Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and the Integration of Schools

byValerie Schwarz


I walked out of the local coffee shop and onto Grove Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut. Standing near his dark blue worn pick up truck was an older gentleman wearing an Old Dominion University T-shirt. Being from Virginia, I asked the man if he was from Virginia or went to Old Dominion. He replied, “No,” but he proceeded to tell me that his granddaughter went there and that his wife grew up in Virginia. He asked me where I was from, and I told him Richmond.

“Where was your wife from?” I inquired.

“Farmville. Have you heard of it?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, the wheels spinning in my head.

“They closed the schools on her,” he stated.

The encounter on the corner of Grove Street would not be of interest except that the closing of schools in Farmville is part of my curriculum unit.

I teach fourth grade at Mary Munford Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia. The students in my class are about 75% white, 20% black, and 5% Hispanic or Asian. My students tend to come from middle class families that live in the West End of the city. While the West End is considered to be the wealthier area of the city, my school also has a policy of Open Enrollment, and students from the North Side, South Side, and East End also attend our school. My school has a large special needs population and a tremendous amount of parental involvement. The parents and teachers have high expectations for the students. There is a wide range in abilities, especially in reading. The struggling readers may come in on a second grade level (K in Fountas and Pinnell) and the higher readers are at or above an eighth grade level (V in Fountas and Pinnell). The students typically have a lot of general knowledge, but I have some every year that struggle to count by tens past 190, by hundreds past 1,900, and some who cannot locate the Pacific Ocean on a map. In order to meet the needs of all of my students, while challenging the high achievers, I must provide many layers of scaffolding and enrichment in order to differentiate.


The curriculum unit will be taught during language arts block and covers both language arts as well as social studies objectives. The statewide curriculum is somewhat aligned with Common Core and has shifted to a much stronger focus on non-fiction texts. The two main language arts objectives are 4.5: The student will read and demonstrate comprehension of fictional texts, narrative non-fiction texts, and poetry, and 4.6: The student will read and demonstrate comprehension of non-fiction texts. The intent of this standard is that students will read non-fiction texts across the curriculum, including age-appropriate materials that reflect the Virginia Standards of Learning in English, history and social science, science, and mathematics.

The social studies objectives that will be addressed are: VS8: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the reconstruction of Virginia following the Civil War, and VS9: c) identifying the social and political events in Virginia linked to desegregation and Massive Resistance and their relationship to national history; and d) identifying the political, social, and/or economic contributions made by Maggie L. Walker; Harry F. Byrd, Sr.; Oliver W. Hill; Arthur R. Ashe, Jr.; A. Linwood Holton, Jr.; and L. Douglas Wilder.

In addition to teaching the standards for my state, I want my students to understand the struggle for Civil Rights that has been going on in our country. The South’s long history of slavery set the stage for a long and arduous battle for equality. By understanding the past, the students not only deepen their knowledge of history, but also will be better able to apply their knowledge to literature and events in the news. Most importantly, learning about Civil Rights will help them to see and make sense of injustices in the way people have been and are being treated.


Through the teaching of this unit, the students will learn various ways fiction and non-fiction can work together. This unit will expose them to multiple texts from different genres. The selected texts will be about the same subject, which will provide a richer and deeper understanding of the literature, the event, and the time period, and transfer to the students’ ability to make text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections.

The unit will also enrich their writing skills. It will provide them with opportunities to write non-fiction in response to fiction and to write fiction in response to non-fiction. These types of writing exercises are more challenging and require the students to synthesize material. They must have a strong grasp of fiction and non-fiction as well as of comparing texts.


Civil Rights

The Civil Rights Movement began after World War II. Soldiers of different races fought side by side, were wounded, and died fighting for our freedoms. Following the war, blacks gained power and realized the great injustice in the fact that they could die for their country, but they were prevented from voting.

The fight for Civil Rights gained momentum in 1954, when the Brown v. Board of Education court decision ruled that “separate but equal” classrooms were unconstitutional. The Brown decision called into question the segregation that was taking place in society. There were segregation and inequities throughout the country, but it was more noticeable in the South, where the Jim Crow Laws had a tight grasp. When the Brown v. Board decision was handed down, the South decided to resist the change.

Rosa Parks had had enough. She was tired of the injustice, and refused to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She had refused to give up her seat before, but on December 1, 1955 she was arrested. Her courageous defiance became an iconic moment in the struggle for equality.

Rosa Parks’ peaceful protest inspired the Montgomery bus boycott. During the boycott, blacks chose to walk or ride in private cars instead of using public transportation.

The boycott was intended to last one day. However, it was so successful that a meeting was held on December 5, 1955, in Hull Street Church, where 26-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. was the pastor. He gave a powerful, motivational speech rallying the people to carry on with the boycott. Whites had blacks arrested for boycotting, based on an old law prohibiting boycotts. In fact, on February 21, 1956, nearly 90 blacks were arrested including King. The arrests brought national attention to King and Montgomery. The boycotts were spread to Dallas, Richmond, and Little Rock. Violence spread and the Klan marched. After 11 months of boycotts, the U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled bus segregation in Montgomery unconstitutional. The date was November 13, 1956.1

Fast-forward ten months later to Little Rock, Arkansas. The date was September 5, 1957. It was the first day of school, normally a time filled with excitement, but not at Central High in Little Rock. Nine black students were scheduled to attend. Due to miscommunication, eight of the nine met up and traveled together with their parents and minister only to be turned away by the National Guard. Elizabeth Eckford, number nine, found herself confronted by an angry mob. Fortunately for her, a white woman stepped out of the crowd, shepherded Eckford through the crowd, led her onto a bus and to the safety of her home. Her parents and the NAACP returned to the courtroom. The National Guard was removed by mid-September, so the city police provided the security. The black students arrived through a side door. The crowd got unruly and attacked the black supporters. The black students were hustled out and put into police cars. The country watched the struggle on TV. President Eisenhower reacted by sending in paratroopers. The courts decided that mob rule could not overrule court decisions. When the Little Rock Nine finally attended Central High, the police accompanied them throughout the school building. Despite the protective presence of authority the students still faced harassment.2

Rather than continuing on with the integration of Central High, the Governor of Arkansas chose to close the school in the fall of 1958. This strategy of resistance would also be implemented in Virginia.

Harry F. Byrd, Sr. was a powerful senator whose political organization known as the Byrd Machine controlled politics in Virginia. Byrd was one of 19 Senators and 77 members of the House of Representatives to sign the Declaration of Constitutional Principles, which was known as the Southern Manifesto. The document challenged the power of the Supreme Court and made the claim that the federal government was not adhering to the system of checks and balances as intended by the founding fathers in the Constitution. The Manifesto claimed that the U.S. courts were overstepping their power and did not have the right to make decisions about education, since the states and the people should determine how to educate children locally.

In reading the Southern Manifesto, the content seems so foreign and the viewpoint so difficult to understand. But, as I read over the Southern Manifesto and interpreted it as a utopian piece, it made more sense. As a utopian piece I was able to view it through the eyes of southern politicians and saw their perfect world as one where blacks and whites were kept separate. By using the utopian context to frame my thinking I was able to make connections that I otherwise would not have made. Through this experience, I see the value in having my students read a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction arranged around different themes. As I read over and analyzed one particular paragraph from the Manifesto, I found so many thoughts and feelings racing through my head.

The Manifesto states, “This unwarranted exercise of power by the court, contrary to the Constitution, is creating chaos and confusion in the states principally affected.”3

The idea that the court decision is causing the chaos and, “It is destroying the amicable relations between the white and Negro races that have been created through 90 years of patient effort by the good people of both races,”4 reveals that the politicians are living in a fantasy world. Certainly the black people would not view their relationships with the white people as “amicable” in 1956 especially in the south.

Then the Manifesto goes on to say, “It has planted hatred and suspicion where there has been heretofore friendship and understanding.”5

As I read this line, my mind was boggled at how these politicians, whose motivations were so sinister and racist, can rationalize and blame the courts for planting the hatred. The politicians’ claim that there was “friendship and understanding,” causes cognitive dissonance. How could they possibly see the south in 1956 as a place with “friendship and understanding” or “amicable relations between the white and Negro races?” I guess in the eyes of the white politicians the times were peaceful because the blacks were being held down and were not challenging the injustices of society. When viewed in this manner, I can then see how in the eyes of the southern politicians the courts were creating the hatred and the chaos. While I can see their viewpoint with close reading and analysis, I am just in shocked that this really was the mindset of the times.

With an understanding of this mindset, it is easier to understand how and why Harry F. Byrd, Sr. would promote a policy of “Massive Resistance” against the integration of schools. Massive Resistance was essentially a series of laws passed in 1956 with the intent to block school integration. A Pupil Placement Board was created to determine where students should go to school. An example is if the parents of a black student completed an application for pupil placement requesting that their child attend a predominantly white school which was in fact closer to their home, the Pupil Placement Board would either accept or deny the request. As you would guess, the applications moved very slowly through the system, and the majority of them were denied.

Another law provided private school tuition vouchers. Not surprisingly, these were granted to whites and not blacks. Whites who did not want to send their children to a school that allowed black children would use a voucher. Also when the public school in the area was closed to avoid integration, the voucher provided white families with an affordable educational option.

The law that would have the greatest impact on some Virginia schools was the one that allowed the state to cut off state funding and to close any school that attempted to integrate.

Schools in Charlottesville, Warren County, Norfolk, Farmville, and other towns closed schools to avoid integration. The Federal Courts repeatedly deemed school closures unconstitutional. On February 2, 1959, the days of Massive Resistance ended. Schools in Norfolk and Arlington integrated “without incident”.6

Prince Edward County

Farmville, a sleepy little town about 75 miles southwest of Richmond, Virginia in Prince Edward County, provides a great case study. Black students attended Robert Russa Moton High School, while white students attended the newer, more well-equipped Farmville High School. In 1951, Moton High School was overcrowded with 450 students housed in a school meant for 180.7 Students had classes in adjacent “Tar Paper Shacks,” and they received handed-down books, science equipment, and uniforms from Farmville High School.8 On April 23, 1951, hand-written notes requesting the teachers to bring their students to the auditorium appeared on the teachers’ desks. The principal was out of the building, and the students had placed the notes on the teachers’ desks. Once the students were assembled, the teachers realized they could not get the students back to class. A quiet, sixteen-year old student named Barbara Johns had organized the assembly. She enlisted the help of 20-year-old John A. Stokes, and his twin sister, Carrie Stokes, who was the student council president. (John and Carrie did not start school until they were eight since the black school did not have buses). Johns spoke to the students about the inadequate school conditions and encouraged the student body to go on strike until the county agreed to build them a new school. The students complied with Johns’s request and marched out of the auditorium. Some of the students had protest signs they had concealed.9

Following the strike, the organizers of the strike met with the school board and the superintendent and laid out their demands. Reverend L. Francis Griffin, pastor of the First Baptist Church, worked to convince the school board to build a new school. Barbara Johns and Carrie Stokes reached out to Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson, two attorneys affiliated with the NAACP, and requested that they take their case. The lawyers agreed as long as the students had their parents’ support and were willing to not only fight for a new school, but also challenge the constitutionality of segregated schools. Meetings were held in the First Baptist Church with the NAACP and community members. After debating the idea, the community embraced it and decided to support the students and the case.10

On May 23, 1951, Oliver Hill, Robert Carter, and Spottswood Robinson III filed suit.11 The Davis v. Prince Edward County case was heard in federal district court, but more importantly it was one of five cases that were lumped together in the Brown v. Board of Education case. Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson are from Richmond. There are court buildings named for them. There is also a monument honoring the Moton students on the lawn of Virginia’s capitol building in downtown Richmond.

On May 17, 1954 the Brown v. Board decision was issued stating that segregation was unconstitutional. On May 31, 1955, the second Brown v. Board decision ordered the schools should be integrated with, “all deliberate speed.” This was unclear and Virginia took it to mean deliberately slow.

Despite the two Brown v. Board decisions, Prince Edward County would not let go. The county embraced the Massive Resistance Movement, and closed the schools for five years. The schools were closed from 1959-1964. As a part of Massive Resistance, white families were offered vouchers to send their children to Prince Edward Academy, which was founded in 1959. Some black families chose to send their children away to live with relatives in other towns, cities, and states so they could attend school. Others did not attend school for five years.

Passive Resistance, another method to avoid integration, followed the Massive Resistance Movement, and was prevalent in Richmond. The Pupil Placement Board could decide who should attend schools and would assign “token” black students to predominantly white schools. In 1963, with approximately 26,000 blacks in Richmond, only 312 were integrated into white schools.12 At my current school, Mary Munford, L. Douglas Wilder was the token black student. He was from a middle class family and went on to become the first black governor in the United States. He is one of the famous Virginians my students need to know.

By 1964, five years after the end of Massive Resistance, only five percent of black students in Virginia were attending integrated schools.13 So, as you can see, Passive Resistance was working well to prevent the integration of schools.

Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming is a memoir written in verse by Jacqueline Woodson. She brilliantly tells the story of her life from living with Jim Crow Laws through the Civil Rights Movement. She travels between South Carolina and Brooklyn, New York. She brings in her personal experiences growing up as a Jehovah Witness and speaks to her difficulties in school. She always enjoyed writing in school, and has written a beautiful free verse account.

I chose this book as the anchor text because I wanted a literary non-fiction work that was accessible for my fourth grade students. The vocabulary is not too difficult, the free verse makes the pages look less daunting, and it connects with the topics of my units. Jacqueline Woodson is a well-accomplished author and the book has won the Newbery Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and was a National Book Award finalist. Two reasons why this book is such a great choice for my students is because it has so much history intertwined it is told from the perspective of a young girl.


I plan to use the entire book in my curriculum unit. After much deliberation and many conversations with some English teachers, I have finally decided how I want to use Brown Girl Dreaming. I will present a few examples of how I am going to use the text and weave in the history component and other resources.

In my class, I plan to work through about 80 pages a week. Some will be read independently, some in small groups, and others as close reads. The whole class will participate in the close reads. The close reads are the sections that I will examine closely with my students and connect the text to other resources to support their understanding of the historical references. When the class is not engaged in a close read, I will likely meet with three small reading groups in order to provide support and enrichment. While I meet with one group, the other groups will read the daily assignment independently or will have a workstation task to complete. In the activities section, there is tentative daily schedule and a list of activities that will be used throughout the rotations.

Second Daughter’s Second Day on Earth

This verse is about Jacqueline Woodson’s second day on Earth. It begins on page 3, with her birth information. It quickly speaks to many of the Civil Rights leaders and what are today considered historical events. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Malcolm X are mentioned. Martin Luther King Jr. led the peaceful fight for civil rights, Kennedy was president at the time, and Malcolm X wanted to have a revolution in order to gain equal rights. The verse goes on to mention Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat, and Freedom Singers who sang hymns to educate the community, and James Baldwin, an author who wrote about racial tension. Then the poem arrives at Ruby Bridges.

Not even three years have passed since a brown girl

named Ruby Bridges

walked into an all-white school.

Armed guards surrounded her while hundreds

of white people spat and called her names.

She was six years old.14

Woodson writes, “…Ruby Bridges walked into an all-white school. Armed guards surrounded her while hundreds of white people spat and called her names.”15 At this point, I plan to launch into some historic information about the desegregation and integration of schools. In addition to Ruby Bridges, the Little Rock Nine are also famous on a national level for the bravery they showed in order to integrate into white schools. But, Ruby Bridges and the Little Rock Nine were not the only ones.

In fact, in my encounter outside the coffee shop in New Haven, Connecticut, I met the husband of a lesser-known figure in history. Martha Dye (Walton) was a 12 year-old black student in Farmville, Virginia, when the high school students organized a strike to protest the unfair conditions of their black school. But, it was more than just a strike. It was much, much more. I will recount the events as they are laid out in the background section of this unit.

At this point I will tell the story of Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County. I will tell my students of my encounter in New Haven and of my meeting with Martha Dye (Walton). Her older brothers and sisters sent away so they could continue their education. Martha Dye did not go to school for five years. She regrets that she never had a traditional high school experience. I will tell details Martha shared with me as a part of the story of the Prince Edward County Schools. We will look at John Lewis’ March Book One pages, 99-105. On these pages the graphic novel depicts Congressman John Lewis’s experience at a sit-in at Woolworth’s through his subsequent arrest. My students will work in teams to create a page of a graphic novel to depict one aspect of the historic event in Farmville. As a class, we will break the event into segments and collectively tell the story of Prince Edward County Schools in a graphic novel format.

I chose to tie in the graphic novel because it is an amazing resource, it is accessible for my nine-year-old students, and because I want my students to think critically about the information. I did not choose a school scene because some of my students will rely too heavily on the visuals provided in the graphic novel and will not tap into their creativity. However, I plan to share pages 70-73 in March Book One which shows John Lewis’s decision to enroll at Troy State in Mississippi once the students have completed their graphic novel depictions. We will make connection between a free verse poem and events in our nation’s and state’s history. Then we will examine another non-fiction text, the graphic novel, which is in a different format and transfer the historic event from Prince Edward County into that format. They need to visualize the event, utilize the writing process, and generate an original idea. They also need to work collaboratively. The value of students working in this manner builds multiple skills at the same time when instructional time is so limited.

The Journey

The next verse I chose for a close read is on page 29. Woodson’s father speaks of bringing his wife up north. He does not want his family to be raised in the South. He says, “There is never going to be a Woodson that sits at the back of the bus,” referring to the Jim Crow Laws that separated blacks and whites in public facilities. Father continues, “Never gonna be a Woodson that has to ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘No, sir’ white people. Never gonna be a Woodson made to look down at the ground.”16 In this poem Father explains some of the standard practices in the South during the era of Jim Crow Laws. I plan to have my students experience Jim Crow Laws first hand through a scavenger hunt that uses QR codes, (the square shaped symbol that is read by QR readers). For this particular activity, I do not want the students to have a lot of background and understanding prior to the hunt. Upon completion, the students will work on a reflective writing assignment.

Following the scavenger hunt and the writing activity the class will come together and discuss the activity. I will read Ruth and the Green Book to the class. This picture book tells the story of a black family traveling from Chicago to Alabama. They encounter racism and Jim Crow Laws in the south. I will stop when Mother is denied access to the restroom and when Daddy is turned away at the hotel. I will also stop when Ruth questions, “Why don’t they want our business? Wasn’t our money just the same?”17 At this point, I’ll ask how Ruth is feeling and the students can draw on their personal experience from the scavenger hunt. Toward the end of the story, Ruth’s family finds an Esso service station and purchases a pamphlet called, “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a guide to help black people find places that would welcome their business.

This interactive, engaging activity comes at the beginning of the unit and will set the stage. Students typically have a hard time understanding Jim Crow Laws. The concept is so foreign and abstract for them. With the use of the scavenger hunt, the students will get a vivid image of the prejudice faced as a result of Jim Crow Laws. I hope to captivate students’ interest by using technology while moving around the school. I do not want the strategy to stand alone, as it could seem like a game. With the writing and reading activities, the students will reflect on the activity and empathize with the characters in Ruth and the Green Book. I want to incorporate different genres of literature to all of the close readings that we do, and I want to make sure my students understand the deeper meaning behind Woodson’s words.

South Carolina at War

My third example comes from South Carolina at War on pages 72-73. Grandfather is telling his grandchildren a story. He says, “First they brought us here. Then we worked for free.”18 Grandfather is talking about slavery. As he continues to explain, “Then it was 1863, and we were supposed to be free but we weren’t.”19 The year 1863 is a reference to Abraham Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves. Some of my fourth graders will pick up on this, but many of them will not. I would explain to my students that the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves and was issued by Abraham Lincoln. Then I would project a copy of the document, so we could delve into the primary resource. Then I would play a YouTube video that reads the Emancipation Proclamation (See Resources for Activity 3). I would pause the video at the 45-second mark to discuss the line “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall then be then, thenceforward be forever free;” to break it down into common language. Any person held as a slave in a state or part of a state that is rebelling, or fighting against the United States of America shall be free. These words mean that all slaves in the Confederate states were free. The speech continues, “and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons,” meaning that the President of the United States and the Army and Navy will recognize and protect their freedom. I would continue to go through the speech in this way. If interest wanes, I would shorten the video clip. The purpose of using the clip is to tie in a primary resource and another genre of non-fiction, so the students learn to think critically as they examine all different kinds of text. After viewing the Emancipation Proclamation we will return to page 72 of the text.

We will discuss Grandfather’s words, “we were supposed to be free but we weren’t.”20 I would discuss this line, and probe my fourth graders for the meaning of this line. The class should know about Jim Crow Laws and the prejudice blacks faced particularly in the south since they have already participated in the scavenger hunt. After they share their responses, we will watch a video clip to enhance their understanding (See Resources for Activity 3).

Then we would return to the verse where Jacqueline Woodson writes, “We can’t go to downtown Greenville without seeing teenagers walking into stores, sitting where brown people still aren’t allowed to sit and getting carried out, their bodies limp, their faces calm.”21 At this point I would project a few images from the Sit-Ins that took place in Richmond. Using photographs from our city will make the content even more meaningful for my students. The first photograph shows some college students from Virginia Union University sitting at the lunch counter at Murphy’s Lunch Counter 1960.

Courtesy of The Library of Virginia

Foto by Malcolm O. Carpenter, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographic Division

I will read aloud the rest of South Carolina at War and will briefly discuss Grandfather’s words, “You just can’t put your fist up. You have to insist on something gently. Walk toward a thing slowly.”22 The class will discuss how Grandfather spoke of fighting peacefully as Martin Luther King, Jr. did. We will stop after Grandfather says, “Be ready to die, for everything you believe in,”23 and talk about the importance of the fight for justice and equality. Then we will make our last pause when we reach the last stanza, “Because you’re colored, and just as good and bright and beautiful and free as anybody…”24 I will ask my students to explain Woodson’s words.

These types of strategies and many others will be used during the close readings throughout the book. By the end of the Brown Girl Dreaming, I anticipate students will have a robust knowledge of the Jim Crow and Civil Rights Era that they gained from exploring a wide variety of fictional and non-fictional texts.


Activity 1 Graphic Novel

By using John Lewis’s March Book One as a model The students will work together to develop their own graphic novel pages to depict the story of Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia. The class will be split into six groups. The first group will work on showing the “separate but equal” schools. The second group will work on the student strike. The third group will work on meeting with NAACP lawyers and deciding how to proceed. The fourth group will work on the impact the lawsuit had on Barbara Johns’s family. The fifth group will work on the legal battle in Richmond and as a part of Brown v. Board. The sixth group will work on the schools closing from 1959-1964.

Activity 2 Writing, Scavenger Hunt, and Read Aloud

Basically, the strategy is to break my students up into two groups. The groups will then choose a blue or red tile to determine which QR codes they must use. I will provide questions the students need to answer and a “location” such as a bathroom. The students will travel as a group (with an adult to supervise) to a bathroom of their choice. On the outside the students will find a red QR code and a blue QR code. The students will use an iPad to scan the code. If the code allows them access, it will take the students to a link that provides the answer to the clue. If the students scan the QR code and they are denied access, then they will get a message, “No Entry – Find another QR code.” In this case, they will have to go to another bathroom and try again. The bathroom that works for them may be inferior, farther away, or just not readily available. One team will be denied access repeatedly, so they can hopefully capture some of the emotion and frustration that was felt by blacks in the South. I plan to use the bathrooms, areas of the playground (parks,) water fountains, and classrooms that will be designated as “restaurants,” and “stores”. Both teams will find the answers to the scavenger hunt questions. Upon completion the students will return to class. The first team to finish will have a task to complete back in the room. They will have some questions to answer such as: Did you have access to all of the places? How would you feel if you were in the other group? How they got ahead of the other group? The team that finishes last will return and will be asked to write a paragraph about how they felt during the scavenger hunt. Then I will read aloud Ruth and the Green Book and the class will discuss it.

Activity 3 Video Clips

The third activity will use video clips as outlined in the strategy section for the third close read. Additional video clips and websites are listed for use with other close reads.

Daily Schedule

Day 1 – Introduce the historical context by providing background information on the

Civil Rights Movement

Day 2 - Read Aloud The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson to give my students. Then

introduce the anchor text Brown Girl Dreaming. Begin with Langston Hughes’

Dream poem in book. Do a close read of pages 3-5 and begin activity 1. Students

read pgs. 1-15.

Day 3  Read pgs. 16-35. Do activity 2

Day 4  Read pgs. 36-57. Do a close read of pgs. 53-54 in reading group. Work on

activity 2.

Day 5  Read pgs. 58-71. Work on activity 2.

Day 6  Read pgs. 72-79. Do activity 3

Day 7  Read pgs. 80-99. Do a close read of pgs. 90-91. Students will work on creating a

list of black and white words and their meaning. Words with black have a

negative connotation while white has a positive connotation. This list will be

ongoing when they finish early. Some examples are blacklist and white wash.

Day 8  Read pgs. 100-120. Do a close read of pgs. 110-111. Tie in chapter 14

of The Watson’s Go to Birmingham and the poem the Ballad of Birmingham.

Day 9  Read pgs. 121-138. Choose a poem. Write 1 paragraph for each connection.

Make one text-to-self and one text-to-world connection.

Day 10 Read pgs. 143-159. Complete connections.

Day 11 Read pgs. 160-174. Do a close read of page 174. Students will write their

“Wishes” poem. Different forms will be introduced and available as an

alternative to free verse.

Day 12 Read pgs. 175-192. Choose a poem and write a paragraph making a text-to-text


Day 13 Read pgs. 193-213. Do a close read of pgs. 209-213. Write 3 haikus with a

connection to today’s close reads.

Day 14 Read pgs. 214-233. The students will bring in research from home and construct

their own family trees.

Day 15 Read pgs. 234-239. Complete family trees. Close read of pgs. 237-238. Students

will work in small groups on a Tagzedo (an animated presentation) to showcase

the brave Civil Rights leaders.

Day 16 Read pgs. 240-254. Work continues on Tagzedo.

Day 17 Read pgs. 255-271. Work continues on Tagzedo.

Day 18 Read pgs. 272-292. Complete Tagzedo projects.

Day 19 Read pgs. 293-310. Whole group close reads of pgs. 302-305. See resources for

Black Panthers.

Day 20 Read pgs. 311-325. Do a close read of pg 317-320. Have a whole class 

discussion about the book.

Resources for Activity 1

John Lewis’s March Book One

Bentley Boyd’s graphic novels will also provide examples for the students. (optional)

Scott McCloud’s Making Comics or Invisible Art may be helpful as a teacher resource. (optional)

Resources for Activity 2 Scavenger Hunt

The QR codes were made with the www.qrme.com website. The QR codes correlate to these websites.







Resources for Activity 3


Emancipation Proclamation Video


Jim Crow Laws

Additional Resources


Bus boycott



King speech



A great, short video about the Birmingham bombing

Appendix A: Scavenger Hunt QR Codes


What were Jim Crow Laws?




What do the two doors say? 




From which jail did Martin Luther King, Jr. write letters?




What school did the Little Rock Nine attend?



Water Fountain

Where did Martin Luther King, Jr. give his “I Have a Dream” speech and about how many people were there?



Movie Theater

What did John Lewis do when he was young and what does he do now?


Access Denied

Appendix B: Historical Connections

Page Number


Historical Context

Pg 1

Looked up and followed the sky’s mirrored constellation to freedom

Underground Railroad

Pg 3

Birmingham, MLK, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks,

Civil Rights

Pg 4

Freedom Singers, James Baldwin, Ruby Bridges

Civil Rights

Pg 5

Malcolm’s – raised and fisted or Martin’s – open and asking

Or James’s – curled around a pen

I do not know if these hands will be Rosa’s or Ruby’s

Civil Rights

Pg 8

The first son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings


Pg 13

His name in stone now on the Civil War Memorial

Civil War – colored troops

Pg 16

No colored Buckeye in his right mind would ever want to go there

Jim Crow South

Pg 29

Told her there’s never gonna be a Woodson that sits in the back of the bus.

Jim Crow South

Pg 30

It is 1963 in South Carolina. Too dangerous to sit closer to the front and dare the driver to make her move.

Jim Crow South

Pg 33

Nobody telling us where we can and can’t   swim!

Jim Crow South

Pg 37

Are you one of those Freedom Riders? Are you one of those Civil Rights People?

Jim Crow South

Pg 53

This is new. Too fast for them. The South is changing.


Pg 54

Colored folks used to stay where they were told that they belonged. But times are changing.


Pg 72

First they brought us here. Then we worked for free.


Pg 72

Then it was 1863, and we were supposed to be free but we weren’t.

Emancipation Proclamation

Pg 72

We can’t go to downtown Greenville without seeing the teenagers walking in stores, sitting where brown people still aren’t allowed to sit and getting carried out, their bodies limp, their faces calm.


Pg 73

Now don’t go getting arrested.


Pg 74-75

You know you have to get those trainings, she says, and our mother nods. They won’t let you sit at the counters without them. Have to know what to do when those people come at you.


Pg 76

How to sit at counters and be cursed at without cursing back, have food and drinks poured over them without standing up and hurting someone.


Pg 80

But when Miss Bell pulls her blinds closed, the people fill their dinner plates with food, their glasses with sweet tea and gather to talk about marching.

Freedom Marchers

Pg 82

In the stores downtown we’re always followed around just because we’re brown.


Pg 88

The marching didn’t just start yesterday. Police with those dogs, scared everybody near to death. Just once I let my girls march.


Pg 89

We all have the same dream, my grandmother says. To live equal in a country that’s supposed to be the land of the free.

Civil Rights/Equality

Pg 90

At the fabric store, we are not Colored or Negro. We are not thieves or shameful or something to be hidden away. At the fabric store, we’re just people.


Pg 91

they painted over the WHITE ONLY signs,

Jim Crow

Pg 107

Each evening we wait for the first light of the last fireflies, catch them in jars then let them go again. As though we understand their need for freedom.


Pg 110-111

My mother said it was because the students had been marching, and the marching made some white people in Greenville mad.


Pg 111

After the fire the students weren’t allowed to go to the all white high school.


Pg 237

Even though the laws have changed my grandmother still takes us to the back of the bus when we go downtown in the rain.


Pg 245

I loved my friend.

Langston Hughes -poet

Pg 253

For a long time, I don’t put one foot inside Woolworth’s . They wouldn’t let Black people eat at their lunch counters in Greenville, I tell Maria. No way are they getting my money!

Jim Crow and Sit-in

Pg 297

Before any of that, this place was called Boswijck, settled by Dutch and Franciscus the Negro, a former slave who bought his freedom.

New York history

Pg 302

On the TV screen a woman named Angela Davis is telling us there’s a revolution going on and that it’s time for Black people to defend themselves.

Angela Davis –political activist

Pg 304

My mother tells us the Black Panthers are doing all kinds of stuff to make the world a better place for Black children.

Black Panthers

Pg 308

The revolution is when Shirley Chisholm ran for president and the rest of the world tried to imagine a Black woman in the White House.

1st African-American Congresswoman

Pg 312

Black brothers, Black sisters, all of them were great no fear no fright but a willingness to fight…

Civil Rights

Pg 317

I believe in Black people and White people coming together.


  • All verses are quotes from Brown Girl Dreaming

Appendix C: Implementing District Standards

Language Arts

4.5 The student will read and demonstrate comprehension of fictional texts, narrative

nonfiction texts, and poetry.

4.6 The student will read and demonstrate comprehension of nonfiction texts.

This curriculum unit provides an opportunity for students to read variety of (excerpts), non-fiction, and poetry centered on a theme.

4.7 The student will write cohesively for a variety of purposes.

The students have many opportunities to write for a variety of purposes.

History/Virginia Studies

VS.8 The student will demonstrate knowledge of the reconstruction of Virginia following the Civil War by

  1. b) identifying the effects of segregation and “Jim Crow” on life in Virginia for whites, African Americans, and American Indians;

VS.9 The student will demonstrate knowledge of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Virginia by

  1. c) identifying the social and political events in Virginia linked to desegregation and Massive Resistance and their relationship to national history;
  2. d) identifying the political, social, and/or economic contributions made by Maggie L.

Walker; Harry F. Byrd, Sr.; Oliver W. Hill; Arthur R. Ashe, Jr.; A. Linwood Holton,

Jr.; and L. Douglas Wilder.

These standards will be embedded throughout the unit. The curriculum provides a much broader and deeper understanding of the Civil Rights Movement in response to the Jim Crow Laws. The people listed in the standard who are not taught will be covered during social studies when the class studies VS9 specifically.

Annotated Bibliography

Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963. New York: Delacorte, 1995. Print. A wonderful book about a family traveling from the north to Birmingham, Alabama. The bombing scene is powerful.

Eyes on the Prize I: Awakenings, 1954-1956. Blackside Incorporated ;, 1986. Film. The Eyes on the Prize Series provides detailed background information for the teacher or for higher grade levels. The documentary is enthralling!

Fergeson, Larissa. "This Short Booklet Provides a Brief Overview of the Moton School Story." The Moton School Story Children of Courage. Farmville: Eastern National, 2012. Print.

Lewis, John, Andrew Aydin, and Ga. Marietta. March. Print. I stumbled on this graphic novel and it is awesome! It depicts John Lewis's story in a very engaging way that is accessible to readers of all ages.

Morrison, Toni. Remember: The Journey to School Integration. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Print. The photographs in this book are a wonderful resource for any classroom that is teaching about the desegregation and integration of schools.

Pratt, Robert A. The Color of Their Skin: Education and Race in Richmond, Virginia, 1954-89. Charlottesville: U of Virginia, 1992. Print. This book provided a wealth of information about the schools in Richmond and enhanced my knowledge of Massive Resistance and Passive Resistance in Virginia.

Ramsey, Calvin Alexander, and Gwen Strauss. Ruth and the Green Book. Minneapolis. Minn.: Carolrhoda, 2014. Print. A wonderful children's book that shares the challenges of traveling during the time of Jim Crow Laws. It also keeps the history of the Green Book alive.

Rochelle, Belinda. Witnesses to Freedom: Young People Who Fought for Civil Rights. New York: Lodestar, 1993. Print. A factual book that tells the story of some Civil Rights Events. It also provides insets with witness accounts of the events.

Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. New York: Dial, 1976. Print. A historical fiction account of a family living during the era of segregation. A terrific companion text to Brown Girl Dreaming.


  1. Eyes on the Prize 1: Awakenings, 1954- 1956. Blackside Incorporated
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid
  6. Pratt pg 11
  7. Larissa Smith Fergeson, The Moton School Story Children of Courage (Farmville, Eastern National, 2012.), 9.
  8. Ibid, 13.
  9. Ibid, 9.
  10. Ibid, 11.
  11. Ibid, 17.
  12. Robert A Pratt, The Color of Their Skin (Charlottesville, The University Press of Virginia, 1992.), 36.
  13. http://www.vahistorical.org/collections-and-resources/virginia-history-explorer/civil-rights-movement-virginia/passive
  14. Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming (New York, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014.), 4
  15. Ibid, 4.
  16. Ibid, 29.
  17. Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Ruth and the Green Book (Minneapolis, Carolrhoda Books, 2010.), 14.
  18. Woodson, 72.
  19. Ibid, 72.
  20. Ibid, 72.
  21. Ibid, 72.
  22. Ibid, 73.
  23. Ibid, 73.
  24. Ibid, 74.

Comments (1)

    Rebecca Jean Stanton (Community Health Academy of the Heights, New York, NY)
    Subject taught: English a Second Language, Grade: 6-
    Great resources!
    Thank you so much for sharing this curriculum unit with us. It\'s well developed, and is definitely what we need to be teaching in schools. Thank you

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