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In The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House: African American Women Unite for Change students learn how Mary McLeod Bethune and the National Council of Negro Women promoted political and social change for African Americans. The following activities will help students delve further into aspects of African American and women's history.

Activity 1: The National Council of Negro Women Today
Working in small groups, have students find information on NCNW's website and prepare a written report on the organization's current structure, goals, membership, services, publications, events, and headquarters building. Have the class determine if there is a local section of NCNW in their community. If so, ask a representative to speak to the class about NCNW.

As an alternative, some students might want to conduct further research on Dorothy Height and the activities of NCNW during her presidency (1957-1998).

Activity 2: Taking a Stand
Divide students into small groups and ask each group to select a person Bethune worked with or admired. Groups might choose a person mentioned in this lesson, such as Lucy Laney, Booker T. Washington, Mary Church Terrell, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dorothy Height, Vivian Carter Mason, or Dorothy Ferebee. Or they might work together to identify others who influenced Bethune, such as A. Philip Randolph, W.E.B. Dubois, or a member of the Black Cabinet. The groups should prepare and share with the class an illustrated biography (in the form of a poster, documentary, exhibit, PowerPoint presentation, etc.) on their subject that includes information on that person's efforts to promote equality. To complete the activity, have students discuss how similar or disparate the goals of the various individuals were and the variety of tactics used to further these goals.

Activity 3: Women in National Politics
Ask students to prepare a timeline documenting the role of women in national politics. The timeline should include the names of the first white and black female Congresswoman, Senator, Governor, Supreme Court Justice, and Cabinet member. The timeline should end with the current year and provide statistics on the total number of white and black female Congresswomen, Senators, Governors, Cabinet members, and Supreme Court Justices today. Helpful websites include Women in Congress and Firsts for Women in U.S. Politics. Conclude the activity by holding a classroom discussion to see if students are surprised by what they have learned. To further the activity, students may prepare a short biography on one of the female politicians mentioned in the timeline.

Activity 4: Honoring African Americans and Women in the Local Community
Divide students into small groups and have each group select a site in the community that is associated with African American or women's history (or both). The site could be a school, park, or public building named after a famous African American or woman; a statue; a historic house museum or other place associated with the life of the individual; a museum exhibit, etc. Ask students to conduct a site visit and study the individual to determine what kind of impact the person made on the community and why he/she has been honored in that particular way. The groups should prepare a visual presentation on their findings and share it with the rest of the class. To conclude the activity, have the class work together to create a chart that divides the sites into two categories: symbolic memorials and historic places where the individuals actually lived, worked, etc. Ask students to discuss which type of commemoration they think is more meaningful and why.

 

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