Putting It All Together
In this lesson, students learn about the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional. The following activities will help them apply what they have learned.
Activity 1: Massive Resistance
Explain to students that Prince Edward County, Virginia, garnered national attention in the years following the Brown ruling as the most extreme example of “massive resistance” to integration. Ask students to research what happened in Prince Edward County from the time of the Brown decision until 1964 when Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County was argued before the Supreme Court. Students should prepare a written report detailing how “massive resistance” impacted integration in Virginia.
Activity 2: The NAACP
Have students conduct research on the NAACP, the nation's oldest civil rights organization. Questions to consider include:
- Why, when, and how was the NAACP founded?
- What role did the NAACP play in ending segregation?
- What were some of the NAACP's major civil rights accomplishments during the 1960s?
- What methods did they use to gain “victories” in the fight for civil rights?
Students may summarize their findings in a written report or create a timeline illustrating the NAACP's history.
Activity 3: The United States Supreme Court
Explain to students that the Supreme Court has handed down decisions on many important issues throughout America's history. In order for students to better understand how the Court operates and its impact, divide students into groups and ask each group to choose a landmark Supreme Court case to investigate. The Landmark Supreme Court Cases website [http://www.landmarkcases.org/index.html] provides information on several cases and is a good starting point. When groups have completed their research, ask each to role play the basic arguments for both sides in front of the rest of the class. Class members will act as Supreme Court justices and issue a ruling based on the facts presented. Once the class decides on a ruling, have the group explain the result of the actual Supreme Court case.
Activity 4: School Segregation in the Local Community
Divide students into two groups and ask one group to conduct research on public schools in their town or county in the period leading up to the Brown ruling and the other to research schools in the several years following the Brown ruling. Questions for the first group to address include: Were schools segregated? How many schools (elementary and secondary) were there for blacks and whites? Were any of the schools involved in local law suits over segregation? Do any of the schools from the period remain today? Questions for the second group include: What was the School Board's reaction to the ruling? What specific changes occurred as a result of Brown v. Board of Education? When did these changes take place? Did it take additional court rulings before the school system integrated for good?
After the research is complete, have each group explain its findings. If possible, have students create an exhibit to display at school, the local library, or historical society. The exhibit should include historical and/or modern photographs of school buildings as well as images of students or newspaper headlines from the period. Complete the activity by discussing with students how local events can have national significance and, in turn, how national events can impact the local community.