U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow and Howard Law School Dean Danielle Holley-Walker discussed the reconstruction era and the changes that were occurring after the Civil war.
In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) the Supreme Court infamously ruled it was within constitutional boundaries for the state of Louisiana to enforce racial segregation in public facilities. In a 7-1 ruling, the Court established that the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to enforce racial equality, not to eliminate the distinction based on color. Under that reasoning, the Court ruled segregation could not be considered unconstitutional. In Brown v. Board of Education (1954) the Court overturned the Plessy decision and declared that the separate but equal doctrine was unconstitutional. This lesson explores the background of both case decisions and opinions. Students will compare and contrast the circumstances and rulings in each of the cases.
Before beginning the lesson, have students test their understanding of the following vocabulary words. You may print this out or you may assign it to each student individually using Google Classroom or Schoology or another classroom platform. This activity is divided into two pages.
Activity: Vocabulary Drag and Drop Activity (Google Slide)
As a class, view the following video clip:
Video Clip: Life After the Civil War (2:36)
After viewing the clip, have students turn and talk to a partner and answer the following questions. Bring students back as a whole class after 3 to 5 minutes and have groups share their responses.
Describe how the lives of many African Americans in the South changed during Reconstruction.
Describe the backlash to African Americans gaining political rights.
What laws and amendments were passed during this time period?
Lead a class discussion on things they know might have been happening at this time in regards to African Americans and other minorities. Write their answers on chart paper. Bring the discussion around to review the Black Codes, Jim Crow and legal challenges to these actions.
Tell students today they will explore and then compare and contrast two landmark Supreme Court Cases; Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education. Ask students what, if anything, they know about these cases and record their responses on chart paper. Ask students if they know the phrase “separate but equal”. Explain or expand on student responses. Ask students to review the information on the chart paper and turn and talk to their partner to discuss or ask questions about the information. Give students 2 minutes to talk. Bring back as a whole class and have groups share their discussions. Answer any questions that students might still have.
Assign students the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause Assignment.
Assignment: 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause (Google Slides)
Remember to make a copy of the document before assigning to each student. You will be able to post this assignment in Google Classroom, Schoology, or other platforms. Students will independently work through the presentation, viewing video clips and answering questions, creating a short video, and creating a “tweet” within the presentation to allow them to compare and contrast the Supreme Court Decisions in Plessy v Ferguson and Brown v The Board of Education.
Video Clip: Plessy v Ferguson- The Beginning (2:16)
Video Clip: Linda Brown Shares Her Story (1:45)
Video Clip: Plessy Supreme Court Decision (:56)
Video Clip: Explanation of Plessy Decision (1:45)
Video Clip: Decision in Brown v Board of Education (3:00)
Lead a quick 2 to 3 minute discussion on the following questions. Then, have students do a QUICK WRITE (5 minutes where students write whatever they are thinking. It does not need to be complete sentences and will not be collected or graded) with the following question as their writing prompt. After 5 minutes ask for volunteers to share their thoughts.
Choose an activity from C-SPAN Classroom's Deliberations site to engage in a structured student-centered analysis of Brown v Board of Education.