I teach Social Studies to students in grades six and seven at an inter-district, K-8 school for the New Haven Public School District located in New Haven, Connecticut. My school is home to more than 700 students, with most of them hailing from urban and neighborhood communities. My background is in instruction with the bulk of my years as a language arts teacher and working in the area of curriculum and instruction. The timing of this unit links quite well with the current happenings across the United States as well as the world. Currently, the Black Lives Matter Movement has become an event of monumental importance. The movement has arisen out of concerns over the deaths of African Americans during and after interactions with police—most notably Mr. George Floyd. These human rights and social justice issues are at the forefront for individuals, corporations, organizations, schools and businesses. The practice and acceptance of systemic racism is also being challenged. The civil rights of African Americans and whether there were measurable and consistent “gains” made during the Civil Rights Movement that still exist today are also being contemplated. In turn, the practices of police, town officials, corporations, health and medical fields etc., are being looked at through the lens of The Black Lives Matter Movement which puts a spotlight on practices and actions of “individuals, groups, and institutions” and demands that injustices be made right and crooked places and practices to come into alignment.
During this unit, there will be several opportunities for students to address their experiences as well as take a closer look at the experiences of those written about in the unit. Students will take a journey into the time periods of Apartheid in South Africa and the Jim Crow Era/Civil Rights Movement in America. Students will be exposed to practices that would be described as “man’s inhumanity to man,” but are often left out of Social Studies textbooks and glossed over-- if ever addressed in middle school classrooms.