Freedom's Song-100 Years of African American Struggle and Triumph: A Curriculum for Middle and High School Students

Article excerpt

Freedom's Song--100 Years of African American Struggle and Triumph is a middle and high school curriculum expounding on the "African American Experience" for each decade of the 20th century (see Table 1). Activities introduce a culturally responsive way to reflect on historical events. This curriculum develops students' awareness in looking at the world from a broader perspective than can be afforded only through students' culturally encapsulated eyes. Offering a variety of activities, this curriculum addresses many of the National Council for Social Studies' Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies.

These activities offer students experiential opportunities to develop a deeper understanding of cultural differences than could be gained from a lecture or other presentation about cultural differences. Development of programs, activities, and problem-solving initiatives creates a richer environment in which students experience the context of real life. Providing this context also helps students to overcome inequities and correct misconceptions. As teachers look for ways to infuse cultural responsiveness, the collaboration between researchers and educators can elicit some excellent learning experiences for students. Each lesson plan also offers suggestions for differentiating instruction in ways that offer exciting variations for regular and exceptional learners and their teachers.

The 10 lesson plans on African American history in the last century follow a similar structure of presentation. For example, each lesson begins with a comprehensive narrative that describes the significance of the particular decade's topic. Following is a list of history standards relevant to the lesson plan. The final piece within each lesson plan is an activity that allows students to engage directly in the topic of focus. For example, in Decade One, The Niagara Movement (1900-1910), students are asked to research information regarding the cultural norms and lifestyles of people from various walks of life during the early-20th century. The information students discover is presented to the entire class. Students are asked to consider the following information when doing their research: (a) Civil liberties already afforded them prior to the meeting; (b) Communication styles of both male and females in this ethnicity; (c) Employability of both males and females in this ethnicity; (d) Gender interaction; (e) Education availability of both males and females in this ethnicity; (f) Family responsibilities and interactions of both males and females in this ethnicity; (g) Availability to the Armed Forces of both males and females in this ethnicity; and (h) Religious involvement of both males and females in this ethnicity. The essence of this activity is to help students develop a better awareness about civil liberties for all Americans.

Decade Two, African Americans in World War I (1910-1920), focuses on the decision to allow African Americans to fight in World War I. At the time, this was a heated political issue. Many whites did not want African Americans to be allowed to enlist in the war, and many did not support the idea of African American soldiers being a higher rank than white soldiers. The activity outlined in this lesson plan allows students to research the issues and to be involved in a simulated political process. This activity also addressed the more current issue of allowing Muslim Americans to enlist in the Armed Services in the current political climate. The simulated political debate requires research skills, historical and political awareness, and development of mediation skills. After completion of the activity, debriefing what occurred during the activity allows students to reflect on the emotional impact and intensity of how the group worked together. Infusing the emotionally charged events of World War I with the intensity of today's events regarding the war in Iraq helps students learn from the past as well as integrate appropriate decision-making in the current events of today. …