Saturday, May 23, 2009

Jim Crow

This is an American History Simulation activity geared for the fifth grade classroom to supplement the textbook and curriculum requirements.

Segregation in the post-reconstruction South is the topic and the student objective is to be able to define segregation and tell what Jim Crow laws did.

Materials needed will be an activity sheet with plenty of problems so that each student will have a different problem to solve. Designed so that the page with the individual problems along with a variety of difficulty levels, but still easy to correct. Make it so that the activities can be cut out and passed out to each student. For example I have used a math activity sheet composed of division problems ranging from simple division to division of large numbers with fraction or decimal remainders. Problems or activities need to be simple enough for the students to respond to in about ten minutes.

This activity provides an anticipatory set for a lesson on the onset of segregation laws in the southern United States after Reconstruction. A few minutes before leaving for recess or lunch (before the Social Studies lesson on segregation) give each student a problem to solve. Explain to the students that a new regimen will be starting for excusing them from class today. Either randomly or purposly give the most difficult problems to select groups of students (e.g. those with glasses, blond hair, blue jeans, ect.) Do NOT delineate by race or ethnicity. Tell the students that in order to go to recess or lunch, each must complete his/her problem. Some students stuck with the hardest problems will undoubtedly be a little late. Accept a reasonable effort, especially if the student has a limited ability with the problem. The objective is to delay for recess or lunch certain students (i.e. the ones with glasses or blue jeans etc.) who have the most difficult problems to solve. Do not delay for more than five minutes and the activity should not involve missing lunch or recess entirely.

Be ready for a lively discussion after the class returns from lunch or recess. Discuss with them your "new procedure to release students". Elicit from them how they feel by asking them if this new procedure is or is not fair and why or why not?

Lead into the segregation lesson by informing the students that at some point in this nation's history, very difficult questions were used to determine if someone could vote. In fact....the most outrageously complicated questions
were saved for one group of citizens to purposely, but legally keep them from voting.


By 1900, most states in the southern US had been able to bypass the fifteenth amendment that guaranteed the African Americans' right to vote by incorporating a collection of legal devices designed to limit that vote. Named for an early 18th Century white actor who wore black make up for a variety of guises in a minstrel show, they were coined as the Jim Crow Laws The two most prevalent ways of denying African Americans the vote were poll taxes and literacy tests. While literacy tests were required for all, they were stringently enforced against the African American as they would have to read and explain complicated constitutional clauses and law. Through the Jim Crow laws hand in hand with Plessy v. Ferguson segregation pervaded not only the ballot but also how justice was doled out in court, seats on trains, water fountains, etc. You may recognize this activity as a spin-off from the Blue Eye / Brown Eye experiment. If simulations in this context have not been used regularly throughout the year, the Jim Crow lesson does illustrate prejudice very dramaticaly to the class.


American History Simulations written by Max W. Fischer, 1993, Teacher Created Materials

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