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Lesson Plan: Black History Month

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 1/17/2012

This outstanding lesson plan ties the Civil Rights movement into classical Greek drama. It is a great introduction for students to the concept of conflict between conscience and law.

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    Help students find relevance in Greek drama by introducing it with a study of the heroes of Civil Rights. This Black history month lesson plan can be used by itself, or as a lead in to the study of any literary work involving a conflict between conscience and law or with any historical figure who defied the law for reasons of conscience. I have found it an extremely successful introduction tool for Sophocles' Antigone.

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    • Students will discuss Jim Crow and its ramifications on society.
    • Students will discuss the difficulties facing minorities in the United States during the 20th century.
    • Students will research major figures in the Civil Rights movement in the 20th century.
    • Students will write a brief synopsis for ten different figures who broke the law for reasons of conscience; that is, historical figures who broke the law in an effort to procure civil rights for all Americans. It must include the following: What law did he or she break? Why did he or she break it? What were the results?
    • Students will apply the writing process to write about an historical figure from the Civil Rights Movement.
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    • Open with a discussion on “personal conscience" vs. “the law". Discuss the concept of a higher law (Declaration of Independence, or the Bill of Rights, for example) inherent in the fabric of our nation.
    • Discuss that during the 20th century the laws of our nation regarding African-Americans conflicted with what was “right".
    • Each student must research ten historical figures of the 20 century who broke the law because their conscience told them they needed to obey a higher law. I open this up to those individuals who went against social customs as well.
    • On the day the homework is due, each student must share at least one historical figure with his or her classmates.
    • Each student must pick one of these individuals and do a brief biographical paragraph discussing the significance of this person’s action.
    • Other options include making a poster, giving a speech, producing a short film, or scheduling a debate.
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    Be sure to differentiate between breaking the law for reasons of conscience and breaking the law to gain power or authority. Students often misunderstand the two and include infamous historical figures.

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