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Hazel Brannon Smith: Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist lesson plan

OVERVIEW

Hazel Brannon Smith was a southern belle whose life was anything but typical compared to the women of her time. Upon graduation from college, she relocated from Alabama to Holmes County, Mississippi, where she became the owner of two local newspapers. While faced with great resistance and pressure from segregationists, she courageously reported the news during a turbulent time in the history of the state and nation. For her efforts and sense of duty to the public, she received two of the most prestigious honors that can be awarded to a journalist, a Pulitzer Prize and the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award.

CONNECTION TO THE CURRICULUM

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3 and 4.

TEACHING LEVELS

Grades 7 through 12

MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT

Mississippi History Now article on Hazel Brannon Smith
Unlined paper for webs and timelines
Chalk/chalkboard or dry erase marker and board
Internet access for research
Various reference books for research

OBJECTIVES

The students will:

  • Construct a timeline that shows the significant events in the life of Hazel Brannon Smith, as well as the state and national events that parallel her life.
  • Determine Hazel Brannon Smith’s acts of courage that supported her selection for the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award and a Pulitzer Prize.
  • Conduct research on a specific topic that will be presented orally, and in a written report.

OPENING THE LESSON

The teacher will ask students the following questions:

  • How are you rewarded for being a good student?
  • How are employees rewarded for good performance at work?
  • How are journalist rewarded for good reporting?

The teacher will tell the students that over the next several days in class they will learn about one Mississippi journalist, Hazel Brannon Smith, who was rewarded several times for doing a good job while facing the most challenging circumstances.

DEVELOPING THE LESSON

Instruct the students to construct a timeline that lists ten significant events in the life of Hazel Brannon Smith as outlined in the Mississippi History Now article. On the same timeline, students should list national and state events that parallel her life (examples: Brown vs. Board of Education, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Civil Rights Act of 1964, etc). Students may work alone or with a partner on this portion of lesson. There may be a need to review with the students the process of creating a timeline that shows comparisons.

After the students have completed the timelines, ask for student volunteers to share major events they listed in order to lead a class discussion on the life of Hazel Brannon Smith. The teacher can draw a timeline on the chalkboard, or dry erase board, and allow student volunteers to come to the board to list their events. During the discussion, references can be made to the events that parallel her life.

For the next portion of the lesson, students can continue to work with a partner or work alone. Students should use the Mississippi History Now article to locate examples of Hazel Brannon Smith’s courageous acts and record them on a web. After the students complete the web, ask for student volunteers to share an example from their web and explain why the example is an act of courage.

Students can be placed in groups of three or four for this portion of the lesson. Each group should select one of the topics listed below to research. Each of these events represents a state or national event that occurred during the life of Hazel Brannon Smith. By exploring these topics, the students will develop a greater awareness of the events that influenced the life and writings of Hazel Brannon Smith. Some of the topics can be divided into subtopics to ensure that groups do not duplicate the research topics. Students should be prepared to complete not only a written report on their research, but also to make an oral presentation with visual aids. In the presentation, students should also be prepared to make some type of correlation between the topic and its relevance to Hazel Brannon Smith.

Senator Joseph McCarthy
Brown vs. the Board of Education
Freedom Summer
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Voting Rights Act of 1965
Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission
White Citizens’ Councils

CLOSING THE LESSON

Have students present an oral report on their research, which should be accompanied by visual aids to enhance its presentation.

ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING

Class participation
Timelines
Webs
Projects
Written report
Visual aids
Oral presentations

EXTENDING THE LESSON

  • Invite a journalist to speak to the class.
  • Research the selection process for a Pulitzer Prize and the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award
  • Teachers can use the Mississippi History Now article and lesson plan on the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission with their students.
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