Jeremy B. Landa
Cooperative Arts and Humanities Magnet High School (Coop) serves a diverse student body that is composed of African-American, Hispanic, and White individuals. As a result, Coop is a real-life example of political equality and racial inequality at work: some students hail from highly impoverished neighborhoods in New Haven, others live in wealthy neighborhoods with better access to elite economic, political, and social circles. My students need space to work through this structure of society. Hence, this unit, by using original sources – archives, newspaper and magazine articles from the period, interviews from surviving witnesses – will allow my students to be able to relate Jefferson's contradiction to two specific crises that ended in different ways. This is in itself a contradiction: racial tension sometimes explodes into violence, and sometimes does not. I want my students to reach their own conclusions as to why using the materials I have provided them with the hope that they will gain a deeper understanding of history, and hence of the society in which they live.
At the same time, students will be able to address a bigger idea about history; that is, knowing history allows us to prevent its repetition. However, this social studies pedagogical dogma has not been successful over the years, in part because students are often unable to connect historical ideas together over time Thus; this unit will project a different perspective to students about urban race riots. It will present a viewpoint that John Gaddis, a professor of history at Yale University, presents in his book
The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past
, by asking students to recognize the historical process involves the study of many different events to inform future decisions. However, as Gaddis suggests, being a historian does not give students the tools to predict future events. Rather it gives students the ability to recognize the unpredictability of the world. At the same time, understanding that race riots have only resulted in negative outcomes for those involved can push individuals to work towards preventing a race conflict crisis from a violent resolution.