’ surveys and the categorizations he made. They will then construct their own survey to slot in their categories. From there, they will survey the area they hope to map.

How does society define home?

Students will begin this section with a close read of an excerpt from The Souls of Black Folk outlining double consciousness. The initial read will be to spiral tone analysis from prior lessons by distinguishing this excerpts’ tone from The Philadelphia Negro and how the distinct tone affects the readers’ understanding.  Students will discuss how Du Bois’ own identity as described by double consciousness may have affected his work and his maps.

Considering the ideas from Du Bois’ double consciousness, students will read excerpts from Wayward Lives to discuss how society may have affected Du Bois’ and the woman character’s definitions of home, specifically as they relate to identity. This first read and analysis of Wayward Lives will come up again later in the unit as students decide which form will best suit their end of module assessment.

As well as societal perceptions of individuals, students will focus on how schools too define home.For students at district schools, school is often defined by SDP’s definition of home. Catchment lines are drawn and the result is an institution in which students will spend the bulk of their waking hours. Students will read Du Bois’ “Does the Negro need separate schools?” and listen to This American Life “The Problem We All Live With” to evaluate the arguments made by each. Students will integrate these texts into an argumentative paragraph citing both sources as to whether schools should be forcibly desegregated.

Later, in the next unit, we will connect institutional housing discrimination to the Youngers’ experience with Lindner. Exploring housing and school segregation will provide background knowledge for the question in a later unit “How do the Youngers define home?” Once we listen to Lorraine Hansberry’s town hall forum we will establish connections between Du Bois’ and Hansberry’s thinking.

How will we tell the story of home?

In the last focusing question, students will make the decision of how they will respond to the question of “What is home?” grounding themselves first in an analysis of three different types of sources–primary, analysis, and narrative.

We will have established an example of a primary source of Du Bois’ Seventh Ward Map. We will look at other examples of Du Bois’ charts and read excerpts of Du Bois’ summation of the information in the charts comparing and contrasting between reading and interpreting the chart for ourselves and reading Du Bois’ analysis.

We will then read a review of Du Bois further defining similarities and differences between reading another person’s interpretation, focusing specifically on word choice and its effect. Using a review as a mentor text, students will evaluate their peers’ maps through their own reviews and analysis, similarly evaluating the effect of their peers’ language.

Classroom Activities

Title Maps to Categories
Materials Handout, pencil, projected map of The Seventh Ward
Timeline “How is home described?”
Objective SWBAT analyze the effect of mapping categories.
Standard ●       RI 8.3: Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).

●       RI 8.5: Analyze in detail the structure of a specific paragraph in a text, including the role of particular sentences in developing and refining a key concept.

Step-by-Step Students will observe and scan a projection of The Seventh Ward map from The Philadelphia Negro.

Students will record the things they notice and questions they have about the map.

Students will share out noticings and wonders.

Teacher will model analyzing the effect of an element of the map for example a category name.

In groups, students will analyze other elements they noticed from the map.

Students will begin brainstorming the categories they desire in their own maps by jotting down the elements that are important to their map.

Students will analyze the effect of each category to make sure their categories have the effect they desire.

Students will present their categories to a peer and revise upon reflection.

Students will draw a rough draft of their legend for their map.

Evaluation Tool Exit ticket (rough draft of legend) should include:

●       at least four categories for surveyed people

●       colors or symbols associated with each category


Title Survey to Legend
Materials Handout, pencil, “Maps and Categories” classwork
Timeline “How is home described?”
Objective SWBAT make connections between survey questions and map categorizations.
Standard ●       RI 8.3: Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).

●       RI 8.5: Analyze in detail the structure of a specific paragraph in a text, including the role of particular sentences in developing and refining a key concept.

Step-by-Step Students will warm up by discussing the question: How do you categorize people?

Students annotate the questions and categories

In groups, students will decide which questions are relevant to the four Du Bois categories.

Students will write potential responses people may have to survey questions.

Students will write questions based on the categories they established in the last setting.

Students will survey one another.

Students will categorize the responses of their peers according to the categories established last lesson.

Upon reflection of the categorization process, students will revise their questions to better match the information they are seeking

Evaluation Tool Students will have survey questions that match the desired categories.


Title Medium Analysis
Materials Excerpts (see appendix), handout
Timeline “How will we tell the story of home?”
Objective SWBAT use excerpts from The Philadelphia Negro by Du Bois, a review printed in The Yale Review and and an excerpt from Wayward Lives by Saidiya Hartman  to distinguish the effect of primary sources, reviews, and narratives.
Standard ●       RI 8.1: Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

●       RI 8.3: Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).

●       RI 8.5: Analyze in detail the structure of a specific paragraph in a text, including the role of particular sentences in developing and refining a key concept.

Step-by-Step Students will warm up by discussing the question: “How would you describe your house?”

Students will read the excerpts and the reviews recording notices and wonders.

Students, in groups, individually or in a jigsaw will analyze each text for language and tone through guided questions.

Students will analyze each text to determine its effectiveness.

Students will complete their exit ticket as a first draft for the analysis of genre that will be later used in the end of module assessment.

Evaluation Tool ●       An analysis of effectiveness that defines “effectiveness” and explains why the genre chosen applies to their definition of “effectiveness”


B, W F. “The Philadelphia Negro.” Yale Review, May 1900, pp. 110–111.

Du Bois, W.E.B. “Strivings of the Negro People.” The Atlantic Monthly, 1897.

Du Bois, W.E.B. The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2023.

Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches. A.C. McClurg & Co, 1903.

Excerpts and images from this study will be used throughout the unit.

Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt). “The Seventh Ward of Philadelphia.” Map. Philadelphia: Published for the University, [1899]. Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center, (accessed May 18, 2023).

Farland, Maria. “W. E. B. DuBois, Anthropometric Science, and the Limits of Racial Uplift.” American Quarterly, vol. 58, no. 4, 2006, pp. 1017–45. JSTOR, Accessed 6 Mar. 2023.

Hannah-Jones, Nikole. “The Problem We All Live With. ”This American Life.” Episode 562, Accessed 9 Jun. 2023.

Hartman, Saidiya. Wayward Lives. W.W. Norton & Company, 2020.

Excerpts from this novel will be used particularly in the storytelling section of the unit as an example of narrative. Hunter, Marcus Anthony. “Black Philly after The Philadelphia Negro.Contexts, vol 13, no. 1, 2014, pp. 26-31.

Hunter, Marcus Anthony. “W.E.B. Du Bois and Black Heterogeneity: How the Philadelphia Negro Shaped American Sociology.” The American Sociologist, vol. 46, no. 2, 2014, pp. 219–233.,

Jones-Eversley, Sharon D., and Lorraine T. Dean. “After 121 Years, It’s Time to Recognize W.E.B. Du Bois as a Founding Father of Social Epidemiology.” The Journal of Negro Education, vol. 87, no. 3, 2018, pp. 230–245.,

Logan, John R., and Benjamin Bellman. “Before the Philadelphia Negro: Residential Segregation in a Nineteenth-Century Northern City.” Social Science History, vol. 40, no. 4, 2016, pp. 683–706.,

“W. E. B. Du Bois’s “Does the Negro Need Separate Schools?”.” Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, edited by Patrick L. Mason, 2nd ed., vol. 4, Macmillan Reference USA, 2013, pp. 361-365. Gale eBooks, Accessed 3 May 2023.

Zuberi, Tukufu. “W. E. B. Du Bois’s Sociology: The Philadelphia Negro and Social Science.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 595, 2004, pp. 149–160.,


The following are the academic standards that are included in the unit. The bolded standards are the ones emphasized.:

  • RI 8.1: Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • RI 8.3: Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).
  • RI 8.5: Analyze in detail the structure of a specific paragraph in a text, including the role of particular sentences in developing and refining a key concept.
  • RI 8.7: Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.


  • RW 8.1: Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. a. Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically. b. Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text. c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence. d. Establish and maintain a formal style. e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.


  • RW: 8.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content. a. Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension. b. Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples. c. Use appropriate and varied transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts. d. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic. e. Establish and maintain a formal style. f. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented.