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Resource February 3, 2022

Are the Founding Principles Applicable to All Americans?

Excerpt from a photo essay created by a student at The Manhattan International High School in fall 2020. Image courtesy of Tania Mohammed. United States, 2020.

This unit was created by Tania Mohammed, an ELA teacher, in collaboration with Nina Kogut-Akkum, a 10th and 11th-grade social studies educator at The Manhattan International High School in New York City as part of the fall 2020 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program on Arts, Journalism, and Justice. It is designed for facilitation across twelve 60-minute interdisciplinary class periods incorporating social studies content and ELA skills. 

For more units created by Pulitzer Center Fellows in this cohort, click here.


Students will be able to

  • Evaluate how marginalized communities have been photographed throughout American history.
  • Explore the relationship between America’s founding principles and marginalized communities using Pulitzer Center photo stories.
  • Practice photojournalism techniques including shooting, editing, captioning, and curating photographs.
  • Create photo essays exploring themes of democracy and justice in  local communities.
  • Present photo essays to peers.
  • Give and receive feedback on photo essays.

Unit Overview

In this unit, students will review photo stories that explore how the rights of certain marginalized groups in the U.S. have often been denied by government policies and negligence. As a result of the government's actions, people in marginalized groups such as Black Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants have been suffering from unemployment, housing, poverty, lack of healthcare, stolen lands, and racial injustice.

For the final project, students will be asked to use the examples of photo stories as inspiration to take journalistic photos and write a short essay about injustices they notice in their own communities. The topic for their project can but does not have to, relate to Black Americans, immigrants, or Native Americans, as long as it focuses on an issue that questions whether the U.S. is living up to its founding principles and ideals.

Resources for Facilitating this Unit

Click here for the full pdf outlining lesson plans for this unit, including warm-ups, discussion questions, activities, daily presentation slides, homework assignments, and worksheets. 

Performance Task

Students create their own photo essays that responds to one of the following questions:

  1. How do the founding principles apply or not apply to your community?
  2. How has your community been affected by injustice?

For a detailed overview of the task, including guidelines and a rubric, please review the Photo Essay Task and Rubric Worksheet.

Click here to view examples of photo essays created by students at Manhattan International High School in fall 2020.


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