Currently, I teach at a school that was formerly a transitional school, which serviced at-risk students, who require a small structured environment to experience success. Although my school is now a magnet school, it is a program that is designed to strengthen the basic skills of the students attending our school, and provide opportunities for them to make significant gains. We offer a small flexible environment; which allows us to design a program that would be most beneficial to each student.
Every student in my classroom has had some kind connection to the law. Whether it is a family member, friend or themselves, each student is aware that laws exist and has a large impact on their lives and freedom. Poverty is a reality to some, and they live in a city where violence is running rampant in their neighborhoods. These encounters with the law are largely local and state infractions. Very few students are aware of federal laws and the constitution, as well as the rights that are granted and protected by these laws. They find it difficult to see past their immediate circumstances and experiences.
This unit is designed to make complex and foreign material accessible to students, some of whom lack interest and motivation to learn about the past. Often students are resistant to learning material that doesn't appear relevant to their reality, one of those topics being the Jim Crow Era. Although the Jim Crow Era and the struggles of African Americans throughout American history is not foreign or new to the students I teach, it is a topic that seems overdone or irrelevant to them. Students do not realize that there are unknown cases and issues that have yet to be explored, as well as the complexities surrounding the various instances of discrimination and social injustice. I currently teach tenth grade students, but will move with these students throughout their high school career. In other words, these students have me as an English Teacher for all four years of high school. I am afforded the opportunity to build on the foundation that I have established the prior year and challenge students further in their education. Therefore, it is my professional goal to not only strengthen their basic skills, but to also expose them to learning experiences that will allow them to compete and survive in society.
In this unit, students will analyze literary texts, case law, court documents, photographs and film that document the violation of African Americans'rights and the history of social injustice in America's legal system. By the end of the unit, students should be able to analyze historical text, examine the African American experience during Jim Crow, develop meaningful connections as to the complainants in the legal cases, and finally, argue whether the Groveland Boys were guilty of rape in 1948. When teaching about social injustice during the Jim Crow period, the Scottsboro case is a popular example. There are many resources and educational units online for teachers. However, not many students or adults know about the Groveland Four, hence the reasoning behind the selection of The Devil in the Grove. Reading and supplemental materials in this unit are organized and grouped based on historical events. Since the material is broken down into time periods, students are able to form connections related to historical context, because it is important for students to see that the treatment of African Americans were often tied to politics and economics of that time period. The focus of this unit will be on the legal system and how it addressed instances of social injustice, as well as how those experiences were shaped by the time period and presented comparative or contrasting experiences amongst African Americans.