"Five score years ago, a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is sadly still crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land." This quote from Dr. Martin Luther King's famous speech "I have a dream" was given over fifty years ago. The concerns of opportunity and equality for African Americans were of major concern during the Civil Rights Movement. Segregation and other systematic structures kept African Americans and other minorities from gaining the same opportunities and rights as their White counterparts. Now fifty years later, has the system been fixed? Are we on even playing fields? Is segregation still a major concern, and if not, should it be?
Augusta Lewis Troup School is a Title 1 kindergarten through eighth grade school with a predominately African American and Latino student population. Living in the inner city, my students are very aware of the issues in their neighborhoods. For example, there is gun violence, gangs, drugs, teen pregnancies and poverty. Unfortunately, my students have not been exposed to past issues and the history that surrounds them, and still affects them each and every day, such as racism, segregation, slavery, the Civil Rights Movement and the people who have tirelessly fought for equality. My students' understanding of the world around them is skewed by false history within the lack of social studies curriculum that is available, for example Christopher Columbus circumnavigating the world and 'discovering' the Americas, as well as 21
century media outlets, such as reality TV, music videos and social media influencing them. Other people's ideas of the world and what is going on in this country is easily and readily accessible for my students, without their own background, knowledge and formulated opinions. I want my students to be able to understand their history, be able to formulate their own ideas and opinions and be able to back them up without being influenced by other people or media outlets. I want them to think for themselves with the knowledge they have acquired throughout this unit.
This unit will give my students a chance to take a look back into history and see the struggle for minorities to acquire education, the separation of races, the prejudice placed upon minorities and how we are still fighting those evils to this very day. It will allow my students to critically think about their own education and question whether their access to a quality education is as equal to them, in urban districts, as their White and affluent counterparts, in suburban districts.
There are a few questions that this unit will allow my students to think about. The most important question is, 'What does segregation mean to you?' The term segregation may have different viewpoints depending on the generation and their experiences. My students are not required to have curriculum that covers segregation or Civil Rights and so their background on this topic is very limited. From my experiences and learning, I see segregation solely as a racist term. Allowing students to see segregation in the past and compare it to what it looks like today and debate whether the term segregation is just racial or has more meaning to the term would be a very important part of this unit. I want my students to create their own understanding of segregation, what it looks like and what forms it comes in.