THE NATION CLASSROOM
History as It Happened
RACE RELATIONS and CIVIL RIGHTS
MODULE TWO: 1919-1929
AS YOU READ: Things to Look For
(scaffolding content for students)
- Recall: Which documents point to African-American achievements? Which ones point to hindrances to opportunity? Achievements: Documents 3, 6, and 7; hindrances: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
- Analyze content: Most of the authors and letter writers of the excerpts below were people who played significant roles in the events of that decade. Try to identify the writer’s race based on the document’s content. How do you know? Which selections are more ambiguous as to the writer’s race? Why? Documents 1, 5 (first part), and 7 were most likely written by African Americans. Documents 2 and 5 (second part) were probably written by white people. The others are less clear. (Answer may vary, depending on student interpretation.) In fact, Documents 1, 3, 5 (first part), 6, and 7 have black authors; Documents 2, 4, 5 (second part) were written by white people. Students should notice the difference between personal experience and the stating of facts as one clue to identity. A writer simply stating facts is less likely to be identifiable by race. However, the opinion rendered by the railroad passenger-traffic manager in Document 5 almost certainly reveals his race.
- Identify context clues: The word chivalry is used in two separate excerpts (once in its adjective form, chivalrous). What does the word mean, and what usage alerts you that it might have particular significance? How might the concept of chivalry fit into the historical theme being discussed here? The word chivalry is used in Documents 1 and 4 (in the title). In both cases, it is used to refer to white people who are inflicting violence on black people. And yet chivalry is a word (and concept) that comes from the social code of medieval knights. It extols such qualities as courage, military (and masculine) prowess, honor, justice, Christianity, patriotism, and the righteous defense of women’s virtue. How might this concept apply to the issue of civil rights from a white perspective? Students can speculate. In fact, the Ku Klux Klan specifically used the term to justify its militant defense of white supremacy.
- Create meaning: From the examples given here, as well as your previous knowledge of the era, determine two main opposing forces that drove the events of the decade, particularly as they relate to civil rights. Students will answer this in their DBQ essay. Answers should in some way reference the two forces as the fight for civil rights and a better future for African Americans versus the fight to maintain white supremacy as the status quo.