Skip to main content
1 Hour
1 Day
8th - 11th
1890 - 1980
Explore full timeline

Academic Standards (1)

Lesson 1: Plessy v. Ferguson, Integration v. Segregation

CCSS English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

NCSS C3 Framework

  • D1.2.9-12: Explain points of agreement and disagreement experts have about interpretations and applications of disciplinary concepts and ideas associated with a compelling question.
  • D4.4.9-12: Critique the use of claims and evidence in arguments for credibility.


Lesson 2: Five Struggles for School Integration

CCSS English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7: Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.9: Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

NCSS C3 Framework

  • D2.Civ.5.9-12: Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.
  • D2.His.2.9-12: Analyze change and continuity in historical eras.
Students work in a classroom while their teacher observes
"Mrs Strong - Public school demonstrations, English Department, March 1950"
Courtesy of Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, AC0618-004-0001166

Key Terms and Concepts

  • “Separate but equal”
  • segregation
  • integration
  • Fourteenth Amendment
  • federalism

Essential Questions

How does segregation connect to the history of migration in the United States?
How have power and authority been used to defend and challenge segregation?
What claims have people made to support and oppose school desegregation?


Plessy v. Ferguson, Integration v. Segregation

Identify and explain central ideas of segregationists and integrationists using informational texts to complete classwork and exit ticket.


Warm Up (1)

  • Begin by explaining why it’s important that we have a substantive, rather than a superficial, understanding of American history and that this is especially true when learning about traditionally excluded or marginalized histories. Write these essential content areas on the board. Set the expectation that they should be learning about each area when studying a topic related to the civil rights movement:
    • Leaders
    • Groups
    • Grassroots
    • Events
    • Historical context
    • Opposition vii. Tactics
    • Connection to the past and present
  • Provide each student with a copy of the Civil Rights Done Right note-taking worksheet. Have them write “segregation” where it asks for the topic and then complete the left-hand column that asks what students already know about that topic. Remind them that it’s fine if they know only a little, or even nothing, about some of the seven content areas. By the end of this lesson, they will know much more!

Mini-Lesson (1)

Plessy v. Ferguson ruled that racially segregated schools were permissible, as long as the education provided was equal. Provide students with the main claims made by segregationists and integrationists in their fight over this question. Have students jot down the question and then summarize these arguments in their own words on the T-Chart.

Discussion (1)

After students have read and taken notes on the main claims made by segregationists and integrationists, have students discuss the question, “Can separate schools be truly equal schools?” at their table groups using the Talking Chips discussion strategy.

Once students have had an opportunity to discuss at their table groups, have the entire class discuss the question as a group.

Close Reading (1)

Provide each student with a copy of the “Separate is Not Equal” essay. Assign them to closely read sections 2 and 3. (Options available: you can assign additional sections either for homework or by dividing the class into groups, each responsible for reading and reporting on a different section.) Students should take notes on the Civil Rights Done Right worksheet from step 2. 

Exit Ticket (1)

Ask students to answer the following prompt:

Using evidence from the texts you read today, please explain and analyze the central ideas of segregationists and integrationists.

  • What were their respective ideas?
  • Why is separate not equal?
Five Struggles for School Integration

Synthesize research on five civil rights struggles using primary and secondary sources to create protest posters.


Warm Up (1)

Show photographs of segregated schools attended by white and black students before Brown v. Board of Education. (See the teacher guide for background information.) Have students examine each photo closely, completing the Photo Analysis worksheet.

Debrief (1)

After students have had time to work on photo analysis, begin debrief by reviewing arguments made by segregationists and integrationists. Then, ask students to draw from their warm-up work to answer the following questions in a discussion: Did those segregated schools appear to be “separate but equal”? Can separate schools be truly equal schools?

Jigsaw (1)

  • Separate students into “home groups” with five students in each group. Explain that students will leave their home group and join an “expert group.” Each expert group will focus on the court case from one of these five communities:
  • Assign each student in each of the home groups to one of the five expert groups. Make sure each home group has at least one representative assigned to each expert group. Tell students to move and join with their expert group.
  • Once settled with their expert group, tell students to read and research the case from their assigned community. They can read from section 5 of the “Separate is Not Equal” essay and do research on the Separate is Not Equal online exhibit. (See the teacher briefings for more background on each case.)
  • As they do their research, tell expert groups to take notes and answer the questions on the Five Communities Change the Nation: Research Sheet. Later, they will use it to summarize their section for their home groups.
  • Have students return to their home group and use their Research Sheet to summarize the particular community they focused on. Students should speak one at a time, actively listening to each “expert” so that they can learn about all five of the communities.

Debrief (1)

Once each expert has shared, tell students to brainstorm within their home groups and come up with things the communities had in common.

  • How were their struggles the same?
  • What was the unifying goal across communities?

Exit Ticket (1)

End the lesson by asking students to imagine that it’s May 1954 and they are at a rally outside of the Supreme Court, while Brown v. Board of Education is being argued inside. Provide each student with a blank sheet of paper, colored pencils, and markers and assign them to create a protest sign that expresses the unifying message from step 8 and supports the plaintiffs from these five communities that changed a nation.