This unit was created by Liz Taylor, a high school History teacher in Philadelphia, PA, as part of the 2021-2022 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program. It is designed for facilitation across eight lessons.
For more units created by Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellows in this cohort, click here.
Students will be able to…
- Analyze underreported stories that center resistance and positive representations of Black Americans in early American history and contemporarily.
- Research African American historical figures, organizations, and events in the past and in the present.
- Use visual images coupled with text to tell an underreported story.
- Present their collages and explanations in an in-school museum.
This unit asks students to identify underreported, yet newsworthy stories about African American historical figures, organizations, or events from U.S. history prior to Reconstruction and from the present that accurately depict Black excellence, resistance, and joy. Students use images such as photographs and historical documents to create collages that display these events. They then craft written explanations to describe the collages. This work will be accessible to the school community in a museum gallery within the building.
Essential Question: How can we find and visually display stories and images of Black Americans past and present that depict excellence, resistance, and/or joy that have not yet been properly illuminated?
Skills to Be Practiced:
- Analysis of underreported stories
- Curation of images and documents to provide visual evidence
- Writing to explain the images of the underreported stories chosen and researched by students
- Interviewing skills
Pedagogical Vision: It has been well documented that many attempts at teaching African American history center trauma. It is essential to provide a fuller exploration of the Black experience. According to Coshandra Dillard in her article in Learning for Justice, “One way to start right away is to tell the whole story—not just a small part—of Black history. A first step is to commit to decentering racial trauma.” In his paper, LaGarrett King argues that a manner of properly teaching “Black history is to explore Black identity through complex and nuanced narratives that attempt to get at the full humanity of Black people.” This includes teaching about joy along with other principles. Lastly, in her February 2021 article in Education Week, high school teacher Jania Hoover argued that “with a trauma- and struggle-filled narrative, the Black experience is one-dimensional and defined by pain. While there is a lot of pain, that’s only one part of the story. It is imperative for children to know that Black people experienced joy at every point in history. Black joy and Black love are central themes for understanding Black history. Simply put, without a focus on Black joy, Black history is incomplete. When we teach oppression and struggle without also teaching the joy of resistance, for instance, we miss the mark.” Thus this unit seeks to have students find and research underreported stories that reflect Black excellence, resistance, and joy both in early US history and in the present, and to display those stories for the school community.
Scope and Sequence: Students will begin by examining and discussing images that depict excellence, resistance, and joy experienced by Black Americans. Students will then analyze what an underreported story is and what makes a story newsworthy, and then they will explore an underreported story from the past and several from the present. Students will find their own underreported yet newsworthy stories that reflect the excellence, resistance, and/or joy of Black Americans. One will come from U.S. history from 1619 through the end of the Civil War. The other story will come from our contemporary era. Students will create an image/document collage to represent that person, organization, or event, and write text that explains the collage and the story. Finally, students will present their collages and writing in an in-person museum of joy hosted within our school.
Students will create two collages of at least five images each. One of the collages will depict African American people, organizations or events from U.S. history from 1619 through the Civil War. The other collage will depict an underreported contemporary story about Black Philadelphians. Each collage will be supported by one to two paragraphs of written explanation of the story and the collage.
Students will present their work to the school community through a physical museum and live, in-person, gallery walk.
Eight-day unit plan, including warm-ups, classroom activities, multimedia resources, worksheets, and performance tasks for the unit.
|Background Resources for Teacher Preparation||>“Nikole Hannah-Jones Dives into the Origins, Language of The 1619 Project” by Dorany Pineda for the Los Angeles Times - Paragraphs 1-8 (until “"We have to stop letting the language hide the crime.")
>“Don’t Teach Black History Without Joy” by Jania Hoover for Education Week
>“Black History Is Not American History: Towards a Framework of Black Historical Consciousness” by LaGarrett J. King for Social Education
|Resources for Introducing Underreported Stories and Reporting Ethics||>“What Are Underreported Stories?,” a video from the Pulitzer Center
>“Building Trust” video from the Pulitzer Center - Watch 0:00-1:50 and 6:40-8:58 (approx. 4 mins)
>“Discovering a Different Narrative Along the Bronx River” by Teresa Cebrián Aranda and Mariel Rodriguez-McGill for the Pulitzer Center
|Example Stories of Black Excellence, Resistance, and Joy||>Museum of Black Joy, created by Andrea “Philly” Walls
>“I Am Omar” by Jennifer Berry Hawes and Gavin McIntyre for the Post and Courier and the Pulitzer Center
>“Portrait of a Pandemic: Odunde Leader Says This Year’s Virtual Festival Feels Like a ‘Reboot, Recharge’” by Errin Haines for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pulitzer Center
>“Portraits of a Pandemic: Joining a Broader Movement to Fight for Tenant Rights” by Errin Haines for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pulitzer Center
>“Portrait of a Pandemic: ‘We Can’t Be Selective on What Black Lives Matter and What Black Lives Don’t,' Says Philly Race and Gender Activist” by Errin Haines for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pulitzer Center
>“Road Trip: In Mississippi, Love in the Time of Coronavirus” by Tim Sullivan, Noreen Nasir, and Wong Maye-E for the Associated Press and the Pulitzer Center
>“Afropunk Brings the 'Black Lives Matter' Ethos Abroad” by Melissa Bunni Elian for NPR and the Pulitzer Center
|Resources to Support Student Research on Black Excellence, Resistance, and Joy in History||>Africans in America from PBS
>Library of Congress:
—Images of African American Slavery and Freedom
—Photographs of African Americans During the Civil War: A List of Images in the Civil War Photograph Collection
—Slavery—The Peculiar Institution
—Free Blacks in the Antebellum Period
—Abolition, Anti-Slavery Movements, and the Rise of the Sectional Controversy
—The Civil War
—William A. Gladstone Afro-American Military Collection
>Uncovering William Still's Underground Railroad from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
>Black Founders: The Free Black Community in the Early Republic from the Library Company of Philadelphia
Cassey and Dickerson Friendship Album Project
|Resources to Support Student Research on Black Excellence, Resistance, and Joy in the Present||These sources have been selected to encourage students to connect with their local Black media outlets. Teachers outside of the Philadelphia area may choose resources that are local to them.
>Philadelphia Sunday Sun
>Black Philadelphia Magazine
Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.
3. Students will recognize that people’s multiple identities interact and create unique and complex individuals.
10. Students will examine diversity in social, cultural, political and historical contexts rather than in ways that are superficial or oversimplified.
15. Students will identify figures, groups, events and a variety of strategies and philosophies relevant to the history of social justice around the world.
Throughout this unit, students are assigned a mix of exit tickets and short homework assignments that involve writing short paragraphs, reading, and research. These assignments build toward successful creation of the summative assessment. See below for select examples of formative assessments completed by students in Liz Taylor's class in spring 2022.
1. Students explored the concept of joy and how it is represented in media.
Black joy is often missing from news reports and media, which often focus on breaking news and racial issues. Moments of excellence and success are often not discussed. It is important to see examples for Black people to see themselves represented in joy.
Q.C., student in Liz Taylor's class in spring 2022
2. Students explored the idea of underreported stories by exploring examples from the Pulitzer Center, in preparation for identifying underreported stories to highlight through their own performance task projects.
3. Students conducted independent and small group research on underreported stories of Black excellence, resistance, and joy in history and in the present day in order to identify stories and images they ultimately highlighted in their performance task projects.
Students create two collages of at least five images each. One of the collages depicts African American people, organizations, or events from U.S. history from 1619 through the Civil War. The other collage depicts an underreported contemporary story about Black Philadelphians. Each collage is supported by one to two paragraphs of written explanation of the story and the collage.
Students also present their work to the school community through a physical museum and live, in-person, gallery walk.
See below to explore students' collages and writing, and images from students' museum presentation at Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia.