Segregation in the United States | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M3B:U1

Segregation in the United States

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In this first unit, students begin reading the central text A Mighty Long Way, by Carlotta Walls Lanier. This text builds background knowledge of the Little Rock Nine and provides insights into the personal journey of one of the Nine. Students will trace Carlotta's journey for justice, as well as her emotional journey to come to terms with her experiences. Each of the three stages of her journey is identified by the title and lyrics of a song from the civil rights era. Students will also begin to build background knowledge of segregation and Jim Crow laws in the United States. The primary and secondary sources students will read include both the court decision and the dissenting opinion in the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson.  

Students will engage in close reading of each text to build their understanding of the case, and will write an on-demand response explaining how the court decision and the dissenting opinion differ in their interpretation of the 13th and 14th amendments to assess RI.8.9. At the end of the unit, students will make connections between all of the texts they have read and lyrics from songs, in Socratic Seminar discussions to assess SL.8.1. 

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How does studying diverse sources about the same topic build our understanding?
  • What is the story?
  • The civil rights movement fought against the practices of segregation and Jim Crow.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read literature and informational text about the Second Sudanese Civil War. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies Practices and Themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content.

These intentional connections are described below.

NYS Social Studies Core Curriculum:

  • 1. Individual Development and Cultural Identity

-   Role of social, political, and cultural interactions in the development of identity
-   Personal identity is a function of an individual's culture, time, place, geography, interaction with groups, influences from institutions, and lived experiences

  • 3. Time, Continuity, and Change

-   Reading, reconstructing, and interpreting events
-   Analyzing causes and consequences of events and developments
-   Considering competing interpretations of events

  • 5. Development and Transformation of Social Structures

-   Role of social class, systems of stratification, social groups, and institutions
-   Role of gender, race, ethnicity, education, class, age, and religion in defining social structures within a culture
-   Social and political inequalities
-   Expansion and access of rights through concepts of justice and human rights

  • 6. Power, Authority, and Governance

-   Origins, uses, and abuses of power

  • 7. Civic Ideals and Practices

-   Basic freedoms and rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democratic republic
-   Civic participation and engagement
-   Struggle for rights, access to citizenship rights, and universal human rights

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School
by Carlotta Walls Lanier
ISBN: 978-0-345-51101-0
Ripples of Hope: Great American Civil Rights Speeches
by Josh Gottheimer
ISBN: 978-0465027538
Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration
by Shelley Tougas
ISBN: 978-0-756-54512-3

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • Collaborate with the social studies teacher during this unit, as students build background knowledge about the civil rights era and Jim Crow South.
  • Invite individuals to visit and provide compelling and interesting stories and experiences about the civil rights era.

Students may study local monuments and the service of community members who were involved in the civil rights movement.

Students may organize a benefit or event to recognize the service and sacrifice of civil rights activists in their community.

Consider using the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources as a resource for civil rights information.

This topic offers many opportunities for further study. Students may read or research any number of materials relating to Governor Faubus, Jim Crow laws, civil rights leaders, civil rights songs, etc.

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