For Colored Folks Only: The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow Laws

byLouise Krasnow


Slavery, Jim Crow laws, and the Civil Rights movement are new concepts to my students. While many of my students have surely experienced racism in one form or another, they have not experienced such a brutal, institutionalized and legislated form (except when anyone says "La Migra," then they all pay close attention, as no one wants to be deported by the top division of the immigration police). I expect most will be shocked that state and federal governments fostered these racist laws. However, there will be a few who will quickly draw some comparisons to their own lives, having had the painful experience of a family member deported back to Mexico. This unit will give them the background information to understand the African American struggle and eventually use this information to help them understand their own cultural struggles for citizenship and equal rights in America. By the end of this unit, students will know what Jim Crow laws are and will also know many of the important civil right events. Students will be acquainted with the leaders who took a stand and made a difference in the lives of the African American people.

Mount Pleasant Elementary School is nestled in the east foothills of San Jose, California. It serves students from kindergarten through fifth grade with general education, ELD, intervention, and an afterschool program. We provide many services to the community and encourage parental involvement. Each year we have many community events such as our Afro/Caribbean festival, a Cinco de Mayo program, and a Science Fair. Fifth graders are also given an opportunity to attend Science Camp for four days where they learn about ecology, biology, and social skills. We have an outstanding after school program that provides additional academic help, social interaction, and broadens the student's world with field trips. Our school has primarily a Latino population but also has a diverse mixture of other ethnicities. In fact, our student population consists of 85% Latino, 7% Asian, 5% Pilipino, 1% African American, 1% White, and 1% unspecified. It should be noted that 65% of our students are English Language Learners (ELL). About 85% of our students are economically disadvantaged and on a federally subsidized reduced lunch program.

My students face a plethora of challenges that shape their lives. Students often come to class hungry, tired, emotionally drained, and without supplies or books necessary for an education. Their lives are dominated by the colors red and blue. The Norteños (American/Hispanics – northern) identify themselves using red, and the Sureños (Mexico/Hispanics – southern) using blue. While historically the area was primarily Norteños, it has recently had an increased population of Sureños. The influx of Sureños and the decrease in the San Jose Gang Task Force has "heated" up the area considerably in the last year. These two rival gangs, and the violence they bring, affects the lives of many of my students. While students are required to wear uniforms, so gang affiliation is not signified, student safety is still an ongoing issue. For many of my students, basic needs for shelter, sustenance and safety have not been met when they enter my classroom in the morning.

I teach the fifth grade consisting of nine and ten year-old students whose reading levels vary from first to ninth grade. This broad spectrum of capabilities requires that I differentiate the curriculum using small group strategies for reading, language arts, science and social science. Much of our day is reading, language arts, English language development (ELD), and math. The afternoon hours (about 1.25 hours) must cover technology, science, physical education, and social science. This leaves very little time for social science. However, with the Federal Common Core Standards peeking their head around the corner, there will be more reading of literary nonfiction and informational texts, including essays and speeches, and more opportunity to integrate reading with social science.


My unit, "For Colored Folks Only: The Rise and Fall of the Jim Crow Laws," is based on the fifth grade reading anthology theme, "Taking a Stand." Stories included in this thematic unit are: Goin' Someplace Special, Shiloh, Maya Lin, The Night of San Juan, and Sleds on Boston Commons. Each story, in this McGraw Hill anthology, has its own subtheme. The first story's subtheme is "Fighting Back." It is the story of an African American girl, in the 1940s, who walks across the town by herself for the first time encountering many Jim Crow signs. In this unit, I will strive to give my students a general understanding of what these racist laws were. My students will come to know some of the brave heroes responsible for "fighting back" and changing these laws. The sacrifices Ruby Bridges made in order to start the long, painful process of integration is bound to stir their emotions and interest. They will learn the progression of events that comprise what we now know as the Civil Rights Movement. Armed with this information they will start to understand what sacrifices a people make to raise their socio-economic level and regain their "inalienable rights!"

Most of my students come to the fifth grade knowing little about the struggles minorities have gone through for basic citizenship rights. They know the name Martin Luther King Jr., and that he had a dream of some sort for African Americans. They know who Caesar Chavez was, and that he helped Mexican Americans gain something, but they are usually not sure what. By exposing my students to African American struggles against injustice not only will they understand that week's reading story, but they will also be able to connect to the overall theme of "Taking a Stand." My students need to know how to stand up for what they believe, fight back, and understand what the risks and rewards can be. As an ancillary benefit, these lessons will help to build understanding between these two, often opposing, minority cultures.

Vocabulary development is the foundation for reading comprehension. There will be many new words, such as: slavery, Emancipation Proclamation, segregation, integration, and Jim Crow laws, which will need to be mastered in this unit. California Fifth Grade Reading Standard 1.0 states, "Students use their knowledge of word origins and word relationships, as well as historical and literary context clues, to determine the meaning of specialized vocabulary and to understand the precise meaning of grade-level-appropriate words." Besides learning new vocabulary, fifth grade students in California need to be able to read and understand expository text.

By exploring the actual Jim Crow laws of several states, students will identify how the laws limited African American freedom in all areas of their lives. The students and I will chart the findings, giving them a clear understanding that Jim Crow refers to a whole group of city, county, and state laws. My students will be fulfilling California Reading Standard 2.0 when they are researching and reading excerpts about the everyday heroes and civil rights leaders. They will be able to read and understand grade-level-appropriate material, understanding the structural features of informational materials. Students will write a short biographical report and present it orally to the class. This part of the unit will fulfill California Writing Standard 1.0 and 2.3. These writing standards require that the student write clear, coherent and focused research essays with an awareness of audience and purpose. Essays contain a formal introduction, supporting evidence and a conclusion. They will also need to write and speak with a command of standard English conventions appropriate to this grade level as stated in California Written and Oral English Language Conventions 1.0. These lessons will meet California Listening and Speaking Standard 1, that states students deliver focused, coherent presentations that convey ideas clearly. Lastly, my unit will meet California Speaking Application Standard 2.0, delivering well-organized formal presentations employing traditional rhetorical strategies.

After completion of this unit, and throughout the year, my students will be reading Francisco Jimenez's The Circuit (as well as his other two books). In this series, Francisco Jimenez writes about his struggles growing up in Mexico, working in California as a farm worker, and eventually attending Santa Clara University where he is currently the Fay Boyle Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. My students will be able to synthesize the information from this unit and see the similarities and differences between the Hispanic struggle as compared to that of the African American struggle. Since my principal studied under Francisco Jimenez, I am hopeful that he will be able to convince Professor Jimenez to visit and speak at our school. Armed with this new knowledge about minority struggles, my students will be able to draft some intelligent questions to ask him. While this is not a direct goal of my unit, it most certainly contributes to the background knowledge needed for synthesis and critical thinking as defined in the Common Core Standards.


I would like my students to understand that African Americans' struggle for freedom did not end with the Emancipation Proclamation. They will know, by the end of the first lesson, that Jim Crow laws were a large group of laws throughout different states that excluded African Americans from full participation, freedom and citizenship. They will be able to see that the laws took many different forms in various states, but were all structured to deny access to full citizenship rights to African Americans. My students will understand that there were key civil rights events that helped African Americans win their "inalienable rights" back. They will know some of the African American citizens who courageously fought the battle. As the unit progresses, my students should understand that African Americans' struggle for equal rights is ongoing. My students will learn how to research a topic, take notes and write a biographic report. Also, my students will practice their public speaking and listening skills. By the end of the school year, they should understand how African American and Chicano protest struggles are connected.

My fifth grade students should be able to answer these essential questions: What are Jim Crow Laws? When and how did African Americans get equality under the law? Who were some of the African Americans who were brave enough to fight back? What rights did they fight for? What are some of the ways that these brave citizens "fought back?" They will demonstrate their mastery of this material through their discussions, the timeline, and the final biographical report.


The African American fight for equal rights in our country has been a treacherous century-long struggle. The day that Abraham Lincoln first thought of freeing the Confederate slaves may have been the first ripple in the emancipation pond. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation became effective. It declared that slaves in the rebel states be free and established the Black military units among the union forces. It would take two more years for The Civil War to end and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment on January 1, 1865. Section one of the Thirteenth Amendment reads: "Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Section two states that Congress has the power to pass legislation to enforce the abolition of slavery. 1 It is estimated there were four million African American people affected by this law. 2 The passage of the Thirteenth Amendment was truly a joyous day for African Americans. 3

African Americans took this newfound freedom seriously. They began to reunite their families by searching for their long-lost spouses, children, and registering their marriages. Slave marriages had no legal standing, and it was important to establish their legal rights as a married couple. African Americans started withdrawing from white established churches and began creating their own churches. Church was not just a place for worship, but was central to African American life. Many of their political gatherings, social events and sometimes their schools resided in their newly founded churches. African Americans were quick to seek economic autonomy and equal political rights. 4

Just four months after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and his Vice President Andrew Johnson took office. Johnson grew up poor in the South. He worked his way from a tailor into politics in the 1830s. 5 While Johnson was a "longtime defender of slavery, as well as a slave owner himself," by 1863 he started to "embrace the Union cause," in Tennessee. Even though his time as the Tennessee governor was tumultuous, he continued backing the Union. 6 As the new President of the United States, he developed a Reconstruction plan that did not extend citizenship rights to former slaves, because they would, "destroy our institutions and change the character of government." The Radical Republicans developed their version of the Reconstruction plan, and he vetoed it. However, the legislature overrode his veto and enacted it anyway. The Radical Republican Reconstruction Plan of 1867 provided union military control over the Confederate secessionist states until they vowed to follow the laws of the union.

The issues of labor, politics and free will were intertwined during these early years of Reconstruction. 7 The United States was divided politically between the Republicans, who were abolitionists, advocates for black civil rights, and supported Reconstruction, and the conservative Democrats. Democrats wanted states rights, a return to slavery, control of the black labor force, and an end to Reconstruction. Blacks were a large majority of the Southern Republicans. 8 There was another group migrating from the North into the South called Carpetbaggers. They were Northern Republicans who came for their own personal gain. These Carpetbaggers, operating out of their best interest, aligned themselves with issues relevant to the newly freed. A third group that also strengthened the Republican South was the Scalawags. This group consisted of Southerners, some prominent, some wartime Unionists, entrepreneurs and yeomen, provided an additional challenge to the Democratic South. 9

Freed African Americans needed help with housing, food, clothing, medical needs, education, securing land, and finding jobs. In 1865 the Freedmen's Bureau bill established the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, which became known as simply the "Freedmen's Bureau." One of the primary function of the Bureau was as a social service agency, providing food, clothing, housing and medical treatment to the newly freed African Americans. This agency provided hope that their basic needs would be met, while they began to establish themselves. The bureau established Freedmen's Hospitals, but it could only meet a fraction of the medical needs of this newly created refugee group. Many newly freed African Americans were homeless, hungry and sick. 10 Even though Congress established this bureau it did not appropriate money for it, and the money was often drawn from the War Department's budget. Without a fully funded budget, the bureau was unable to fulfill many of its functions. 11

The Freedmen's Bureau did, however, establish 740 freedmen's schools with the help of Freedmen's Aid Societies and Northern missionary groups. By 1870, the Freedmen's Bureau had a network of more than 2,500 schools. 12 It had been against the law to educate slaves, so the newly freed African Americans took every opportunity to attend these schools. They knew, if they were to be active citizens, they needed to read and write. Education was an important way they could improve their lives. Even though the Freedmen's Bureau did a good job providing school, it should be noted that the schools established for the blacks were substandard and not equal to those of the whites. 13 Classrooms were often overcrowded with fifty or more students, and many schools did not have the necessary supplies. 14 African Americans embraced this opportunity for an education, since it is better to have a substandard education than no education at all.

The Freedmen's Bureau was also responsible for settlement of abandoned and confiscated lands, legal assistance and job placement. 15 The newly free African Americans knew that owning land would be essential to their survival and independence especially in the South. While the North was industrializing, the South was still primarily agricultural. The promise of "forty acres and a mule," was a shallow one at best. The Freedmen's Bureau failed to secure lands for the newly freed African Americans because it was a highly ineffective and understaffed. 16 The Southern land was given back to the previous white owners, who were mostly bankrupt, but at least they had land. Sharecropping, the practice of farming someone's land and then earning a percentage of the yields, was successful in keeping the blacks from ever owning land or getting ahead economically. 17 The African American sharecropper was getting deeper, and deeper in debt. With the white plantation or landowners responsible for the books, sharecroppers were often cheated out of their earnings. Supplies cost twice as much if you were black, and the black sharecropper always seemed to owe at the end of the harvest season. After years of not making a profit, the black tenant farmers would often slip away in the night, abandoning the farm. As a result, peonage, a form of involuntary servitude, began, whereby the tenant farmer would be forced by the state to work for his creditor. In the case of United States v. Reynolds (1914), the Supreme Court held that arrangements of this sort were a form of peonage and therefore a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. 18

The inequalities of sharecropping were not the only issues this newly freed population faced. A series of laws emerged right after the Civil War that exerted control over the African American. These codes, called the Black Codes, tried to set the ground rules for behavior, employment, and legal status of the African American. They were a wide-ranging collection of codes, laws, or other institutionalized practices, that began operating at the local and state levels. 19 Towards the end of 1865, Mississippi enacted a law that all blacks had to show evidence of employment yearly and if they stopped before the end of the contract, they had to forfeit all wages earned thus far. Giving up wages didn't seem to be enough; any white man could also arrest them. If the African American ran away from the job would be classified a vagrant and could be sold for a term of years. 20 As Mr. Donnelly wrote in February 1, 1866, "All this means simply the reestablishment of slavery." 21 These restrictive codes were nullified by the Freedmen's Bureau at different times over a two-three year period. 22 It should be noted that though these codes were nullified many of the practices continued. The African Americans were still subjected to inferior and cruel treatment.

The newly emancipated African Americans were eager to use their freedom at the ballot box. In 1865 Frederick Douglas asked directly for this basic right saying, "But if he knows enough to pay taxes to support the government, he knows enough to vote; taxation and representation should go together." Since the African American man has participated as a soldier in every American fought war, Frederick Douglas added, "If he knows enough to shoulder a musket and fight for the flag for the government, he knows enough to vote." 23 The Radical Republicans, with Thaddeus Stevens leading, wanted to secure the ballot for the black man (women hadn't won suffrage yet.) In 1868, Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment protecting due process and citizenship of the African Americans. 24 A clause in the Reconstruction Act stating that the Southern states would not be admitted back into the Union unless they ratified the Fourteenth Amendment gave the African American some assurance.

The African American voter also felt a need to have an organization, like the Union League, to protect their voting rights. It seemed that every black voter by the end of 1867 was enrolled in the Union League or some equivalent organization. 25 The African American turnout at the polls was very strong. In 1867, 70% of blacks in Georgia, and almost 90% in Virginia turned out at the polls. 26 During this period, every state of the former Confederacy had black men in political office. In 1870 the Fifteenth Amendment firmly established the right to vote regardless of race. Between 1870 and 1900, twenty-two African Americans were elected to Congress. 27 There were over 100 African American men winning elections at the state level and more at the local level. Clearly, African Americans were demonstrating their citizenship rights and fully participating in their government in these years of Reconstruction. This unfortunately would be as short lived as the Reconstruction period itself. 28 The Black teacher, Robert G. Fitzgerald recorded in his diary, what he overheard a white man say, "today is the black man's day; tomorrow will be the white man's." 29

There was a dispute between the popular votes and electoral votes in the election of 1876, so the Democratic party agreed to give the presidency to Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican, with the condition he would put an end to Reconstruction and not run for president again. 30 The Compromise of 1877 lead to the withdrawal of federal troops from the previous Confederate South. Now the previous plantation-owning Southerners could reclaim their land, control their labor force, protect their women, and rebuild their political control that was starting to be threatened by the new black voter. African Americans were again locked into economic inequality and political powerlessness. 31

The period following Reconstruction was full of anxiety about economics, states rights, manliness, and the state of our civilization. 32 White supremacy groups, like the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), were gaining power again, having once been suppressed by the Northern troops years earlier. Lynching of blacks, mostly men, were becoming a regular occurrence. Lynching was not simply a hanging, but could be a number of hideous forms of murder. A black man could be tortured, burned, beaten, cut, or mutilated until dead, and it would still be called a lynching. 33 According to Jessie Ames, a suffragist and founder the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching (ASWPL), there were two different types of lynching. There were lynchings that were quiet and orderly without advertisement or large mobs, and there were those in which organizers posted the day, hour, and victim's name days in advance. 34 The mobs that attended the later type of lynching could be men, women, and children, some dressed up for the event and showing little emotion. Professional photographers were hired to get the best pictures of these disgusting mutilations and murders. These pictures were then sold for a profit. Often the bodies were dismembered afterwards and the body parts kept or sold as souvenirs. 35 The murderers often justified their actions by accusing their victim of raping white women. In their twisted minds, they were protecting their women and civilization. These lynchings were mostly in the South, but they did occur in the North as well. In fact, these brutal, senseless murders were in all, but four states in America according to the U.S. Senate Resolution 39. 36

Jim Crow Laws and Customs

States and local governments towards the end of Reconstruction began passing a series of laws that would be referred to by the Southerners as protecting "our southern way of life." 37 Most of these laws were passed between 1876 and 1965, though there are some laws that occurred prior to 1876. These racist laws are referred to as the Jim Crow laws. As stated by Richard Wormser, in his book The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow, these laws were comprised of a "complex system of racial laws and customs that ensured white social, legal and political domination of blacks." 38 Even though racial discrimination has its origin in the antebellum period, "the specific and systematic racial discrimination characterized by Jim Crow was a product of the post-emancipation era." 39 Thus during these years the Jim Crow laws could be found in virtually every southern state and most northern states as well.

Some of the most powerful Jim Crow laws were those meant to disenfranchise black men. During the early years after emancipation, blacks made sure to exercise their right to vote and actually helped many African Americans get into political office. But starting in 1880, the white southerners were hell-bent to put an end to that. Literacy tests and physical threats of harm made it virtually impossible for many blacks and poor whites to vote. A grandfather clause was passed and proved to be one of the most powerful of all the voting regulations. The law stated that you could vote if you had a grandfather who voted. Clearly, if you were a black slave recently emancipated, you did not have a grandfather who voted! Grandfather clause laws wiped out the black voting population, but not the poor white in the states or municipalities where they existed. The southerners wanted to make sure the blacks were disenfranchised, and also not joining forces with the poor whites. 40 By separating these two populations, who were beginning to gain strength under the new Populist Party, they once again stripped black men of their ability to determine their future and get ahead. 41 These Jim Crow laws extinguished any chance of meaningful citizenship for blacks. In 1900, the number of blacks registered to vote in Alabama dropped from 180,000 to 3,000. 42

Besides disenfranchisement, Jim Crow laws were best known for their ability to segregate black Americans in just about all public facilities. Statutes existed for segregation in railroad cars and waiting areas, buses, restaurants, schools, bathrooms, drinking fountains, hospitals and even schools for the blind as discussed in our seminar with Jonathan Holloway. Even the United States Armed Forces were segregated until 1948 when President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 desegregating them. The famous Plessy v. Ferguson decision in 1896 required railroads, "to provide equal but separate accommodation for the white and colored races" in Louisiana. 43 North Carolina had a law that stated, "Books shall not be interchangeable between the white and colored schools, but shall continue to be used by the race first using them." 44 In Mississippi you could be fined for even urging equality, "Any person...who shall be guilty of printing, publishing or circulating printed, typewritten or written matter urging or presenting for public acceptance or general information, arguments or suggestions in favor of social equality or of intermarriage between whites and Negroes, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to fine not exceeding five thousand (5,000.00) dollars or imprisonment not exceeding six (6) months or both." 45

Another very common Jim Crow law was that which forbade interracial marriage. Miscegenation was strictly forbidden in many states. The issue of what constituted a person to be of the Negro race had to be determined in these laws. Some states considered any "black blood" would deem you black, but most stated settled on one-eighth as the final percentage. Anti-miscegenation laws in some states included other nationalities as well. In Nevada, the statute listed inappropriate marriage candidates by race and color for Caucasians, including blacks, "Malay or brown race, Mongolian or yellow race, or Indian or red race. 46 Twenty-five states, in 1896, considered marriage of whites with nonwhites illegal. 47

Yet Jim Crow customs could be even more pervasive than laws. Black men, for example, knew that avoiding physical contact with white women was not sufficient; the mere act of making eye contact, or offering to light a cigarette, was considered reason for lynching by whites. There was a very well established code of behavior that governed day-to-day interactions among blacks and whites in the south. 48 The southern way had to be taught the rules of segregation that were not legislated. Blacks rarely came to visit a home owned by a southern white person, but if there was discussion it might occur on a back porch. Yet, inside that very home was probably a black domestic servant who was cooking their meals and raising their children. Blacks always were expected to defer to whites and the children were taught this from the very beginning. A black man had to wait until the white man or woman was taken care of first in a store. A white person expected that a black man would take his hat off and bow slightly to acknowledge his or her presence. 49 The superiority of the white race was clearly signified in these rules of southern etiquette. Jane Dailey writes that Du Bois once said, that in relation to race and place, "A black man is a person who has to ride Jim Crow in Georgia." 50

Fighting Back

It took a lot of strength, courage and fortitude to challenge Jim Crow customs and laws. The changes occurred over a hundred-year period and battles are still being waged today for equal rights and equal opportunity. Many individuals and organizations have fought long and hard to run Jim Crow out of America. Using the anthology, Let Nobody Turn Us Around, edited by Manning Marable and Leith Mullings, I was able to read the narratives of many of these important people. People such as the early African-American leader W.E.B. Du Bois (1868–1963), writer, scholar, and co-founder of NAACP and Fredrick Douglass (1818-1885), the writer, speaker, and civil rights leader; Ida B. Wells (1862–1931), the teacher and journalist, who so courageously fought for anti-lynching laws and co-founded the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) in 1896; Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), who was the most powerful African-American politician from the end of Reconstruction until the Civil Rights movement. 51

There were many other powerful African American leaders. A. Philip Randolph (1889–1979) was the head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids and organized the 1941 March on Washington Movement, which lead to the Fair Employment Practices Committee. He went on to become the Vice President of the AFL-CIO. Another strong leader was educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955). A major presence in the National Association of Colored Women, Bethune served as the director the Negro Division of the National Youth Administration in Franklin Roosevelt's administration. 52

From 1954 to 1975 the Civil Rights Movement strengthened and many other brave individuals began to step forward. People like civil rights activists Bayard Rustin, Rosa Parks, Jo Ann Robinson, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, and let us not forget one very brave little girl, Ruby Bridges. These are the people who were fighting back and taking a stand for equality and freedom for African Americans. These courageous people will serve as an example for my students in this unit. 53


This unit will include many pedagogical strategies that will make the material more accessible to my students. I have found scaffolding techniques to work well with my student population. Scaffolding gives students a context, motivation, or foundation so they can understand the new information being taught. I plan on using several different scaffolding techniques: collaborative group sharing, motivational context to pique student curiosity, gradual release, and a graphic organizer in the form of a timeline.

Students need to be drawn into the lesson, with what is often referred to as a "hook" or more formally an "anticipatory set." A good scaffolding technique for anticipatory set should create enthusiasm, curiosity, and motivation. The other important component at the beginning of a lesson is to set a learning goal. Goals help to get the mind ready to look for that particular new information and pay closer attention to it. Almost all lessons begin with the goal, however, some "hooks" work better when students discover the goal as a result of that hook. Either way, they will know what they are required to learn for that lesson and be motivated from the first activity that piqued their interest. I will be creating two groups within the class, whereby one gets fun activities and the other does not. After this activity they may be able to guess the learning goal. If not, I will uncover the learning goal on the board and we will discuss at this point.

Students will be collaborating in their groups as they uncover the meaning of the group of laws we have come to call Jim Crow laws. This is a collaborative form of the technique that is often referred to as jigsaw. First students, who are already in heterogeneous groups of four, will be numbered. After the students in the group have read the Jim Crow law given to them on a 3x5 cards, they will discuss what the law says and where it was enacted. They need to decide whether the law was limiting the African American in the areas of voting, housing, marriage, or public places. I will then have the students who were given the number 1, rotate to another group taking their 3x5 card with them. These students will share their card with the group and discuss again as described above. Then I will have the student who has been numbered 2, rotate to the next group, share and then discuss. The students continue this until all four participants in the group have had a chance to rotate. By the time they finish the four rotations, they will have read four different Jim Crow laws, from four different states, and should see the common thread running through all the laws. The members of the group will share the pattern they have found. The students will share their findings. I will then record their findings on chart paper under the headings: transportation, restaurants, water fountains, school, or restrooms. This collaborative strategy teaches the students to work together, share information, discuss content, get a chance to move around the room breaking up the routine, and provide a kinesthetic activity.

Gradual release is another scaffolding technique that is research-based and effective with English Language Learners, as well as students who are below grade level. It consists of the teacher first modeling the skill or activity, giving the student a chance to see what is required of them. In the second lesson, I will be making a model timeline of three events in my life, and then they will be doing a timeline of three events in their lives. Then the students and the teacher do the same activity together but with different content (actual civil rights events). At this stage the students are simply mimicking the activity while the teacher demonstrates again. I will demonstrate how to date our timeline and they will mimic it on their timeline. Now the students have done the actual activity and have it in front of them. It is important, at this point, to ask if there are questions, or further define any procedures or constraints that might make it easier for the student to perform independently. In the final stage, the students perform the activity either with their group, if you think they need more practice, or independently. Our final timeline will be a group activity, whereby each group will place their event on the timeline. Finally, the individual students will be copying this information on their own personal timeline. The teacher then becomes the facilitator and simply observes, gives suggestions, answers questions or encourages the student to continue on their current path. The acronym for this procedure is I do it, We do it, You do it (IWY.) I will be doing a formative assessment, as I observe the groups working and individual students completing their timelines. The timelines will be collected and graded based on completeness, correctness of the date placement, understanding the concept of plotting on a timeline, and listing all civil rights events.

The last strategy I plan on integrating in these three lessons is grounded in the strategy called project-based learning. Each reading unit, which is six weeks long, has a thematic project. The thematic project will be learning about a civil rights leader and doing a biographical report. I will use an assessment rubric to set my expectations. I will review this rubric with the students before they start their projects. Since this will be the first project of the year, I will scaffold the actual research project instructing them on how to read informational text, search for the information on the computer, gather information on cards and writing the source on the back of each card. By scaffolding this first research project, they will have the skills for their future student-chosen unit projects. After completion of their thematic research project, they will write the information into a short biographical report and present it orally to the class. The class will listen and take notes. Students will be graded on their research, their organization of the researched data, the quality of the written biographical report in terms of grammar, sentence structure, and paragraph cohesiveness, their oral presentation skills and their listening skills.

Throughout these three lessons, I will function as the facilitator, frame questions, structure the content into meaningful tasks, and use my knowledge to develop social skills among their students. Since this lesson will be during the first two weeks of school, I will use the data I am given as to each student's ability level in order to level the individual students within their groups. There are more specific details about this in the Classroom Activities section. The first lesson will be a formative assessment, that is, noted subjective assessments of the groups and individual students as observed by the teacher. The timeline and the final thematic unit project will be graded on a rubric that was shared with the student prior to beginning the project.

Classroom Activities

Activity 1

Anticipatory Set

The learning goal will be under cover on the whiteboard, until after this exercise. Teacher will make up heterogeneous groups (gender and ability.) Before the lesson, the teacher will attach a pink strip of paper (Group A) and yellow strip of paper (Group B) under the students' desks. The teacher will separate the two groups. Then one of the colors will have fun learning activities with considerable freedom to move around, use restroom, and get drinks of water. The other group will be doing a monotonous task, like fill out a multiplication chart grid. When Group B starts to complain, stating this is "unfair," then I will call the two groups together, and see if they can guess the learning goal. The learning goal, understanding segregation and Jim Crow laws, will be uncovered. I will have additional discussion about what it felt like to be doing the monotonous work while others were enjoying themselves? Also, what did it feel like to be in the "chosen group?"

Collaborative Group Guided Practice

Students will be in cooperative groups of four. They will be numbered in these flexible groups based on previous academic performance or ability.

1 Lowest ability

2 Medium low ability

3 Medium ability

4 High ability

Each group of four students will receive a Jim Crow law. Each law will be from a different State. Laws will be in one of these four areas: voting, housing, marriage, public places. Each person in the group will have a job.

1 Will read the law

2 Will tell what State the law occurred in

3 Will explain what they think the law is saying

5 Will explain what person 3 said and can add or change the explanation

The group discusses and decides if they think that is correct or not.

After two to three minutes, the teacher will ask students numbered 1 to take their law with them to the next table group. Teacher will clearly spell out which table group each person is going to move to.

Once they have moved, they will repeat the cooperative learning strategy described above. After two to three minutes, the teacher will ask students numbered 2 to take their law with them to the next table group. This will occur at least four times, so that every student gets to experience laws from different states and different areas.

At the completion of this group activity, I will ask the students to return to their original group. The group will have two minutes to discuss what they learned from the exercise. The students numbered four from each group will share out what their group felt was the common thread running through all these laws.

Closing/Formative Assessment

The teacher will then chart, white board, or use a projection system, and record each law on a chart. The chart will have the following headings: State, Voting, Housing, Marriage, and Public Places. Below is an example of this chart.


Once the chart is completed. The students will take out their response journals and write down what they learned in this lesson. The teacher will walk around the room, reading over the students' shoulders, give suggestions, and evaluate. After two minutes, students will share with the partner directly across from them what they learned. Then the whole group will take turns discussing what they learned. Teacher will randomly ask someone in each group to share what they just discussed in their group.

Activity 2

Anticipatory Set

Teacher will announce the learning goal. The learning goal for this lesson is learning about how to make and read a timeline. The other learning goal is to learn about the important event that occurred in the struggle for African Americans to win their freedom and civil rights. Students will be asked to write down in their journals three very important events in their lives. The students will share their dates with each of their teammates. The teacher will then call on one student and make a timeline of that student's three events. Then the teacher will then call on another student and together the class will help place those events in the correct place on the timeline. Students will then jot their own personal timeline in their journal.

Each student will be given a sentence strip for making their own personal timeline of the period between the Emancipation Proclamation and ending with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The teacher will have a giant personal timeline. The students will copy onto their timelines the marking dates and events. The timeline will begin at 1860 and marked in half-decades (1865, 1870, 1875, etc. all the way to 1965.)

Each group of students will be given an historical event that occurred during that time period. These events will have dates and a description of the event. Each table group will also be given a long strip with the name of that event and the date. The teacher will model using her own event and long strip marker. She will read it out loud to the class and then model, using one of the groups, how they will discuss the event. The teacher will then place the long strip marker, on the big timeline, in the correct place, being sure to show the students the big dates on the line. This way they know how to judge exactly where to put the event.

Collaborative Group Guided Practice

The teacher will have one group model the whole procedure again. The table group will read their event/date and discuss with their shoulder partner. Then they will discuss with their face-to-face partner. They will then discuss as a group. The student who is number 4 in the group will go up and place the event in the correct place on the timeline.

When the group has finished this part of the assignment, then they will begin to copy the big timeline. This timeline will have all the events from each group placed on the line. Using the sentence strip given to each student, they will produce their own timeline of the African American struggle for civil rights.


As students are finishing up their timelines, teacher will discuss what the students learned in this lesson? Teacher can ask questions like: Why is it important to make this timeline? Did it help you understand? Why? Exactly what did you learn today? Timeline will be collected and graded for accuracy, completeness, and overall presentation.

Activity Three

Anticipatory Set

Teacher will hold up a book with Rosa Parks and ask what the students know about her. Do we know enough? Students will probably say, "no." Then the teacher will hold up a book or picture of Booker T. Washington and ask what the students know about him. Do we know enough? Students will probably answer, "no." The teacher can repeat that process for as long as she thinks the students need to be convinced, or "buy into," the project.

The teacher will introduce the unit project. The students will choose from a list of Civil Rights Leaders and do a biography report. Since this is their first reading unit project, they may work with a partner to collect the information, but each must produce their own written report. The oral report can be shared between the two students, but both must talk equally by dividing up the material.

The teacher will hand out the framework for the biographical report and a rubric. Together, with the class, the teacher will explain the requirements and deadlines.

Collaborative Partner Research

The research will occur mostly in the computer lab, but books will be encouraged as well. Students will work in teams, using three-by-five cards, to record their found information. They will record the website or book, where they found the information, on the back of the card. By referencing the biographical frame, the students can determine what questions they need to answer. These answers will be the information they will need to find and put on their three-by-five cards.


When the students have completed the report, they will each complete the biographical frame and type it in the computer lab. Student will do an oral report in the sixth week of the reading unit. The written report, oral report and listening skills will all be graded using a rubric.

Student Resources

Bridges, Ruby. Through my eyes. New York: Scholastic Press, 1999.

Brunner, Borgna. "Civil Rights Movement Heroes for Kids (Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr.)," Infoplease: Encyclopedia, Almanac, Atlas, Biographies, Dictionary, Thesaurus. Free online reference, research & homework help. (accessed July 31, 2012).

Bullard, Sara. Free at last: a history of the Civil Rights Movement and those who died in the struggle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Coleman, Evelyn, and Tyrone Geter. White socks only. Morton Grove, Ill.: A. Whitman, 1996.

Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Watsons go to Birmingham—1963: a novel. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 19971995.

"Jim Crow Timeline of Important Dates." Shmoop: Homework Help, Teacher Resources, Test Prep. (accessed July 31, 2012).

Litwin, Laura Baskes. Fannie Lou Hamer: Fighting for the Right to Vote. Enslow Publishers: Berkeley Heights, NJ, 2001.

Rappaport, Doreen, and Bryan Collier. Martin's big words: the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2001.

Rochelle, Belinda. Witnesses to freedom: young people who fought for civil rights. New York: Lodestar Books, 1993.

Smith, Stephen, Kate Ellis, and Sasha Aslanian. "Remembering Jim Crow: Presented by American RadioWorks." American RadioWorks from American Public Media.

Annotated Bibliography

Bergeron, Paul H. Andrew Johnson's Civil War and Reconstruction. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2011. Specific details about Andrew Johnson's origins and political career.

Dailey, Jane Elizabeth. The age of Jim Crow: a Norton casebook in history. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2009. This book's introduction gave a great synopsis of the issues in the Reconstruction era including Jim Crow laws. The expression "forty acres and a mule" and land distribution denied to black freedmen. Jim Crow laws referred to as "our southern way of life."

Downs, Jim. Sick from freedom: African-American illness and suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print. The newest information as to the health issues of African Americans post emancipation.

Foner, Eric. "America's Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War." Digital History. (accessed July 30, 2012). General overview, with primary documents, of the reconstruction period. Great source for teaching using the primary documents.

Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America's unfinished revolution, 1863-1877. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. Detailed information on the entire Reconstruction era, the politics and new black voter.

Gates, Henry Louis. "War and Its Meaning 1859-1865." In Life upon these shores: looking at African American history, 1513-2008. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. 144. The date, establishment and functions of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.

Gautier, Marguerite. "Manners & Customs in the Antebellum Period |" eHow | How to Videos, Articles & More - Discover the expert in you. | (accessed July 26, 2012). Information on the customs and values of Antebellum South.

Holloway, Jonathan, "African American History: From Emancipation to the Present." Spring 2010, Lectures 1-4. Yale Open Courses: (accessed July 16, 2012.) Reconstruction issues, concerns, African American rights, African American narratives, art, poetry and film.

Holloway, Jonathan, "Narratives of Citizenship and Race since Emancipation." Yale National Teacher Institutes, July 2012. African American narratives.

"Jim Crow Laws." Information on the Jim Crow customs. State statutes considered to be Jim Crow laws.

Marable, Manning, and Leith Mullings. Let nobody turn us around: voices of resistance, reform, and renewal: an African American anthology. 2nd ed. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009. Senate, "Apologizing to the Victims of Lynching and the Descendants of Those Victims for the Failure of the Senate to Enact Anti-Lynching Legislation" (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005.) A fabulous group of narratives of important people in the African American struggle for equal rights.

La Migra. migra. Definition and clarification of the Spanish phrase la migra.

"Musarium: Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America." Musarium: Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America. (accessed July 30, 2012). Pictures and narratives of African American lynching.

Parks, Gordon. "Gordon Parks' Alternative Civil Rights Photographs -" New York Times Photojournalism - Photography, Video and Visual Journalism Archives - Lens Blog - (accessed July 31, 2012). Outstanding pictures of African American people living during the Jim Crow era. These pictures are appropriate for showing to the middle grades (4-6 th).

"Thirteenth Amendment." National Archives. Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery (accessed July 12, 2012). Specifics on the Thirteenth Amendment.

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Statistic on African American freedmen.

Woodward, C. Vann. The strange career of Jim Crow. 3d rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974. Additional information on Jim Crow laws.

Wormser, Richard. "The Promise of Freedom, 1865-1877." In The rise and fall of Jim Crow. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2003. This is the book that corresponds with the PBS special of the same name. It has many pictures that will be helpful in teaching this lesson and others on the same topic.

Appendix: Implementing District Standards

California English Language Arts Content Standards for the Fifth Grade


1.0 Word Analysis, Fluency, and Systematic Vocabulary Development

2.0 Reading Comprehension

2.3 Discern main ideas and concepts presented in texts, identifying and assessing evidence that supports those ideas.

2.5 Distinguish facts, supported inferences and opinions in text.


1.0 Writing Strategies

1.2 Create multiple-paragraph expository compositions

2.0 Writing Applications

2.3 Write research reports about important ideas, issues, and events by using a guideline

Written and Oral English Language Conventions

1.0 Students write and speak with a command of standard English conventions appropriate to the grade level

Listening and Speaking

1.0 Students deliver focused, coherent presentations that convey ideas clearly and relate to the background and interest of the audience.

2.0 Students deliver well-organized formal presentations employing traditional rhetorical strategies. Speaking demonstrates a command of standard American English.


  1. Thirteenth Amendment," Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery (accessed July 12, 2012.)
  2. (accessed July 12, 2012.)
  3. Richard Wormser, The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow, 2.
  4. Eric Foner, "America's Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War." Digital History. (accessed July 30, 2012.)
  5. Paul H. Bergeron, Andrew Johnson's Civil War and Reconstruction, 2.
  6. bid, 35.
  7. Jonathan Holloway, "Narratives of Citizenship and Race since Emancipation," Yale National Teacher Institutes, July 2012.
  8. Eric Foner. Reconstruction: America's unfinished revolution, 1863-1877, 294.
  9. Ibid, 296-297.
  10. Jim Downs. Sick from freedom: African-American illness and suffering during the Civil War and Reconstruction, 7.
  11. Jane Elizabeth Dailey, The age of Jim Crow: a Norton casebook in history, xx.
  12. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Life Upon These Shores, 145-146.
  13. Jonathan Holloway, "Narratives of Citizenship and Race since Emancipation," Yale National Teacher Institutes, July 2012.
  14. Eric Foner, "America's Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War." Digital History. (accessed July 30, 2012.)
  15. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Life Upon These Shores, 144.
  16. Richard Wormser, The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow, 3.
  17. Ibid, xxi.
  18. Ibid, 119.
  19. Jonathan Holloway, "Narratives of Citizenship and Race since Emancipation," Yale National Teacher Institutes, July 2012.
  20. Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America's unfinished revolution, 1863-1877, 199-200.
  21. Jane Elizabeth Dailey, The age of Jim Crow: a Norton casebook in history, 10-11.
  22. Jonathan Holloway, "African American History: From Emancipation to the Present, Spring 2010, (accessed July 16, 2012.)
  23. Manning Marable, and Leith Mullings. Let nobody turn us around: voices of resistance, reform, and renewal: an African American anthology. Fredrick Douglas, pg. 126.
  24. Eric Foner, "America's Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War." Digital History., (accessed July 30, 2012.)
  25. Eric Foner. Reconstruction: America's unfinished revolution, 1863-1877, 283.
  26. Ibid, 314.
  27. Jane Elizabeth Dailey, The age of Jim Crow: a Norton casebook in history, xvii.
  28. Ibid, xvi-xix.
  29. Eric Foner. Reconstruction: America's unfinished revolution, 1863-1877, 288.
  30. Richard Wormser, The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow, 31.
  31. Eric Foner, "America's Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War." Digital History., (accessed July 30, 2012.)
  32. Jonathan Holloway, "African American History: From Emancipation to the Present, Spring 2010, (accessed July 16, 2012.)
  33. Jonathan Holloway, "African American History: From Emancipation to the Present, Spring 2010, (accessed July 16, 2012.)
  34. Jane Elizabeth Dailey, The age of Jim Crow: a Norton casebook in history, 182.
  35. "Musarium: Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America." (accessed July 30, 2012).
  36. Senate, "Apologizing to the Victims of Lynching and the Descendants of Those Victims for the Failure of the Senate to Enact Anti-Lynching Legislation" (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005.)
  37. Jane Elizabeth Dailey, The age of Jim Crow: a Norton casebook in history, xiii.
  38. Richard Wormser, The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow, xi.
  39. Jane Elizabeth Dailey, The age of Jim Crow: a Norton casebook in history, xxvii.
  40. Ibid, xxvii.
  41. Ibid, xx.
  42. Jonathan Holloway, "Narratives of Citizenship and Race since Emancipation," Yale National Teacher Institutes, July 2012.
  43. Jim Crow Laws,, Louisiana code.
  44. Ibid, North Carolina code.
  45. Ibid, Mississippi code.
  46. Ibid, Nevada code.
  47. Jane Elizabeth Dailey, The age of Jim Crow: a Norton casebook in history, xxix.
  48. Jim Crow Laws, (accessed July 17, 2012).
  49. Ibid.
  50. Jane Elizabeth Dailey, The age of Jim Crow: a Norton casebook in history, xlii.
  51. List of Civil Rights Leaders, (accessed July16, 2012).
  52. Ibid (assessed July 16, 2012).
  53. Ibid (assessed July 16, 2012).

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