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Ida B. Wells: Crusader for Justice lesson plan

OVERVIEW

“My one vote doesn’t count.” “I really can’t accomplish anything by myself.” “No one will take me seriously.” “If I stand up for what I believe, people may make fun of me.”

The life of Ida B. Wells, born of slave parents in Mississippi, stands in stark contrast to these types of excuses frequently voiced by adults, as well as students. As pupils examine the story of this extraordinary woman, they should sense a real kinship with those in the state who fought so hard for justice. Students should begin to ask themselves:

What prepared Miss Wells to become a crusader for justice?

In what areas of post-Civil War life did she identify injustices?

Did her actions improve life for others?

Was it important that Miss Wells take a stand, even though she often acted alone?

CURRICULAR CONNECTIONS

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 3 and 4.

TEACHING LEVELS

Grades 4 (with modification) through 12

MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT

Mississippi History Now article on Ida B. Wells

Blank paper for timelines

Props for "This is Your Life" (optional)

OBJECTIVES

Students will:

Construct a timeline of significant events in the life of Ida B. Wells.

Identify various civil rights issues that concerned Miss Wells.

Examine and evaluate Miss Wells’ responses to discrimination.

Analyze the impact a single person can have on history.

OPENING THE LESSON

Ask students to write a definition of the word justice. Let them share their definitions with a partner or small group. Have someone read a definition of the word from the dictionary while students compare their answers with what is read. Ask students to think of times they may have been treated unfairly -- or times when they may have acted unfairly toward someone else. Ask them to close their eyes and remember how they felt about their actions. Refer them to the title of the lesson: “Crusader for Justice.” Let them speculate on what the phrase means and ask them to determine, once the lesson is completed, whether or not it is an appropriate title for Ida Wells.

DEVELOPING THE LESSON

1.

If necessary, explain to students how to construct a timeline. You may have students work individually, with a partner, or in small groups to complete the activity.

2.

As students read the Mississippi History Now article, they will list significant events in the life of Ida B. Wells and the dates they occurred.

3.

Students will construct a timeline to illustrate Miss Wells’ life and work.

4.

From the timelines, each student will determine the various civil rights issues that concerned Miss Wells: free speech, educational inequities, lynching, women’s rights, and segregation. They may wish to list these or make a web in their notes.

5.

Assign each of these issues to a small group. Explain the concept behind the “This Is Your Life” television show. Have each group develop a scenario to be shared with the class in a “This Is Your Life, Ida B. Wells” format. (Teacher or another adult female may want to assume the role of Miss Wells. You may opt to present information in another format of your choice.)

6.

Help students think through the choices made by Miss Wells to various civil right issues. Have students construct a decision-making chart.

Chart headings will be: EVENTS, POSSIBLE RESPONSES, ACTUAL RESPONSE, AGREE/DISAGREE. Under the EVENTS heading, have students list these: a. Death of parents; b. Conductor’s order to move to smoker’s car; c. Reversal of court victory; d. Destruction of newspaper office; e. Violence (lynching) toward blacks.

For each event, have students brainstorm some possible responses to each action/event. Then, have them list Miss Wells’ actual response and determine if they agree or disagree with her decision. This should cause a spirited classroom discussion.

CONCLUDING THE LESSON

1.

Get students to consider the impact of a single life by presenting them with a series of “What if” questions. An example: “What if Miss Wells had moved to the smoking car even though she was allowed to buy a first-class ticket?” (You may want students to develop these questions.)

2.

Have students write a response to one or more of the “What if” questions.

3.

Have students write an essay and give reasons why they agree or disagree with calling Miss Wells a crusader for justice. Encourage them to think of ways they could assume this role also, and to include these as they complete their paper.

ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING

1.

Timeline

2.

“This is Your Life” scenario

3.

Decision-making chart

4.

Participation in class discussion

5.

Responses to “What if” questions

6.

Essay

EXTENDING THE LESSON

1.

Students will research the life of Rosa Parks to find similarities between her story and that of Ida B. Wells.

2.

Allow students to write a play on the life of Ida B. Wells to be presented during Black History Month.

3.

Ask students to think of modern “Crusaders for Justice” in their own community, state, or nation. Have them present their rationale.

4.

Students may wish to research the lives of other African-American civil rights leaders, such as Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Clyde Kennard, James Meredith, etal.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

George A. Sewell and Margaret L. Dwight, Mississippi Black History Makers, University Press of Mississippi, 1977.

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