Teaching Current Events: Racial Justice in the United States

We are in the midst of a national and global reckoning on race and justice. Use these resources to understand the past and present of racial inequities in the United States and the ongoing struggle for justice today.

Blog
Race in US History

Remembering Rip Patton

The Facing History community and the nation are mourning the loss of lifelong civil rights activist Ernest “Rip” Patton, Jr. Patton was a Freedom Rider—a participant in an activist campaign that began in 1947 when the Congress on Racial Equity and Fellowship of Reconciliation sought to test a Supreme Court decision that declared segregation on interstate buses unconstitutional. The campaign would be reignited in 1961 amid a wave of civic activity around racial justice, subjecting Patton—along with fellow Freedom Riders John Lewis, Diane Nash, and others—to a harrowing series of bombings and beatings by white mobs as they journeyed further and further south on an integrated bus. Patton and his fellows were ultimately arrested in Jackson, Mississippi and subsequently imprisoned in the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Patton is said to have comforted and supported the group while they were incarcerated by encouraging everyone to sing. Their brave acts, fueled always by a philosophy of nonviolent disobedience, would eventually earn them nationwide media attention and become a decisive factor that helped to eradicate bus segregation in the South. But Patton’s contributions did not stop there; he was also a father, a grandfather, a teacher, and a friend to so many, including our community here at Facing History. 

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Race in US History
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Student Activities: Understanding #TakeAKnee and Athlete Activism

These student-facing Slides help students explore the legacy of the Take A Knee protest and the long history of athletes protesting racial injustice in the United States.

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Democracy & Civic Engagement
Race in US History

Student Activities: The Power of Representation: Patsy Takemoto Mink, Shirley Chisholm, and Kamala Harris

These student-facing slides lead students through activities exploring Patsy Takemoto Mink and Shirley Chisholm’s groundbreaking careers and the significance of Vice President Kamala Harris’s election.

Blog
Race in US History

Reads for Juneteenth

Described as a second independence day, June 19th or Juneteenth marks the day that emancipation reached slaves in the furthest reaches of the American South. Though the Emancipation Proclamation established that all slaves held within the rebellious states were freed, plantation life continued as though no change had occurred in many parts of the slaveholding South until this day.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement
Race in US History

The Power of Representation: Patsy Takemoto Mink, Shirley Chisholm, and Kamala Harris

Use this Teaching Idea to help students learn about the groundbreaking careers of Patsy Takemoto Mink and Shirley Chisholm and to consider the significance of Vice President Kamala Harris’s election.

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Race in US History

Dispelling the Myth That Crime Rates Can Explain Disparities in Policing

If your students have questions about crime rates and crime data in relation to race and policing, you can share the following information with them.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History

Creating a Society That Ensures Safety for All

This Teaching Idea invites students to synthesize their learning about the causes of racial injustice in policing and reflect on the implications these causes have on the individual and collective choices we make today.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History

Exploring Contemporary Experiences of Policing and Racial Injustice

In this Teaching Idea, students use their head, heart, and conscience to engage with six sources that reflect a range of experiences with policing.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History

The History of Slave Patrols, Black Codes, and Vagrancy Laws

This Teaching Idea provides a brief overview of the history of policing in the early United States and then examines how laws, and biased enforcement of those laws, were used to control the lives of Black Americans in the South following the Civil War.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History

Preparing for a Conversation about Policing and Racial Injustice

This Teaching idea prepares students to engage in conversations about policing and racial injustice by inviting them to co-create class norms and reflect on the emotions and experiences they and their classmates bring.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History

Accountability, Justice, and Healing after Derek Chauvin's Trial

Help students reflect on the verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial while exploring the complicated concepts of justice, accountability, and healing.

Blog
Race in US History

Making Black Lives Matter: A Retrospective

It was on this day nine years ago that 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. After spending the evening relaxing and playing video games with his brothers, Martin ventured out to a convenient store to purchase some snacks. He would not make it home after Zimmerman deemed him a suspicious presence and proceeded to shoot him dead, later claiming self-defense.

Race in US History

February 2021: Honoring Black Agency & Black Joy

Black history is central to all of American history, and should be part of a robust teaching curriculum year-round. Alongside the lessons of Black history, it’s also critical to honor the resilience, creativity, and vitality of Black people in the face of inequity and violence, past and present. That’s why, this year, we’re celebrating Black History Month by honoring the themes of Black Agency & Black Joy.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement
Race in US History

The Hope and Fragility of Democracy in the United States

In this Teaching Idea, students learn about the history of democratic and anti-democratic efforts in the United States and examine sources that illuminate this tension from Reconstruction through today.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History
Democracy & Civic Engagement

What Happened During the Insurrection at the US Capitol and Why?

This Teaching Idea guides students to use an iceberg diagram to synthesize the events of January 6, 2021, and outline the complex array of causes at work.

Teaching Idea
Democracy & Civic Engagement
Race in US History

Responding to the Insurrection at the US Capitol

This Teaching Idea is designed to help guide an initial classroom reflection on the insurrection at the US Capitol that occurred on January 6, 2021.

Blog
Race in US History

"This is Where Our People Are": Reflections on Plymouth 400

This month, in addition to being National Native American Heritage Month, marks 400 years since the Mayflower landed in Plymouth. Here in Massachusetts—a state named after the indigenous people of the “Great Blue Hill”—many of us are settlers on stolen land. I spoke with Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, Chairwoman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah based on Martha’s Vineyard, to hear her perspective on this moment, and what we can learn from reflecting on the anniversary.

Blog
Race in US History

Education Must Disrupt White Supremacy

At Facing History, we stand with educators who are working to disrupt rising white nationalism. Since the Unite the Right Rally of 2017 in Charlottesville, white nationalist groups have become increasingly visible on the national stage, deepening threats of racial and antisemitic violence across the country. Indeed, these threats are so severe that the Department of Homeland Security prepared draft reports (recently released to the press) indicating that “white supremacist extremists” currently pose the greatest terror threat to the nation.

Race in US History

Policing and the Legacy of Racial Injustice

This series of Teaching Ideas is designed to help students think critically about the long and troubling history between law enforcement and Black Americans, while not stereotyping or criminalizing all police officers.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History

Confronting History, Transforming Monuments

This Teaching Idea uses the story of the Robert E. Lee monument to help students consider the power of symbols and explore the summer's protests through the lens of voice, agency, and solidarity.

Blog
Race in US History

We, Too, are Tired

“We are tired of the killings and injustice.” What can be clearer? What can be more reasonable? Those are the words of George Hill of the Milwaukee Bucks when asked why he and his teammates decided to boycott their scheduled NBA Playoff Game on Wednesday. These are young men deciding to walk away from not just the game they love but also from their livelihood. Many of these young men are fulfilling a lifelong dream of playing professional basketball.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding #TakeaKnee and Athlete Activism

Explore the origin and legacy of the Take A Knee protest in the NFL, the significance of the more recent athlete boycotts, and the long history of athletes protesting racial injustice in the United States.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Reflecting on George Floyd’s Death and Police Violence Towards Black Americans

This Teaching Idea is a guide for teachers to begin conversations with their students about George Floyd’s death and the events that surround it.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History

Why Is the Coronavirus Disproportionately Impacting Black Americans?

Help students explore the underlying causes of racial inequity in coronavirus outcomes with the activities in this Teaching Idea.

Teaching Idea
Antisemitism & Religious Intolerance
Race in US History

Acts of Hate in Schools

Use this Teaching Idea to inform students about recent episodes of racism and antisemitism in schools across the US, probe their causes and impact, and consider positive ways that communities can respond to hate.

Blog
Race in US History

The Problem with Celebrating Forgiveness

The news cycles of the last few years have captured countless instances of racist violence perpetrated by white people against black people—a continuation of a long history of antiblack violence in the United States. And amid this legacy of violence, a number of black figures have done the unimaginable: they have publicly expressed forgiveness to avowedly racist white people who murdered their relatives and community members.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History
Justice & Human Rights

Indigenous Rights and Controversy over Hawaii’s Maunakea Telescope

Provide students with historical context for understanding the protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea and help them explore the reasons why many Native Hawaiians oppose its construction.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History
Democracy & Civic Engagement
Justice & Human Rights

The Debate over Reparations for Racial Injustice

With reparations in the news, this Teaching Idea helps students define the term, learn what forms reparations can take, and consider what reparations should be offered for slavery and other racist policies.

Explainer
Race in US History
Antisemitism & Religious Intolerance

Explainer: White Nationalism

This explainer describes key characteristics of white nationalist ideology and clarifies related key-terms, such as “alt-right” and “white power.”

Teaching Idea
Antisemitism & Religious Intolerance
Race in US History

Teaching in the Wake of Violence

This teaching idea contains strategies and activities for supporting your students in the aftermath of a mass shooting, terrorist attack, or other violent event.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History

The Persistence of Racial Segregation in American Schools

More than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, give students an overview of the problem of school segregation in the United States today and open a discussion about possible solutions.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History

Blackface in the News

Use this teaching idea to introduce students to the story of Governor Northam, examine the history of blackface in the years before the Civil War, and consider how leaders and citizens should respond today.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Responding to #LivingWhileBlack

Help students develop a framework for analyzing and discussing the incidents of racial bias they’re seeing in the news and on social media.

Teaching Idea
Global Immigration
Race in US History

Family Separation at the U.S. Border

Inform students about the Trump administration’s family separation policy and help them emotionally process the human side of this news story.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History
Justice & Human Rights

Bearing Witness to Japanese American Incarceration

Use these activities and resources on Japanese American incarceration during World War II to introduce students to this history while exploring questions about American identity, racism, and citizenship.

Teaching Idea
Race in US History

Black Women’s Activism and the Long History Behind #MeToo

Use this teaching idea to help your students draw connections between the long history of black women’s activism against sexual violence and gender discrimination with the #MeToo movement today. The questions and activities focus on the experiences of Recy Taylor, Rosa Parks, and Essie Favrot.

Unit
Democracy & Civic Engagement
Media Literacy
Race in US History

Facing Ferguson: News Literacy in a Digital Age

Help students become informed and effective civic participants in today's digital landscape. This unit is designed to develop students' critical thinking, news literacy, civic engagement, and social-emotional skills and competencies.

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