In this module, students will study the U.S. civil rights movement, focusing particularly on the Little Rock Nine. They will consider the question “How can stories be powerful?” as they learn about segregation, the civil rights movement, the Little Rock Nine and the role of the various mediums in shaping perceptions of events. As students read A Mighty Long Way by Carlotta Walls Lanier and a photo essay titled Little Rock Girl 1957 by Shelley Tougas, they will consider the different ways in which the story of the Little Rock Nine has been told. In Unit 1, students will build background knowledge as they study the history of segregation and Jim Crow laws in the United States. They will begin by reading primary sources, such as the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision and the dissenting opinion by Justice Harlan.
In Unit 2, students will analyze the role of various mediums (photographs, speeches, television reports, newspaper articles, etc.) in depicting the Little Rock Nine and will write an informational essay in which they analyze how various mediums may illuminate a story or provide an inaccurate or incomplete picture of a story.
Finally, in Unit 3, students will finish A Mighty Long Way. For their final performance task, students will present a song choice for a film soundtrack, and four photographs from Little Rock Girl 1957 to lift up as key events in a film about the Little Rock Nine as they went to Central High School, based on the memoir A Mighty Long Way. Student presentations will include a description of each photograph and the song, and an argument for why the events depicted in each photograph should be highlighted in a film. This module is content-rich; consider previewing the full module with a social studies colleague and finding ways to collaborate to provide an even richer experience. (Note: Students will encounter the racially charged language of the Jim Crow South and the Civil Rights era).