Rationale: The purpose of this lesson is to elicit students' understanding of the history of school desegregation in the U.S. Through a Norman Rockwell painting and the story of Ruby Bridges-the sole African American child to attend a New Orleans elementary school after court-ordered desegregation in 1960-students are introduced to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case and the subsequent conflict over school integration. Students are asked to consider whether or not, 50 years after the historic court ruling, they think segregation and unequal opportunity are still problems in U.S. schools.
- Students will use analytical skills to uncover the meaning of a well-known painting and to make connections between the image and historical events.
- Students will examine the story of a historical figure in order to better understand the history of school desegregation in the U.S.
- Students will draw upon their knowledge of history and current events in order to articulate an opinion about the current state of segregation in U.S. schools.
Handouts/Supporting Documents: Discussing The Problem We All Live With, Definitions
Other Materials:The Problem We All Live With, Background reading on Ruby Bridges, LCD or overhead projector, chart paper, markers
Time: One class period or 45 minutes
Techniques and Skills: analyzing visual art, connecting past to present, historical understanding, large and small group discussion, reading skills
Key Words: civil rights, desegregation, equal opportunity, integration, segregation
1. Project a copy of the Norman Rockwell painting, The Problem We All Live With, so that all students can clearly view it. During this first part of the lesson, do not provide students with any background information about the painting. Pose some of the following questions in order to engage students in a discussion:
- What do you think is taking place in this painting?
- Where do you think the young girl is going? What do you think are the circumstances?
- What do you think the girl is thinking and feeling?
- Who do you think the men in the painting are? What relationship do you think they have to the girl?
- When and where do you think this scene may have taken place?
- What was going on in the U.S. in that time and place? How might this relate to the painting?
- How does the painting make you feel?
- What questions does it evoke? If you could ask the girl or the men in the painting a question, what would it be?
- What do you think the artist is trying to tell us? Why do you think he called the painting, The Problem We All Live With?
- What artistic elements does the artist use to get his message across? (See Discussing The Problem We All Live With).
2. After about 10-15 minutes of discussion, provide students with brief background information about the painting (see Discussing The Problem We All Live With). Ask students if they understand what the words segregation, desegregation, and integration mean, and define these terms together (see Definitions). Ask students if they know what prompted the initial stages of school integration in our country. Make sure that students are aware of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, but do not go into a lot of detail about the case at this time. Provide students with background information about the story of Ruby Bridges as a follow-up to the Rockwell painting and to place the issue of school integration in a personal context. Several sources are listed below, which can be used for large/small group reading or assigned as independent research/homework, depending upon your time constraints and the abilities of your students.
|Africana Online||Ruby Bridges Story and Interview|
|PBS Online NewsHour||A 1997 conversation with Ruby Bridges|
|Ruby Bridges Foundation||The official Web site with narrative by Ruby Bridges|
|Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges and Margo Lundell (Scholastic, Inc., 1999, 63 p.)||Ruby Bridges recounts the story of her involvement, as a six-year-old, in the 1960 integration of her school in New Orleans. Though this book is intended for grades 3-6, it is told in Ruby Bridge's own words and through her unique childhood perspective. It includes photos and succinct writing that can be excerpted to provide a simple overview of Ruby's story.|