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The experiences of the New Kent County schools are emblematic of many other schools in the South during the 1950s and 1960s. The following activities are designed to help students understand some of the personal stories of those individuals that experienced segregation and desegregation in the U.S. and the history of their own local schools and communities in relation to the movement to end segregation.

Activity 1: Oral Interviews--Preserving a piece of history
Unlike earlier time periods in history, we are fortunate enough to have many people alive and well with vivid memories of the 1950s and 1960s. Have students conduct oral interviews of community or family members who remember the segregation debates from the 1960s. As a class, decide what questions you would like to have answered. If needed, have students refer to the readings for guidance as well as any relevant textbook materials. Have students document their accounts and offer them to the local library or historical society to preserve the history for future generations.

Activity 2: History of My School
Segregation was largely a national problem; communities across the U.S. were affected by the civil rights movement and the fight over desegregation. At the same time, local, regional, and state factors greatly influenced communities' experiences with desegregation.

If possible, have students use newspapers, yearbooks, and other primary materials to construct a history of their school or a school in their community from 1954-1970 (essentially from the Brown decision through the implementation of the Green decision). Students should then write a paper comparing the situation in their community and school with the situation in New Kent County, Virginia. Was the school segregated or integrated during this time period? How was the situation similar or dissimilar to that in New Kent County? What local, regional, or state factors might contribute to these similarities or differences? What, if any, physical differences existed between local schools and the New Kent schools, and what if any significance do those differences have in the history of segregation and desegregation?

Activity 3: First person account
Historians often use journals and diaries as primary sources in order to get firsthand accounts of historical events. These sources are always subject to the personal opinions and biases of their authors. This activity is designed to expose students to the idea that people often interpret and experience the same event in extremely different ways.

Based on the materials created from Activities 1 and 2, as well as the readings from this lesson plan, have students write a journal entry from the perspective of a person who lived and experienced segregation in schools. Students should take into account the time between the Brown decision and the Green decision, and the subsequent integration of public schools. Hold a classroom discussion about the journal entries and have students discuss the different perspectives in relation to desegregation.

 

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