Codes of Conduct: Racist Housing and Education Policies that Impact Urban Students

byChristiona Hawkins


This unit will be focused on the novel Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Patillo Beals, and the play “A Raisin in the Sun” written by Lorraine Hansberry. Both texts take place during the same decade of history; each author uses the setting of the 1950s and 1960s to reveal the realities Black families, men, women, and children lived during the violent Civil Rights Era. After reading “A Raisin in the Sun”, students are challenged to determine what the American Dream does or does not mean to them personally. After reading, Warriors Don’t Cry, students are challenged to define what it means to be a warrior, interview a person they consider to be a warrior, and create a report on the person. Historically when this unit is taught, DCPS teachers ask students to compare the ambitions and motivations of the main characters to their own ambitions and motivations without appropriately contextualizing the environments through which each character develops their senses of success. Most importantly, the unit has been taught in a way that ignores more prevalent and realistic themes around gentrification, redlining, Black schooling, educational inequity, systemic racism, institutional violence, and oppression that the main characters of each build through their experiences in the text. The unit typically focuses on the literary elements of each text but ignores each author’s political purposes in writing each text.


As a result, the unit that I am creating is meant to bridge the historical and contextual gaps between the existing curriculum, the two anchor texts, and the students. Above all this unit will cover two major conceptual themes between 1934-1960: racist housing policies and destructive educational legislation. Both themes will help students to understand the bigger picture of each text and more closely draw conclusions around the notion of the American Dream and its implications for Black communities historically and presently. The unit will also call for students to be critical consumers of information in a way that they can make claims about the current state of education and housing in America, specifically in Washington, DC where my students reside. To conclude this unit, students will have participated in several hands-on engaging activities that turn them into historians and writers that use what they have learned in class to create their own policies, mission statements, narratives, and argumentative essays that explain what they believe are better solutions to educational and housing inequality in DC.

Unit Content

Educational Segregation Policies: The Role of the Supreme and Local Courts

For centuries, lawyers have debated the role of the Supreme Court in a democracy when ruling on polarizing decisions. Many have both challenged and questioned the impact of the Court’s opinion on public opinion and succeeding legislation. Particularly in the cases of public education for Black and Brown students, we find that after the Court rules, the legislative decisions are left to the states to decide how to follow suit with the Court’s opinion. As a result, there have been both unintended and harmful consequences of landmark Supreme Court decisions in Black communities. It is important to unpack the political, social, and economic aftermath following federal rulings around education and housing, specifically as it relates to Black schools and communities. There are many implications of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas and the hearings that followed that help provide perspective on the experiences of characters in the novel, Warriors Don’t Cry. This unit will provide a framework for viewing the ways in which educational segregation and housing segregation intertwine to make it nearly impossible to desegregate schools without first desegregating communities in order to analyze the themes of the American Dream as it is developed by the Younger family in the play, “A Raisin in the Sun”. 

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1951)

Because Brown has been widely known for the Supreme Court’s stamp of disapproval on segregationist practices in southern and border states, lawyers have challenged the notion that Brown’s impact on civil rights in the South was limited. Some argue that Brown was the backbone to the Montgomery bus boycott and galvanized aspects of the Civil Rights Movement. Some argue that Brown did more for “white political culture” than much of the resistance during the time period, meaning that Black activism against racism did less to change the mainstream political agenda for white candidates and elected officials than Brown.1 Some believe that after Brown, “governmental decisions based on race became uncontroversially unconstitutional, and arguments that such decisions were accepted became rapidly discredited”.2 Thus, the court ruling provided a moral backing to existing cries for justice during the time it was instated. The Courts were necessary in that they validated the voices of Black and white activists that fought for desegregation in the 1950s. The goal of Brown was not to institute integration, but to confirm the unconstitutionality of segregation and to reinforce the power of constitutional law in America.3 Because the Supreme Court left the logistical details of desegregation to local states, it established the strength of the Court in holding states to the Constitution and protecting the civil rights of individuals. The Brown case set the precedent for desegregation of the country starting first with the schools.

However, lawyers have also challenged the impact of Brown on the moral and educational climate of the Civil Rights Era. While some argue that Brown was crucial to ending segregation practices in businesses and schools, in an editorial on the political correctness of Brown Klarman argues that while the Court decision was influential in the Civil Rights Movement and added to the momentum of protests and the increasingly unpopular racist practices of the South, the decision alone was not effective in desegregating schools.4 The Court may have dispirited segregation in the face of the American Constitution, but each individual state was more responsible for desegregating the nation’s schools than the Court was. With many states resistant to shaking the racial boundaries of their cities, desegregation would be an unrealistic expectation for legislators. Klarman writes, “in short, to the extent that the civil rights movement sought to change the law rather than simply enforce existing law, its appeal necessarily was to legislatures rather than courts”.5 Klarman argues that the goal of activists during the movement was to enforce existing legislation not merely to declare the obvious unconstitutionality of segregation. The purpose of the protests, sit-ins, and boycotts of the Civil Rights Era was to generate fairness and equality in American institutions. Klarman argues that throughout the course of history, racial segregation would end as movements against it surfaced, regardless of the Brown decision. Similarly, he believed that Brown was a catalyst that would “accelerate that change” in the 1950s.6 However, Klarman was careful not to discredit the work of Black Americans in the fight for racial equality during the Civil Rights Era. He writes “the real question, then, is not whether Black Americans acted to win their freedom; of course, they did. Rather, the question upon which my commentators and I differ is what role (white) Supreme court justices played in that liberation process.” 7 Some might argue that the Supreme Court did little to liberate the Black community from oppressive racist practices in housing and education by its lack of clarity on what desegregation should look like in the states.

The Supreme Court, though very liberal under Chief Justice Earl Warren, was rather conservative in its approach to allow states to implement in their own ways the integration of schools. This gave states freedom to find loopholes and maintain illegal segregation in legal ways through local zoning laws, property tax funding legislation, school closings, the funding of private schools, and more recently charter schools. It is evident by the number of cases that were granted certiorari after Brown that states’ resistance would trump change on a national level. 

Brown’s Effects on Black Schools

Thus, it is important to consider the unintended impact of the Brown vs. Board decision on Black schools, teachers, principals, and superintendents in the years after the decision to this day. While Brown was a civil rights case meant to create and instill equality by forcing desegregation, studies have shown that Black communities and Black schools have actually become increasingly disparaged as Black leaders were pushed out of their local schools by school boards in response to the Brown decision. 8 During the Civil Rights Movement and in the centuries prior, the Black classroom led by the Black teacher was a staple in the community. Before 1954, there were about 82,000 Black teachers responsible for about 2 million Black students in mostly segregated schools. However, between 1954 and 1965, after the Brown ruling 38,000 Black teachers in southern states were fired.9 The firing of Black teachers was not only harmful for the economic standing of communities and families, but for students as Black teachers were invested in instilling into students pride, knowledge, and preparation for the world in a way that was socially and culturally relevant to students. Tillman describes Black teacher's pedagogy as “a collective vision for educating African American children, an African American epistemology of teaching, and an agenda for African American education”.10 With the loss of Black teachers in Black schools a gap was then created for miseducation, indoctrination, and deterioration of school communities.

Similar to the impact that Brown had on teachers, the ruling also negatively affected school leadership. The field of education was a common career entry point for educated Black women and they were viewed as leaders in this role. Oftentimes, principals and school staff were also activists in the community and held great influence in local neighborhoods. Tillman writes “African American leaders served dual, but complementary roles as educators and activists whose collective vision for the education of Black children was the impetus for an agenda for Black education”.11 Tillman explains the important roles of Black teachers and describes the negative ways that desegregation affected Black school staff which ultimately changed the authenticity of schooling in Black communities. It is almost as if white school boards, furious about the decision to integrate, responded by further disenfranchising schools as a way to maintain inequality, hinder the progress of African American children, dilute their education and lessen their potential for upward mobility. Regardless of the intentions of the Supreme Court when the Brown opinion was written, the state and local policies that followed further disenfranchised communities that were already at a disadvantage by taking what was golden and cherished in Black schools, the nurturing and culturally responsive environment that was the breeding ground for success in the Black community.

In addition to learning about teacher and principal experiences in this unit, students will learn about Black superintendents like Dr. Barbara Sizemore, the first Black superintendent of a large urban city, and how she was only afforded two years in the 1970s to serve in her role due to racial opposition and fear of educational empowerment in the Black community. As students read Melba Pattillo Beal’s memoir about integration of Little Rock High School, they will need to be able to challenge Beal’s decision and thoughts in order to analyze the pros and cons of integration. Students will explore reasons why Melba’s neighbors and formal classmates would not speak to Melba’s family in the first few months of school at Central.12 While the Little Rock Nine experienced these challenges during the integration of Central High School, these experiences were not abnormal for students across the country. As Governor Faubus of Arkansas fought the federal mandate and battled with the landmark Court decision as well as with President Eisenhower’s decrees, other states would follow suit in inciting violent opposition to integration of the nation’s schools.

Did Brown Really Desegregate Schools? How Brown Unfolded in the States 

After the ruling of Brown, the Supreme Court remanded the cases back to local courts to ensure that the school districts involved implemented desegregation in ways that best fit each locality. It took years for states to legislate integration, some states took longer than others, and many states have still maintained segregation, including Washington, DC. Many local laws were passed as late as 1964, the same year of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Bolling v. Sharpe (1954)

After the Brown ruling, segregation still permeated the District of Columbia until Bolling v. Sharpe. Because the District of Columbia was not legally a state, Black students in the District of Columbia Public Schools were not offered the rights provided by the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment.13 Instead, lawyers argued that denying Black students the right to enroll in white schools was a violation of the Due Process Clause that was protected by the Fifth Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled in their favor, agreeing that denying Black students’ admission to white schools in the District of Columbia was unconstitutional. Bolling illustrates the pushback that came from local courts as they attempted to mitigate desegregation in the schools. Washington, DC was a special case because the Equal Protection Clause did not and still does not equally protect Black students in educational decisions.14 This case is important for students in the District of Columbia to understand because the school that was under fire for racial segregation was John Phillip Sousa Middle School located in Ward 7, in which the student demographic is currently 97% Black and 3% Latino.15 It is important to analyze the ways in which historical rulings like Bolling made segregation illegal, but did not necessarily have a lasting impact on integration in Washington, DC public schools and in wards of Washington, DC. Later in the unit, housing segregation in the district will be discussed and analyzed to provide clarity as to why Bolling, though it reinforced the Brown decision to force desegregation, could not maintain desegregation.

Cooper v. Aaron (1958)

In Chapter 16 of Warriors Don’t Cry, Beals describes her experience with the postponing integration at Central High School that would be heard by the local courts. Beals describes her first-hand experience with wanting to continue integration despite the ongoing violence that she experienced during the commute to school, during classes, during lunch, and even in her own community. Specifically, Beals describes her perseverance and willingness to sacrifice her safety to be a warrior that does not cry or reveal true pain beneath the surface of her smile. Beals takes on the mentality of the National Guard soldier assigned to protect her during the school day and does not show pain or weakness in the war against desegregating Central High School. Out of fear that she will not be able to continue the fight to integrate, she also keeps silent about these experiences when she is interviewed and when she testifies in court. Throughout the novel, Beals describes the near-death experiences at the hands of students and parents with school staff members watching.16 What Beals is referring to in this chapter as a teenager is the case of Cooper v. Aaron in which Governor Faubus made attempts to postpone desegregation mandated by the Brown decision as a result of escalated racial tensions in Little Rock. In The Hollow Hope, Rosenberg describes Cooper v. Aaron and several similar cases that surfaced after Brown in which the Court both overturned and affirmed appeals. Local courts made attempts to undermine the work of the Supreme Court rulings, but Cooper v. Aaron solidified the Court’s opinion on the unconstitutionality of segregation.17 Rosenberg writes:

After reviewing the history of attempts to desegregate the public schools in Little Rock, the Court faced the question of whether violence, or threat of violence, in response to desegregation and resulting in turmoil in the school disruptive of the educational process justified the suspension of desegregation efforts for two and one-half years. In answering in the negative, rejecting the school board’s claim and reversing the federal district court, the Supreme Court held that the “constitutional rights of respondents [black students] are not to be sacrificed or yielded to the violence and disorder” which was occurring (1958, 16). It reminded the parties that Article VI of the Constitution makes the Constitution the “supreme law of the land” (1958, 18). It reminded the parties that Article VI of the Constitution makes the Constitution the “supreme law of the land” (1958, 18).

While the southern states, border states, and Washington, DC looked for ways to evade desegregation, students that took the risk and volunteered to integrate schools were left without formal education for lengthy time periods while desegregation was mitigated in the Courts. One must ask whether or not Brown was effective in desegregating schools because it left much of the logistical details around schooling for Black students to conservative and racist elected officials, racist local courts, and school leaders in the South to mitigate.

Cocheyse Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County (1964)

Similar to Bolling, in the years leading up to and the years following Brown, state courts sought legal ways to undermine the desegregation and maintain separate schools for white and Black children. One of these cases that is important to note is Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County in which the Court ruled that Virginia Constitutional Amendments that called for “separate but equal” public schools were in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This case was first argued in 1951, however, it took several years for the decision to be made. The Prince Edward County School District, in defiance of the Court’s decision, went to the extreme of closing all public schools, levying taxes for private white only schools, and providing vouchers for white students to attend these private schools.18 This left Black students without formal education for a few years in some areas of Virginia. As a result, between 1959-1963 Black students were denied formal education and some classes had to meet in local churches. The Supreme Court ruled that if public schools were closed in Prince Edward County, then public schools everywhere in Virginia had to close. As a result, Prince Edward County schools reopened with the expectation that desegregation would occur. Some lawyers argue the Griffin saved public education in Virginia. The state of Virginia was known for its massive resistance against forced desegregation. On May 25, 1964 in the case of Griffin v. Prince Edward County, the Court’s opinion was that integration must occur with ‘all deliberate speed’ due to the defiance of the Virginia legislature and courts.19 Virginia’s resistance testifies of the struggles to desegregate schools through local court rulings overturned by federal court opinions.

In his book The Hollow Hope, Rosenberg argues that the courts were virtually the only governmental institutions that acted progressively for the desegregation of schools. Much of the work of mitigating the Equal Protection Clause as it related to Black students, came directly from local court rulings.20 Thus, it can be argued that Brown did not and could not actually end legalized segregation. In fact, important decisions in education had to come from and be enforced by both federal and local legislation to be effective. Unfortunately, the legislatures of southern states, border states, and Washington, DC took their time responding to Brown and offered much resistance to desegregation, found ways to navigate desegregation without actually reforming nations educational system, and further disenfranchising Black students, teachers, principals, and other leaders in the process. The Supreme Court opinion on Brown, though made with sound moral intentions for equality and reform, was not created to handle issues like systemic racism in education without balance in support of local institutions and legislators, thus created an even more damaged system for Black students.

Education Reform: Charter Schools v. Public Schools

Since the 1990s, a new form of educational inequity has been brewing in low-income communities with the creation of charter schools that disbalance the educational make up of public schools in low-income neighborhoods. The growth of the charter school movement in states across the country has sparked public debate and has been viewed by some as the saving grace in urban education by providing students and families with school choice and opportunities. However, even though charters have been viewed as levelers of the playing field for students, they have been also viewed by many educational leaders as temporary solutions to a deeply rooted issue of educational injustice stemming from the Brown decisions on desegregation. Even the most effective charter schools do not solve all of the educational challenges in low-income neighborhoods. In fact, charter schools at times add barriers for public school funding and school climate due to decreased enrollment.21

Integrating Schools without First Integrating Neighborhoods

While Brown was an attempt to protect the educational rights of Black students and families, it could not undo the years of racist housing segregation practices that left Black communities isolated, impoverished and in some cases in shambles. One must understand that to reform schools and desegregate them would first require neighborhoods to reform and amends to be made to communities that were left out of early federal funding geared towards improving communities and promoting homeownership. This is a nearly impossible feat as studies have shown that even the mildest racial bias maintains segregation in communities as people tend move to locations where they are surrounded by people that they identify with by choice.22 When self-segregation is coupled with the racist housing policies entrenched by the New Deal, the result is segregated communities with unbalanced resources. The state of public education is a direct result of the state of urban communities that have suffered through continued federal and local legalized racism in communities all over America. Thus, the solution to education reform is cannot simply be to bus students from impoverished neighborhood schools to schools with more resources miles away or to just allow Black students entry into selective white schools. Reforming schools requires communities to be effectively reformed through equity and anti-racist practices in housing and zoning.

Housing Segregation Policies: The Roles of Federal and State Legislatures

As students analyze the impact of segregation in schools and communities and assess what it would take to create more integrated communities, students will need to understand that communities that exist today did not become segregated overnight. The legalization of housing segregation in the United States was instituted by the federal government in what was considered progressive legislation at the time. Discriminatory practices in the mortgage market and community development came bundled with the New Deal alphabet soup of social programs. While there were several programs backed by the federal government to support struggling communities, there were also stipulations that would prevent Black families from establishing homeownership and generational wealth, thus confining many Black families to living in isolated government funded projects.

National Housing Act (1934)

As a part of FDR’s New Deal, the National Housing Act of 1934 was established to make homeownership for white middle class families affordable. The act established the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) which was responsible for helping eligible families finance their homes and helping developers improve communities. The FHA would legalize racism in the housing market by denying Black families the opportunities to receive federally backed mortgages to purchase their own homes.23

The National Housing Act also established the Homeowners Loan Corporation (HOLC) which created residential security maps that color-coded low risk to high risk neighborhoods for home mortgages and community rehabilitation. The HOLC made it less appealing for investors to develop communities in predominantly Black areas by blocking governmental funding to companies that wanted to build in or near Black neighborhoods.24 The idea was that the American Dream of homeownership would be made possible for middle and lower middle class whites, while excluding Black and Brown people and poor whites. This is where the term redlining is derived.25 Neighborhoods that were predominately Black, brown, Jewish, or that contained poor whites were labeled as high risk zones for lenders. Thus, redlining made homeownership for the Black community impossible for years. While middle class whites were afforded the opportunity for social mobility due to their race and geographic regions, the Black population was denied the opportunity to create generational wealth and own the homes that they lived in because banks were advised not to lend to Black families. At this time, families living in these areas were viewed as financial risks not because of their potential to default on their mortgages, but simply because of their race.

Residential Security Maps in DC and Racially Restrictive Covenants

It will be important for DC Public School students to explore how redlining specifically impoverished Black communities in Washington, DC by analyzing FHA residential security maps produced after the New Deal legislation in 1937. Residential security maps, like the one seen in Figure 1 would create boundaries for developers and lenders to consider as they navigated rebuilding the economy and communities after the Great Depression.26 Sub-areas were outlined and categorized by letter, with each letter representing a different grade of neighborhood. In DC, the neighborhoods labeled “H” were to be untouched by the lenders and ineligible for FHA loans. Thus, leaving Black families out of the American Dream of homeownership and instead eligible for social programs like subsidized government housing without the possibility of homeownership.27

Figure 1. An example of a residential security map of Washington, DC created by the Federal Housing Administration in 1937.28

In addition to residential security maps, the FHA would do market analysis reports to describe the status of each community and assess the risk value of lending and/or developing in residential areas. To lenders seeking government funding to build, it would be less attractive to build in Black neighborhoods. Figure 2 is an excerpt of an FHA Housing Market Analysis for the map in Figure 1. This excerpt depicts the language that was used to forbid investors and lenders from providing any support for developing in Black residential neighborhoods. The federal government essentially decided the Black people would be left to develop communities on their own without support, without resources, and with their communities labeled as less valuable and risky to lenders.29 While homeowners’ associations explicitly restricted Black families from moving into white communities, banks that wanted to secure FHA loans were also denying Black families mortgages to purchase homes in their own communities. Black families would have to rely on the limited resources of Black banks to purchase their homes.

Figure 2. Residential sub-area descriptions of Black neighborhoods in DC in 1937 as described by the Federal Housing Administration.30

To supplement residential security maps, racially restrictive covenants were put into the deeds of homes in certain neighborhoods requiring homes not be sold or leased to African Americans, Jews, and other groups.31 These covenants encouraged and enforced the homogeneity of communities and the lack of wealth sustained by Black families in communities they lived in for generations to come.

It is important for DC Public School students to note the historical context of redlining and gentrification between 1930-1960 after reading A Raisin in the Sun by analyzing patterns in housing in Washington, DC and comparing those patterns to the plot of the play. With the proper historical context, students will be able to describe the implications of the Younger family, a Black family of four living in a two-bedroom apartment on the Southside of Chicago, buying a home in an affluent white neighborhood.32 Students will be able to identify and analyze what Shapiro calls “hard apartheid” practices that were implemented between 1950-1960 in neighborhoods across America.33 Connections can be made between the fictitious encounters of the Younger family in the play with the realistic experiences of Black families both historically and currently. As the Younger family moves looks into putting an offer in on the home, a representative from the homeowner’s association attempted to bribe the family to not move into the neighborhood. The Younger family experiences first-hand the desire of whites to maintain their segregated suburban neighborhoods due to racial prejudice and the effects of stigmatized residential sub-areas.

While it is no longer legal for federal and local governments to create bureaucracies and institutions that influence banks not to lend to homebuyers in Black communities to encourage racially segregated neighborhoods, the effects of former policies like the National Housing Act are still active to this day. Despite federal legislation like the Fair Housing Act of 1968 that would overturn overt discriminatory practices in housing, injustice still permeates the housing market as a result of the unofficial discriminatory practices of lenders and the desires of residents to self-segregate. Shapiro describes these practices as “soft apartheid” practices enforced by white homeowners and institutions to maintain the status quo.34 Learning about these practices will help students understand institutional opposition that made the American Dream of homeownership more challenging for hard working Black families. By understanding the historical implications of redlining and housing segregation, students will be able to answer the DCPS essential questions around the American Dream and to what extent it is attainable for all Americans.

Exit, Voice, & Loyalty: White Flight in Washington, DC

Redlining, like a domino effect, caused property values to drop and what is called white flight to occur. Following the National Housing Act, whites moved out of cities into segregated suburban communities that banned selling homes to Black families. Left behind were Black families without hope of homeownership and generational wealth and deteriorating communities. To better understand this exodus of white middle class from cities to the suburbs, we can observe patterns in behavior for people when unfavorable changes occur in organizations. In Albert Hirschman’s book Exit, Voice, Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, Hirschman writes that when systemic changes occur that affect the multitude of an organization, people typically respond in one of three ways: 1) they voice their opinions in hopes for change, 2) they silently exit and move on, or 3) they remain loyal to the organization because they are in support of the changes.35 This concept of exit, voice, and loyalty is a framework that can be used to view the effects of residential security maps, residential zoning, and discriminatory practices by the Federal Housing Authority. As communities that were not previously as segregated became labeled as less valuable and risky for lenders, many white families chose to exit and move into suburbs outside of the inner city. Specifically, this was a trend in Washington, DC between 1950 and 1970 with white families moving outside of inner cities in DC and into neighboring suburbs in Maryland and Virginia.36 Thus, leaving a deficit in the tax base of communities across the country.

Moreover, in DC the implications of white flight left the southeastern and northeastern wards of the district increasingly Black communities while maintaining the whiteness of the northwestern wards in DC.37 Figure 3 shows how African Americans were condensed into small regions in Southeast and Northeast, DC with white families maintaining most of the other regions of the district.38 Figures 4 and Figure 5 show that between 1960-1970 the Black population increased Southeast and Northeast wards, as white families left DC to move into the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. The maps also show the maintained Northwestern white neighborhoods between 1950-1970. 39

Figure 3. Census Map of Washington, DC 1950 showing the African American Population by Region.40

Figure 4. Census Map of Washington, DC 1960 showing the African American Population by Region.41

Figure 5. Census Map of Washington, DC 1970 showing the African American Population by Region.42

Thus, even with the passing of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, residential desegregation was never maintained in Washington, DC. Whether it was because of continued “hard apartheid practices”, prevalent “soft apartheid practices”43, lack of financial stability of the community, the mass exodus of white residents from the inner city, voluntary self-segregation, or a mix of other factors, the Wards of Washington, DC have become increasingly segregated. As a result, it becomes challenging to truly reform communities when the status quo remains.

The Role of Coalitions in Housing and Education Reform: Black Lives Matter 

Three of the fundamental building blocks of effective downward distribution that involves equal opportunities in housing and education for low income communities, are coalitions that pursue proximate attainable gains and unifying moral narratives.44 In 2020, the world saw an uprising of people from all different walks of life supporting the Black Lives Matter (BLM) coalition, aimed at combatting systemic racism specifically targeting police brutality. The coalition was formed in 2013 after the murder of teenager Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his murderer.45 Since 2013, Black Lives Matter has turned into a movement attracting the attention of the world as protestors in other countries vocalizing anger and resistance towards systemic racism in the criminal justice system in America. In 2020, the BLM coalition has triggered responses in solidarity from businesses, public officials, celebrities, political candidates, pastors, and leaders around acknowledging the racism that has disadvantaged Black people to the extreme extent of murders justified by racism. The coalition while seeking to address systemic racism as a whole, focused on the proximate goals of federal and local police reform and ending police brutality. The results were widespread, including the House’s passing of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act on June 25, 2020. The bill will establish accountability measures for police through gathering of data, regulating what agencies can conduct investigations of police misconduct, addressing discriminatory practices, and other important reforms.46 Because the Black Lives Matter movement focused on a proximate goal with a strong moral narrative against deadly injustices, the coalition was effective in attaining drafted federal legislation that would make police reforms possible.

Similar to the Black Lives Matter coalition, to reform broken systems in urban housing and urban education, it will take the collective work of coalitions advocating for realistic unifying goals that are attainable short term. These coalitions would need to start at the local level focusing specifically on one community issue at a time in a way that can unite a majority of voters. The work of coalitions should begin with visions of integrating of historically segregated communities through increased pathways to homeownership and renting in segregated communities for eligible families. As communities become more diverse, students that attend their local neighborhood schools will experience desegregated classrooms due to the demographic of the community. The work may also include analyzing the distribution of resources to schools in all communities represented by local governments to assess issues around equity. A strong moral narrative around not repeating history and unifying our future by reminding community members that all youth are the future no matter their socioeconomic status. When communities invest in young people, all people no matter the age benefit as quality of their lives increases.

Teaching Strategies

The majority of lessons during this unit will take place during a blended learning station rotation model as well as strategically created asynchronous lessons that allow students to work at their own pace from home. In DC Public Schools there are four units in a year for grades 7-8. This unit will take up one quarter of the school year for both 7th and 8th grade students; as a result, the activities presented in this unit and the supplemental texts will be extensive. This unit will engage all modalities for students through the use of cooperative learning structures, podcasts, vodcasts, movie excerpts, magazine covers, news articles, and the anchor texts.

Blended Learning Station Rotation Model

In this blended learning station rotation model, there will be 3-4 daily stations for students to rotate over the course of four days. There will be an independent technology station, a close reading station, a writing station, and an independent reading station. In the close reading station students will participate in close reads of residential security maps of DC, census maps of DC overtime, and restrictive covenants in DC. At the independent reading station, students will independently read through the novel/play as a group with the support of an audiobook for striving readers; students will have guiding text dependent questions and graphic organizers to support their learning.

Reading Stations

It is important to note that the close reading station will need to be teacher-led, as teachers walk students through the first, second, and third read of the maps and documents. Therefore, the complexity and the authenticity of the maps and documents is important; teachers must consider what will be rigorous enough to read three times with comprehension increasing after each read and what maps would be most relevant to the students represented in the classroom. For support and suggestions with close reading, Kelly Gallagher’s book, Deeper Reading: Comprehending Challenging Texts, 4-12 is a great resource for teachers and contains several activities and structures to use when approaching close reading in grades 4-12.47 I will be using Deep Reading strategies throughout the unit as I walk students through complex texts at the reading stations.

The reading stations that are not teacher-led, will be a combination of partnered reading, group reading, and independent reading with audiobook as an option to help students keep up with the pace of the novels and to support students with special needs. The text that will always be read at the reading station that is student lead will always be the anchor texts, A Raisin in the Sun and Warriors Don’t Cry. The students will complete literature circle role sheets (see Appendix), dialectical journals, and comprehension questions as they read at the reading station that is not teacher led. This will give students structure to the station and support students with minimal teacher redirection.

Writing Station

At the writing station, students will work in small groups with to address authentic writing prompts that invoke evidence-based responses including journal entries from character perspectives, literary analysis essays, argumentative essays, and poems. Writing activities will be scaffolded using structures presented in The Writing Revolution by Judith Hochman and Natalie Wexler.48 The strategies from The Writing Revolution that I will use the most during the writing station are: sentence fragment activities, the single paragraph outlines, the multi-paragraph outlines, and revision strategies.

Technology Station: Parable of the Polygons Tipping Game

At the technology station, one of the activities students will participate in is playing the Parable of the Polygons game created based on Thomas Schelling’s Tipping Game Theory.49 The game teaches students to analyze how even the mildest forms of prejudice cause communities to become self-segregated, as people move towards more homogenous home settings. It also shows how even the smallest desire for diverse communities can cause a community to desegregate on its own. After playing the game online, students will complete a “See, Think, and Wonder” reflection in which they note what they saw as it relates to communities, what they thought about what they say, and what they wonder about what they saw.

Effective Strategies for Managing Station Rotations: CHAMPS

The most effective strategy for maintaining students’ time on task during station rotation is having directions posted at each station using the CHAMPS positive behavior support system. Simply put, when teachers use the CHAMPS acronym for giving directions, implementing transitions, and establishing routines in the classroom, students always understand what the expectations are at every moment in class. Specifically, in station rotation model with many moving parts, CHAMPS minimizes confusion in the classroom. CHAMPS will have to be scaffolded and taught before it can be an effective tool in the classroom, but once students understand it, it makes facilitating learning much easier for students. The C in CHAMPS indicates the conversation level for students; the levels should go from 0 to 3, with 0 being a whisper and 3 being a presentation voice. The H in CHAMPS lets students know how they can ask for help if they need it; common help systems include asking three classmates before raising a hand, using a hand symbol, or writing a name on the board’s help list. During station rotations I prefer to use “ask 3 before writing your name on the help list.” It allows me to see which students need support without having to worry about missing a hand that was raised while I was leading a station. The A in CHAMPS describes the activity; the activity should explicitly state what assignment students should be working on. The M in CHAMPS stands for movement; there should be expectations around throwing away trash, sharpening pencils, rotating stations, remaining seated, remaining standing, using the restroom, can all be made clear using the movement description of CHAMPS. The P illustrates how students demonstrate that they are participating or on task; you must narrate their learning behaviors by stating if books should be open their hands, pencils writing on paper, or even discussions being on topic. Lastly the S in CHAMPS represents students’ success; it should describe how students know that they are finished and what to do if they finish early. CHAMPS can also be used to reinforce how students transition from one station to the next during station rotations. Figure 6 contains an example of CHAMPS directions that I projected for the class during a station rotation model day last year. I used PowerPoint to create a table to make this slide. It is a student’s job to go over the slide with the class before station timers begin.

Figure 6. CHAMPS positive behavior support system exemplar I created.

Asynchronous Lessons

Due to the possibility of school building closures in the Fall, much of learning strategies will be created to engage students from home. Nearpod lessons will be created and assigned to students to work on at their own pace. Lessons including Edpuzzled NPR videos posted to a class website for student reference and support. Authentic writing prompts will be given to students using various multimedia resources such as Padlet, Office 365, Flipgrid, and TikTok. Students will be given a writing prompt or performance at the end of each week requiring them to synthesize information learned from texts throughout the week in a creative way. All performance tasks will be assigned with the expectation of a written explanation of their performance task that also includes evidence cited from multiple sources.

Classroom Activities

During this unit, students will participate in historical simulations and mock city council hearings that create a space where more than one side of history can be explored and learned.

Mock City Council Hearings

The major performance task for this unit will be the Mock City Council Hearing in which students propose one new policy that can help establish desegregation in neighborhoods and schools in Washington, DC. Students will be broken into data-based groups for the project and given specific roles within their groups. Students in each group will be assigned to be one of the 8 DC Council Members, the DCPS Chancellor, our school principal, a teacher, a family member, and a student representative. The students will create brief written statements from the perspective of the role that they have been assigned; some roles will require more research than others, but all roles will be expected to cite evidence or reference examples from at least one anchor text as a framework for their statements. The hearing will be held virtually and students will be assigned different days to present with their groups. Students in the audience that are not presenting at the time will be responsible for making connections between the presentation, the real world, and texts read in class in the chat as the hearing takes place. Discussion stems will be provided to all students so that when they have structure for their responses in the chat in real time. A City Council representative will also be invited to the classroom during one of the hearings to observe, give students feedback, and answer students’ questions.

Class Coalitions: Dialectical Journals and Group Discussions

Another major performance task for the unit will be a coalition forming and breaking activity. Students will learn how coalitions work in a practical way when discussing a proximate goal for addressing an issue that arises in Warriors Don’t Cry. The instruction will occur in five to ten-minute inquiry-based class reflections once per week for students. Each class will be responsible for choosing an imaginary coalition that addresses one particular issue from the novel such as physical violence in the school, white teacher relationships with Little Rock Nine, or community invasion. As they form their coalition and begin to campaign around it, as they continue to read the novel more issues will arise, and I will allow students to break away from the class coalition to form smaller groups. Students will continue to form separate coalitions as the novel continues. By the end of the novel, students will notice how little has can be accomplished due to the division of the major coalition at the beginning of the unit. Students will have a deeper understanding of the importance of coalitions and be able to identify the strong coalitions like the NAACP that are presented in the novel. Their coalition assignments will be in the form of dialectical journals with evidence from the text that sparked their coalitions and their own responses to what the coalition must do and focus on to make a difference.


The resources below include suggested reads for teachers and a reading list for students. The bibliography for teachers contains texts that will support the content objectives of the unit as well as texts that will enhance teacher facilitation of the classroom writing and reading activities.

Bibliography for Teachers

Adams, M. "The Unfulfilled Promise of the Fair Housing Act." The New Yorker. 2018. Accessed July 1, 2020. This article explains the systemic racism that fell through the cracks of the Fair Housing Act and explains systemic racism in housing in layman’s terms.

Denby, Gene. “Housing Segregation and Redlining in America: A Short History.” Code Switch, NPR. April 11, 2018 This is an NPR vodcast that outlines the history of housing segregation as it pertains to legislation that was strategically drafted to establish and maintain inequality and segregation in houses. This a resource for teachers who are unfamiliar with the concept of redlining and important laws enacted in the not so distant past.

Gallagher, Kelly. Deeper Reading: Comprehending Challenging Texts, 4-12. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers, 2004. For support and suggestions with close reading, Kelly Gallager’s book, Deeper Reading: Comprehending Challenging Texts, 4-12 is a great resource for teachers and contains several activities and structures to use when approaching close reading in grades 4-12.

Ginwright, Shawn, Noguera, Pedro, & Cammarota, Julio. “Beyond Resistance! Youth Activism and Community Change New Democratic Possibilities for Practice and Policy for America's Youth” Florence: Taylor and Francis, 2013. Retrieved from This publication is a great tool for teachers to use when considering how students can become advocates for issues that affect their communities. It contains solid pedagogy for teachers to consider when planning units and learning activities for students to engage them in political advocacy. 

Hochman, J., Wexler, N. The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2017. This is a great professional development tool for teachers geared towards building students’ writing proficiency from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. This text can be used across content areas to teach writing and grammar with rigor in a way that deepens student understanding of disciplinary content.

Hart, Vi & Case, Nicky. “The Parable of the Polygons: A Playable Post on the Shape of Society” Accessed July 15, 2020. This website is the website for the Technology Station game for students, but will be a useful tool for teachers to analyze housing patterns that occur naturally without governmental intervention.

Rosenberg, Gerald. N. The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring about Social Change? Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. This book details Supreme Court Cases and challenges the true impacts of each ruling. This text details Supreme Court Cases that followed Brown v. Board of Education in several different states. It also details the Court’s role in other matters of injustice in America.

Tatum, Beverly D. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1997. This book is for teachers that provides an approach and a pedagogy for addressing race in the classroom. The book is a model for creating a culturally responsive classroom and teacher mindset. This book contains truths that when they are avoided become detrimental to education for students.

Reading List for Students

Beals, M. P. Warriors Don’t Cry. New York: Simon & Schuster, Children’s Publishing Division, 1994. This novel is a memoir written by one of the Little Rock Nine students, Melba Patillo Beals detailing her first-hand experiences integrating Central High School. This is the anchor text for the education portion of the unit.

Hansberry, L. A Raisin in the Sun. New York: Random House, Inc., 1958. This is the play that serves as the second anchor text for the housing portion of the unit. It is the fictional story of the Younger Family that lives on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s and pursues the American Dream of upward mobility despite financial, racial, and familial obstacles that they face. This is the text that will be used for the housing portion of the unit.

Hart, Vi & Case, Nicky. “The Parable of the Polygons: A Playable Post on the Shape of Society” Accessed July 15, 2020. This is an online game that helps students understand housing patterns that occur as people tend to self-segregate and desegregate.

Denby, Gene. “Housing Segregation and Redlining in America: A Short History.” Code Switch, NPR. April 11, 2018 This vodcast shows students the history of segregation in housing and presents common terminology around redlining, residential security maps, and restrictive covenants in an engaging way.

Materials List for Classroom Use

The only materials needed for this unit are student copies of the novels A Raisin in the Sun and Warriors Don’t Cry, access to computers for small group technology station, and composition notebooks for dialectical journals.

Appendix for District Standards

DC Public Schools use the Common Core State Standards for English and Language Arts/Literacy Standards in all units and lessons. This unit is Common Core aligned and geared towards PARCC readiness. Below are the standards that will be covered throughout in the unit. The unit will include reading several complex district assigned texts in addition to the anchor texts. The unit will also include daily opportunities for evidence-based writing, weekly lengthier writing tasks, and authentic performance tasks at the end of the unit that require students to write using evidence from multiple sources. The blended learning station rotation model will provide ample opportunities to cover reading and writing standards daily. I also included a 9th grade reading standard to the unit intentionally because there are no 7th or 8th grade standards that address comparing and contrasting two different mediums that address the same topic, which will be done multiple times throughout the unit as students compare and contrast maps, historical documents, images, and games to concepts presented in the novel and the play.

Writing Standards Covered

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

Reading Standards Covered

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8. Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

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

RI Standards for Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.7 Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.9 Analyze a case in which two or more texts provide conflicting information on the same topic and identify where the texts disagree on matters of fact or interpretation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person's life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.


1 Tushnet, “Significance of Brown,” 177.

2 Tushnet, 176.

3 Tushnet, 177.

4 Klarman, “Brown v. Board: Facts and Political Correctness,” 185-199.

5 Klarman, 189.

6 Klarman, 199.

7 Klarman, 199.

8 Tillman, “(Un)intended Consequences?”, 280-303.

9 Tillman, 286, table 4.

10 Tillman, 299.

11 Tillman, 282.

12 Beals, Warriors Don’t Cry, 1994.

13 Rosenberg, The Hollow Hope, 42.

14 Bolling et al. v Sharpe, 1954.

15 “Sousa Middle School” DCPS School Profile,

16 Beals, Chapter 16.

17 Rosenberg, 43-44.

18 Rosenberg, 44.

19 Griffin et al. v. Prince Edward County, 1964.

20 Rosenberg, 72.

21 Shapiro, “Reforming public schools?”, 2020.

22 Shapiro, “Race, home-ownership & neighborhood segregation.”, 2020.

23 Denby, “Housing Segregation and Redlining in America”, 2018.

24 Adams, “Unfulfilled Promise of the Fair Housing Act”, 2018.

25 Rothstein, “A Forgotten History”, 2017.

26 Mapping Segregation DC, “Map of Metropolitan sub-areas”, 1937, see Figure 1.

27 Rothstein, 2017.

28 Mapping Segregation DC, see Figure 1.

29 Mapping Segregation DC, “Housing marketing analysis”, 1937, see Figure 2.

30 Mapping Segregation DC, see Figure 2.

31 Rothstein, “A Forgotten History”, 2017.

32 Hansberry, A Raisin in Sun, 1958.

33 Shapiro, “Race, home-ownership & neighborhood segregation.”, 2020.

34 Shapiro, “Race, home-ownership & neighborhood segregation.”, 2020.

35 Hirschman, Exit, Voice, Loyalty, 2017.

36 Kraft, “Mapping Segregation”, 2020, see Figures 3-5.

37 Kraft, see Figures 3-5.

38 Kraft, see Figures 3.

39 Kraft, see Figures 4-5.

40 Kraft, “Mapping Segregation”, 2020.

41 Kraft, “Mapping Segregation”, 2020.

42 Kraft, “Mapping Segregation”, 2020.

43 Shapiro, “Race, home-ownership & neighborhood segregation.”, 2020.

44 Shapiro, “Building Blocks of Distributive Politics”, 2020.

45 Black Lives Matter, “About,” 2020.

46 Hoyer, “Justice in Policing Act”, 2020.

47 Gallagher, Deep Reading, 2004.

48 Hochman & Wexler, The Writing Revolution, 2017.

49 Hart & Case, “Parable of the Polygons”,


Adams, Michelle. "The Unfulfilled Promise of the Fair Housing Act." The New Yorker, April 11, 2018.

Beals, Melba P. Warriors Don’t Cry. Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1994.

Black Lives Matter. “About Black Lives Matter,” Accessed on July 20, 2020.

BOLLING et al. v. SHARPE et al. May 17, 1954. Https://, Dist. file

Denby, Gene. “Housing Segregation and Redlining in America: A Short History.” Code Switch, NPR. April 11, 2018

District of Columbia Public Schools. “Sousa Middle School.” School Profile. Last modified 2019.

ESSA Implementation in States and School Districts: Perspectives from Education Leaders. Hearing of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Senate, 114th Cong. 1 (2016).

Frederick, Rona. M., & View, Jenice. L. “Facing the rising sun: A history of Black educators in Washington, DC 1800-2008.” Urban Education44, no. 5, (2009): 571–607. Retrieved from

Gallagher, Kelly. Deeper Reading: Comprehending Challenging Texts, 4-12. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers, 2004.

Ginwright, Shawn, Noguera, Pedro, & Cammarota, Julio. “Beyond Resistance! Youth Activism and Community Change New Democratic Possibilities for Practice and Policy for America's Youth” New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group, 2006. Retrieved from

GRIFFIN et al. v. PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY et al. May 25, 1964., Dist. File

Hansberry, L. A Raisin in the Sun. New York: Random House, Inc., 1958.

Hart, Vi & Case, Nicky. “The Parable of the Polygons: A Playable Post on the Shape of Society” Accessed July 15, 2020.

Hirschman, Albert. O. Exit, Voice, Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017.

Hochman, J., Wexler, N. The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2017.

Hoyer, Steny. “Justice in Policing Act”, Email received from Congressman, June 9, 2020.

Klarman, Michael. J. “BROWN v. BOARD OF EDUCATION: FACTS AND POLITICAL CORRECTNESS.” Virginia Law Review, 80, no. 1, (1994): 185-199.

Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools. New York: Broadway Paperbacks, 2012.

Kraft, Brian. “Mapping Segregation: Visualizing DC History” Washington DC Census Maps 1950-1970. Accessed July 10, 2020. Retrieved from

Mapping Segregation DC. Federal Housing Administration Division of Economics and Statistics. “Housing marketing analysis.” Washington, DC, July 1937. Retrieved from

Mapping Segregation DC. Federal Housing Administration Division of Economics and Statistics. “Map of the metropolitan area of Washington, D.C. showing division of the metropolitan area into residential sub-areas according to type or grade as described in this report.” Washington, DC, 1937. Retrieved from

Rosenberg, Gerald, N. The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring about Social Change? Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Rothstein, Richard. “A 'Forgotten History' of How the U.S. Government Segregated America.” Interview by Terry Gross. Fresh Air, NPR, May 3, 2017,

Shapiro, Ian. “Building Blocks of Distributive Politics”. Lecture presented at Politics and Public Policy in the United States in Yale National Initiative, May 2, 2020.

Shapiro, Ian. “Fallout: The Housing Crisis and its Aftermath.” Yale University DeVane Lectures Power and Politics in Today's World, November, 2019. Retrieved from

Shapiro, Ian. “Race, home-ownership & neighborhood segregation”. Lecture presented at Politics and Public Policy in the United States in Yale National Initiative, July 8, 2020.

Shapiro, Ian. “Reforming public schools? Case study of Newark, NJ.” Lecture presented at Politics and Public Policy in the United States in Yale National Initiative, July 9, 2020.

Shapiro, Ian. The State of Democratic Theory. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006.

Tatum, Beverly D. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1997.

Tillman, Linda C. “(UN)INTENDED CONSEQUENCES? The Impact of the Brown v. Board of Education Decision on the Employment Status of Black Educators.” Education and Urban Society, 36, no.3, (May 2004): 280-303.

Tushnet, Mark. “The Significance of Brown vs. Board of Education.” Virginia Law Review, 80, no. 1, (1994): 173-184.

Comments (0)

Be the first person to comment

When you are finished viewing curriculum units on this Web site, please take a few minutes to provide feedback and help us understand how these units, which were created by public school teachers, are useful to others.
THANK YOU — your feedback is very important to us! Give Feedback