Classroom Activities: 

Home      Elementary      Middle School      High School

Segregation in Schools-Analyzing Social Progress with Pictures from LOC

Lesson Overview

Overview: Using primary source pictures to persuade.
Grade Range: 6-8
Objective: After completing this activity students will be able to:
  • Analyze primary source photography.
  • Interpret visual information in order to understand emotions and opinions about school desegregation. 
  • Examine the use of Author's perspective in analyzing photography.
  • Demonstrate media literacy skills through examining local news photography for perspective and bias.
  • Understand that no information can be completely divorced from opinions and bias.
  • Persuade others of opinions based on evidence.
Time Required: 1 class period of 80 minutes
Discipline/Subject: Social Studies
Topic/Subject: African American History/Government Law
Era: Post War United States, 1945-1968


Illinois Learning Standards:

Social Studies:
16.A.3b-Make inferences about historical events and eras using historical maps and other historical sources.

16.A.5a-Analyze historical and contemporary developments using methods of historical inquiry (pose Questions, collect and anlayze data, make and support inferences, report findings.) 


Other: Newspapers or news website on the computer.
Library of Congress Items: Title of Source: School integration, Barnard School. Washington, D.C.
  Title of Source: University of Alabama students burn desegregation literature during demonstration in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Feb 6 against the enrollment of Autherine Lucy, an African American Student.
  Title of Source: Clinton, Tennessee, school integration conflicts.
  Title of Source: Integrated classroom in Nashville.
  Title of Source: School Dilemma-Youths in Charlotte, N.C. taunt Dorothy Geraldine Counts, 15, as she walks to enroll at the previously all white Harding High School, September 4
  Title of Source: Integrated classroom at Anacostia High School, Washington, D.C.
  Title of Source: Armed troops escort African American students from Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.
  Title of Source: Mrs. Nettie Hunt, sitting on the steps of the Supreme Court, holding newspaper, explaining to her daughter Nikie the meaning of the Supreme Court's decision banning school segregation.


1. Review Brown v. Board decision before starting this lesson.
Starter question: post the following picture on the overhead, Smartboard or distribute.  Mrs. Nettie hunt and daughter Nikie on the steps of the Supreme Court, 1954

Have students answer the following questions:
a.  From looking at this picture, what do you think the May 17th, 1954 decision was?
b.  Why do you think this? (what clues from the picture did you use)? 
c.  How could you find out if your hypothesis is correct?
d.  What terms would you use on a computer to search for your answers? 

3. As a class, discuss the answers students provided and discuss search terms that could be used.
4. Distribute the LOC primary sources or port links to the following information for them to analyze on a computer.
5. Divide students into small groups. Have one person volunteer to be the recorder.
6. Each group should write the answers to the following questions for each primary source:
a.  Why do you feel this picture was taken?
b.  What message are they trying to communicate in this picture?
c.  Who do you think the photographer meant to be the "main character" in the pictures? Why do you think so?
d.  Who is supposed to be the "hero" in this picture? Why do you think so? 
e.  Where do you think the picture was taken? Why? 
7. Come together as a group and discuss answers.
8. Explain that all pictures have a point of view, many are meant to persuade you of something, often times to think like the photographer/author thinks of the situation or event.
9. Using newspapers or news website on the computer have students find interesting pictures from the news site to clip and analyze.
10. Each student should collect at least five pictures to analyze. Have students answer the same questions that they did for the school integration pictures.


Have a classroom discussion in order to ascertain student understanding. Rotate to groups to clarify questions and listen to small group discussions. Collect answers to give feedback both written and through discussion. Collect and analyze work  for understanding. Collect and grade persuasive essays using a persuasive  essay rubric, like the one posted at Read, Write, Think form The National Council of Teachers of English. 


Once students have analyzed their pictures, have them write a persuasive essay as to what they feel the website's/newspaper's perspective is, how they "see" the town, world event, etc. Students should utilize evidence from their pictures to support their opinions. Distribute Persuasive Essay Rubric from Read, Write, Think (National Council of Teachers of English). 

Author Credits:
Jefferson Middle School