- Drawing A Family Tree and Community Timeline
- Creating a Local Monument Inventory
- Defining "Public Art"
- Introductory Video
- Sample Agenda for an North Carolina Freedom Park "Town Meeting"
As a preface to the classroom exercises and lessons in The African American Experience, teachers may wish to assign students to interview older family members or neighbors to learn about their family and community history and to draw their family trees based on data collected from elders.
Students might then pool this information into a Community Timeline, illustrating their family roots in the region or when their families arrived in the area along with any notable accomplishments of relatives along this timeline.
It may also be useful to have students make an inventory of the historical monuments in your community and what historical events and persons are represented by these monuments. These monuments might be placed on a posted map of your town or county, and students may be invited to discuss their findings:
- Where are these monuments located?
- What kinds of people and events are memorialized?
- Who is missing?
- Are there significant times in your community's history that are not honored by these monuments?
- Why do you think these particular events or people are commemorated?
It will also be important for students to understand the concept of public art. As defined by the North Carolina Arts Council: "Public art is creative work that everyone can enjoy, even if they don't get to a museum very often. Public Art includes statues, murals, sculpture, as well as commissioned works." Between 1989 and 1995, North Carolina state government reserved a portion of the construction budget for every new state building so that an artist could be commissioned to create a work of art to enhance the building and grounds. Today the NC Arts Council administers this 63-piece "Artworks for State Buildings" collection. (Students may visit www.ncarts.org/afsb/afsbhome.htm to find the locations of these works of art. Some may be in your local community.) Students who have been to Raleigh on a school trip may be familiar with "The Education Wall" on the legislative mall side of the State Department of Public Instruction building. This granite mural is one of the early pieces created in the Artworks for State Buildings initiative and is referenced in some of the lessons here.
As students consider their best ideas for the design elements in a North Carolina Freedom Monument, they may also want to do some internet research on public art projects around the nation and world to enhance brainstorming activities.
More specifically, to introduce the scope and vision of the founders of the statewide Freedom Monument Project, the North Carolina Freedom Park will provide a free, 19-minute video, "Sharing the Vision: The North Carolina Freedom Monument Project." It can be obtained by calling (919) 968-1655, e-mailing [email protected], or viewed online at Vimeo. You can also download the video as an .mp4 file from Vimeo. The video is an excellent beginning point for a discussion of the role and meaning of art in public places and what kinds of symbols might be used to represent the African American experience and contributions in North Carolina.
Students and teachers can play a critical role in the Freedom Monument Project. The heart of the program has been an ongoing series of town meetings designed to promote dialogue about our state's African American history and race relations. The same process used in the town meetings can be a valuable classroom activity. If the monument is to be the legacy for future generations, it is critical to include the viewpoints of today's youth. Classroom discussion can be conducted using a structure similar to the agenda used for community meetings:
I. Screening of North Carolina Freedom Monument Video
This 19-minute video gives viewers an overview of the project and a look at existing memorials in some other states and countries.
II. Explanation of History Timeline
In each meeting, North Carolina Freedom Park has posted a timeline that covers almost 400 years of North Carolina history. Meeting participants are asked to place themselves or their families somewhere on the timeline by sharing a story, event, date or other occasion that relates to North Carolina history, particularly its history of race relations. (See examples on video.) People share family lore about escaping slavery, dates when they or their families arrived in the state, their personal involvement with the Civil Rights Movement. Younger people who may not be as knowledgeable about history sometimes share stories about their first encounters with racism or the results of their work on their family trees. (See Drawing a Family Tree and Community Timeline above.) The goal of this exercise is to humanize history, to make the point that history is about all of us, not about other people long ago.
III. Breakout discussions
For this part of the meeting, break up into small groups to discuss the following questions:
- What would you suggest to an artist attempting to create a work of art honoring the African American experience in North Carolina?
- What ideas (themes, values, characteristics, images, events, people . . .) would best exemplify that experience in a work of public art?
- What do we, in the present, want to say about the African American experience in our state to those who will live here in the future?
- What do we want North Carolina school children of tomorrow to feel when they see this work?
IV. Summary of group discussions
After a predetermined period of time, ask each small group to report back to the whole body. This report can take the form of straightforward answers to the questions, but it can also be a drawing, a poem, a design concept - whatever the collective imaginations of the group can come up with. The idea is for students of differing backgrounds to work together to generate a creative response to the challenge of developing a monument.
Ask students to answer any or all of the questions below. It will help them to critique the discussion process and possibly suggest other ways of generating discussion about the Monument and African-American history in general.
(1) Do you support the Freedom Monument Project? Please state what parts of the discussion were the most important to you in reaching this opinion.
(2) Do you feel that today's meeting helped to increase understanding between students of different ethnic and social backgrounds? Please explain.
(3) Were you yourself able to learn something from, or tell something significant to, the other participants in a way that seemed to increase understanding? Please explain.
(4) How would you improve the format of today's meeting? What seemed to work particularly well? What didn't work for you? What was missing?
Each lesson unit discusses a person, place, event, or experience in which African Americans had to cope with certain challenges, or had to confront or overcome a particular set of problems or circumstances in North Carolina society. No matter what time period or person studied in The African American Experience in North Carolina, students will come away with a greater understanding of the many challenges facing African Americans in North Carolina.
Teachers may use these materials in at least four ways:
- in conjunction with the North Carolina Freedom Park video, to encourage a dialogue and enhance understanding of our collective experiences as North Carolinians;
- as a supplemental unit to supporting information presented in students' textbooks on North Carolina History
- as a thematic unit in and of itself;
- as individual lessons, taught in chronological or thematic order, along with a textbook or other materials supporting the eighth grade Social Studies Standard Course of Study;
- as an integrated, interdisciplinary unit or lessons that are taught in conjunction with or by Language Arts, Fine Arts, and other teachers.
Students may study these lessons together as a class, individually, or in cooperative learning groups. Groups or individuals may review all the lessons or the lessons may be divided among the groups or students within a group. Because class discussion of the experiences described in the materials is crucial to collective understanding, students should share their findings with the entire class. Individual students or small groups should make presentations to the class using illustrations, informational reports, role-plays, and other resources to teach the class about their topics.
Classes should discuss the circumstances of the person, place, event or experience, the problems or challenges associated with that experience, and the impact of the person, place, event or experience on North Carolina, the United States, and the world. Students should be able to support their statements with the evidence from the lessons or their research, and should be respectful of the opinions of others in the discussion.
The research projects offer students an opportunity to do in-depth research on a topic relating to African American history. Students should be encouraged to emphasize the impact of these issues on North Carolina. These projects can be assigned at the beginning of a unit on Civil Rights, African American history, or other related topics, and the individual lessons can be taught in class while the research project is ongoing over a one, two, or three week period. Students may be allowed to choose which project they would like to do either individually or as a group, or the class may be assigned one research topic to do collectively.
Each lesson and project offers answer keys and clear evaluation rubrics to assist teachers in assessing students' work.
Each lesson and research project provides opportunities for further study. Students can research more about the person, event, place, or experience using the media center or the Internet. Students should research images of the persons, places or events to illustrate their presentations to the class. Many of these images are available on the Internet. Students may also expand their research, and create additional lessons on other important African American people and experiences in our state. The North Carolina Freedom Park encourages teachers and classes to submit this additional research to be included in the Freedom Monument Project's resources. Send your materials to [email protected].
(to be tailored by the teacher to fit available class time)
1. Begin the unit by assigning every student to interview their elders in the creation of a family tree, particularly noting when their families first came to North Carolina if known. Be sure that students also ask their elders if particular family members played a role in North Carolina history in any way, large or small. Have students share their findings and create a bulletin board or other "monument" or remembrance space in the school hallway or another spot on campus to the families represented in your class. (one or two class periods.)
2. Introduce the unit on The African American Experience in North Carolina by showing the North Carolina Freedom Monument project video. Facilitate a discussion about why the project is important to many North Carolinians following the framework as discussed above in the section Classroom Dialogue (one or two class periods).
3. Introduce materials from the research project the "Civil Rights Movement." LINK Review the time line and important events. Assign groups or individual students to work on one of the research projects. Schedule time for students to work in the media center or on the Internet to conduct research over the next two or three weeks. Students (and parents) should be informed that the projects will require research time that will not be provided in class.
4. Over the next few class periods, have students individually, in small groups, or as a class do the lessons from the units on The People, The Places, The Events, and The Culture. Discuss the significance of these experiences and contributions.
5. Have students present their findings from the research projects to the class. These findings will build upon information presented throughout the unit of study, and will serve as an assessment tool for the project.
6. Set aside the last day of the unit to discuss and review all of the experiences, concepts, and contributions studied during the unit. If time permits, show the video about the North Carolina Freedom Park again. Use the following questions to guide your discussion:
- After learning about the struggles and contributions of North Carolina's African Americans, what is the significance of a community dialogue on the experiences of African Americans in North Carolina?
- What are some of the significant contributions made by North Carolina's African Americans to their communities? The state? The United States?
- Why do you think people have come up with the idea for a monument at this time?
- How would you go about honoring the experiences of different peoples in North Carolina?
Extension: Fine Arts -Students may also want to design their own monument, either individually or as a class. Working with the Fine Arts teachers, students may draw or make monuments out of any media they choose (for example, clay, sticks, drawings, paper maché, and so on). Students could hold a competition to determine the best three designs to be sent to the North Carolina Freedom Park.
Language Arts -Students could write a biography of a person important to the African American experience in North Carolina, or write a narrative account of a particular historic experience from the point-of-view of an African American. These can be submitted to the North Carolina Freedom Park. Send your materials to [email protected].