In 1954, the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas declared that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” A decade later, Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 again called for the desegregation of public schools. This is the fourth in a series of posts taking a look at one step in what Lyndon B. Johnson termed “a long struggle for freedom.”
Unlike some of the other areas addressed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, schools are something familiar to all students, so even the very young can deepen their understanding of the conditions that led to the legislation. Images can offer powerful opportunities for deep learning.
In October of 1941, Jack Delano photographed a number of schools in Greene County, Georgia. Studying a selection of these images so close in time and place can help students build a picture of the wide discrepancies between schools.
- Present students with the photograph of “Mosquito Crossing, Greene County, Georgia. The new school for Negro children 1941” and support them as they analyze the picture. Select questions from the Teacher’s Guide: Analyzing Photographs to focus and deepen their observations and reflections. Invite them to compare this classroom to their own, considering what is familiar and what seems unusual.
- Delano photographed two schools in Siloam, Greene County. As a whole class, brainstorm characteristics of a classroom. Pair students to create a graph or T-chart comparing the images of the two classrooms on as many of the characteristics as they can.
- Ask students to study and analyze the set of images from Greene County. What can they learn from the whole set that a single image wouldn’t tell them?
- Give students the group of photographs in this post and ask them to put the images in order of which school they’d prefer to attend. Ask them to add a sticky note to each to indicate the reasons for their rankings.
For more primary sources and information about the history of segregation in the United States, visit the online exhibition Brown v. Board at Fifty: “With an Even Hand“.
Let us know in the comments what your students discover and discuss as they interact with these historical images.
This series of blog posts is part of the Library of Congress commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act which is anchored by the web-based Civil Rights History Project and the exhibition, “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom”. The exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from Newman’s Own Foundation and with additional support from HISTORY®.