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The Vietnam War and Mississippi lesson plan

OVERVIEW

Like many in the nation, Mississippians were divided in their commitment to the Vietnam War. More than 6,000 Mississippi service men and women participated in the conflict and thousands of others from across the country were trained in military bases located in the state. Some Mississippians protested the war for a variety of reasons. In this lesson, students will learn of Mississippi’s contributions to the war effort, but they will also investigate why and how the war caused many in the state to speak out against it. Students will be encouraged to become aware of diverse perspectives on the Vietnam War.

CONNECTION TO THE CURRICULUM

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1 – 5

TEACHING LEVELS

Grades 4 (with modifications) through 12

MATERIALS

Mississippi History Now article, The Vietnam War and Mississippi
• Copies of Mississippi road maps, Mississippi county outline maps for each student;
• Markers, colored pencils, butcher paper

OBJECTIVES

Students will:

  • Determine how Mississippians contributed to the war effort;
  • Indicate how Mississippians protested the war;
  • Explain the role played by the state’s congressional politicians;
  • Realize how the war affected politics in the state; and,
  • Create a resource to show the impact of the Vietnam War on the state.

OPENING THE LESSON

Place students in small groups and ask them to work together to answer the following questions based only on what they know about the Vietnam War.

a. What is the date of the Vietnam War? Who was fighting it? Where is Vietnam?

b. Why was the United States involved?

c. Does anyone know someone who fought in the Vietnam War?

d. What else does your group know about the Vietnam War?

Use a large world map to show where Vietnam is located. Allow students to share their answers in a class discussion. Correct and clarify information so that students will understand the background of the war. Tell students that the purpose of the lesson is to help them realize the impact of the Vietnam War on the state of Mississippi. If they have ideas, record them on the board so that their accuracy can be determined later.

DEVELOPING THE LESSON

1. Use either the video No Greater Love: Roy Wheat in Vietnam (available from Mississippi History on Loan) or internet articles on Lance Corporal Wheat and Captain Ed Freeman to help students realize the sacrifices made by members of the military forces from Mississippi. Have them write a brief tribute to either man in their notes.

2. Distribute outline maps of Mississippi on which the students will locate and label:

Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding (formerly Ingalls Shipbuilding); Keesler Air Force Base; Camp Shelby; Columbus Air Force Base, and the Meridian Naval Air Station.

3. Using the Mississippi History Now article, ask students to determine the role played by each of the locations and to indicate that role by illustrating each site on their map. (Example: at Camp Shelby students would draw soldiers engaged in combat training).

4. Now that they can visualize the physical sites in the state that were part of the war effort, tell students that they will also explore how some Mississippians protested the war. Assign four small groups to determine why each of the following were opposed to the war and how that opposition was demonstrated.

  • Some black Mississippians
  • Fannie Lou Hamer
  • Tougaloo College students
  • Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party
  • University of Mississippi

At the same time, assign another group to investigate how Mississippi’s congressional politicians felt about the war, and another group to learn the effect of the war on politics in Mississippi. This information can be found in the Mississippi History Now article.

Once the information is obtained, students will construct a series of questions on their topic. One student will act as a news reporter to ask the questions; the other students in the group will supply answers. Each group will make a presentation to the class; teacher will determine that students included pertinent information. Ask students to summarize each presentation for their notes.

5. After students have listened carefully to all the presentations and reviewed their maps, ask them to write a response to this question:

In what ways are you surprised by how Mississippians reacted to the Vietnam War?

Ask them to cite specific examples to support their answers.

CONCLUDING THE LESSON

Working in small groups, students will construct a resource to show the impact of the Vietnam War on the state. (Examples: mural; booklet; etc.)

Ask one group to volunteer to create a collage or display showing the Mississippi Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Ocean Springs.

ASSESSING THE LESSON

1. Participation in small and large group discussions
2. Written activity
2. Completion of illustrated map
3. Small group activity and presentation
4. Written response
5. Student-constructed resource

EXTENDING THE LESSON

1. Ask a student to prepare information on the number of service men and women and casualty information for the United States during the Vietnam War and compare it to that of Mississippi. (Both war deaths and Missing in Action (MIA) figures should be included.)

2. Research further the lives of the Medal of Honor recipients from Mississippi and share the information with the class.

3. Invite a Vietnam veteran to speak to the class.

4. Ask students to prepare a roundtable discussion on one of the following topics:

  • The reaction of Mississippians to the Vietnam War as compared to other states;
  • How citizens of the United States and Mississippi have shown differing views on other conflicts.
  • Can an antiwar protester be a patriotic citizen?

NOTE: The 27-minute Roy Wheat video can be obtained from Mississippi History on Loan by calling 601-961-4724. Videos may be borrowed free of charge by Mississippi public schools and tax-exempt private schools. The video service is offered by the Museum Division of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

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