We are adding inquiry-based lessons every week and constantly seeking those that are already out there by others. If you have one to contribute, email us at email@example.com.
Inquiries are provided in chronological order. Click here for How to Teach with Remedial Herstory Lessons.
The Civil Rights Era: And Sexual Freedoms
Lessons from Others
- Civil Rights:
- National Women’s History Museum: How has the activism of Native American women contributed to fights for the liberation of Native people and communities? Is a lesson plan by the NWHM that helps students reconsider the role of women in native history, the central role they played in challenging how indigenous history was taught, and their activism in the 1960s.
- National History Day: Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) was born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi. She later moved to Sunflower County where she began sharecropping at the age of six. She married Perry Hammer in 1944 and moved to a plantation in Ruleville, Mississippi. Due to her eighth grade education, she was asked by the plantation owner to serve as the timekeeper, which she did for 18 years. Hamer traveled, unsuccessfully, to Indianola to attempt to vote in 1962. Upon returning to the plantation, she lost her job, forcing her family to find somewhere else to live and work. In 1963, Hamer was named field secretary of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). That fall, while traveling back from a training session, she was arrested and brutally beaten in jail. Through her tireless efforts, Hamer was appointed vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). The following year, the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed. This pivotal legislation would not have been possible were it not for the efforts of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
- National History Day: Marian Anderson (1897-1993) discovered the power of her voice at a young age. The Philadelphia native possessed a unique contralto range that helped her become an internationally acclaimed talent. Despite being denied entry into several conservatories because of her race, Anderson’s private training with top vocal instructors led her to performances from New York’s Carnegie Hall to Paris. She entertained several European monarchs and was the first African American to sing at the White House when she accepted an invitation from Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1936. Throughout her career she dealt with segregation in America, and in 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow her to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. A national backlash to this decision, spearheaded by Eleanor Roosevelt’s resignation from the DAR in protest, led to Anderson singing for 75,000 people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday 1939. After this key moment for civil rights, she continued her groundbreaking career, along the way becoming the first African American to perform at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955. In 1963, she sang at the March on Washington and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- LGBTQ+ Rights:
- National Women’s History Museum: Should LGBTQ history be required by all states? This lesson seeks to explore the Stonewall Riots, the media interpretation of them, and inclusion and exclusion in the LGBTQ movement through the life of Marsha P. Johnson, including the connections to the present day. Students will examine news articles from the time, reflections from trans activists, and explore the ways the impacts of intersectionality on the LGBTQ community. Through a set of activities, students will explore how Stonewall has been understood and some of the unsung heroes, ultimately seeking to ask why they were unsung. As a summative assessment, students will complete a writing exercise in which they seek to connect the debate over the film Stonewall to what they have learned in class and reflect on what they have learned.
- Teaching Tollerance: Most history textbooks lack inclusion of the significant contributions LGBT African-Americans made to the civil rights movement. This series introduces students to four LGBT people of African descent with whom they may not be familiar, yet who were indispensable to the ideas, strategies and activities that made the civil rights movement a successful political and social revolution.
- Lesson One: James Baldwin: Art, Sexuality and Civil Rights discusses how James Baldwin’s identity shaped his art and political activism. Students will read a New York Times obituary, written the day after Baldwin’s 1987 death from cancer, and listen to an interview conducted by National Public Radio. Far ahead of his time, Baldwin was “out and proud” before that term became a popular cultural idiom. Baldwin’s life illuminates not just the intersection between gay rights and civil rights, but perhaps more important, the connections among self-identification, artistic expression and political activism.
- Lesson Two: Lorraine Hansberry: LGBT Politics and Civil Rights examines the battle over how history has remembered one of the United States’ important mid-20th century playwrights. Some scholars consider Lorraine Hansberry to be a literary genius because she masked radical black politics through the construction of seemingly unthreatening African-American characters. Her 1959 play, A Raisin in the Sun, blazed a trail for African Americans into mainstream theater and entertainment. While Hansberry has long been recognized as a significant figure in black history, less is known about her advocacy for lesbian and gay rights. Hansberry never publically shared her sexual orientation, but she is often described as a closeted lesbian by those who have studied her life and politics. Hansberry’s sexual politics and advocacy for LGBT rights is the subject of this lesson.
- Lesson Three: Pauli Murray: Fighting Jane and Jim Crow focuses on issues of justice. Murray was an accomplished lawyer and intellectual. In this lesson, students will study Murray’s biography and delve into the distinctions she made between Jim Crow and Jane Crow. This lesson explores the life, activism and ideas of a woman, African American and lesbian who fought discrimination in the areas of race, gender and sexuality. Murray, an overlooked figure, was instrumental in connecting civil rights, gay rights and women’s rights.
- Lesson Four: Bayard Rustin: The Fight for Civil and Gay Rights addresses the issue of activism. Rustin was not only dedicated to orchestrating the civil rights movement; he was also one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest advisors, and the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. In this lesson, students will read Rustin’s words and engage with a historian’s assessment about his activism and legacy. Rustin’s life elucidates the similarities between the modern civil rights movement and the current gay rights movement. Earlier in his life, Rustin was open about his homosexuality in private circles, but remained publicly silent about it. Later in life, Rustin was more vocal and became an advocate for gay rights in ways that had eluded him in his earlier years. In this lesson, students will discuss the similarities and differences between the civil rights and gay rights movements.
- Clio: This lesson introduces students to women activists who helped define and broaden the public discussion of women’s issues in the late 1960s, an era of enormous political upheaval in the United States and around the world.
- Clio: This lesson introduces students to the pioneering woman politician Senator Margaret Chase Smith, who sought to become the first woman President of the United States in 1964. She and other women in the U.S. Congress served as ambassadors for expanding women’s roles in American society in the 1960s and 1970s.
- Clio: This lesson plan introduces students to the Jeannette Rankin Brigade and provides an example of how women came together in the late 1960s to influence politics and foreign policy. It is also an example of differences among women, especially differences of generational approaches to politics in this era.
Primary and Secondary Sources
Film and Video