Teaching about Brown

From the avalanche of materials marking Brown's 50th anniversary, we chose these as favorite resources for K–12 teachers.


Adult and Advanced High School

Brown v. Board of Education: Caste, Culture, and the Constitution, by Robert J. Cottrol, Raymond T. Diamond, & Leland B. Ware (2003, University Press of Kansas). Three law professors collaborated to offer a thorough, fascinating look at the brilliant legal strategy behind Brown—as well as how that strategy was built upon and catalyzed further changes in American culture.

Jim Crow's Children: The Broken Promise of the Brown Decision, by Peter Irons (2004, Penguin). Irons begins with a history lesson on forced illiteracy among slaves and the inadequacies of post-Civil War schools for African Americans. Most of the book is devoted to the Supreme Court cases that sanctioned Jim Crow and then declared it unconstitutional.

Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality, by Richard Kluger (2004, Knopf). This definitive study of Brown was originally published nearly 30 years ago; it covers everything from race relations to the inner workings of the Supreme Court.

Elementary and Middle School

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison (2004, Houghton Mifflin).With more than 50 beautiful photos of ordinary children and adults and a poetic commentary, Morrison creates a journey from Jim Crow through the civil rights movement that children can understand and appreciate.

Linda Brown, You Are Not Alone: The Brown v. Board of Education Decision, by Joyce Carol Thomas (2003, Jump Sun). An anthology with selections by 10 popular children's writers. Each writer was a child at the time of Brown. Selections vary from accessible to sophisticated and include memoirs, short stories, and poems.

Through My Eyes: Ruby Bridges, by Ruby Bridges (1999, Scholastic). Ruby Bridges integrated William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans at the age of 6. In this photo-filled memoir, Bridges writes as a child who didn't understand that people were upset with the color of her skin.

All the People: 1945–2001, by Joy Hakim (2003, Oxford University Press). This is the final book in Hakim's award-winning U.S. history series for middle school students called A History of US. In an engaging style, it covers post-WWII Jim Crow, Brown v. Board, the resistance to integration, and the civil rights movement.

Web Sites

Bringing Brown v. Board of Education into the Classroom. Created by the American Federation of Teachers, this site moves chronologically from the first significant school desegregation case (in 1849) to current times. Includes links to classroom resources and a reading list for lower elementary, upper elementary, middle-, and high-school students. www.aft.org

Separate Is Not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education. The Smithsonian's Museum of American History has a first-rate Web site. The "History" section offers images and quotes (with just enough supporting narrative); the "Resources" section provides links (mainly through the annotated bibliography) to high-quality links on Brown. The teacher's guide has six excellent units that parallel the "History" section and can be adapted for grades four to 12. http://americanhistory.si.edu/brown

The History of Jim Crow. This Web site is a companion to the four-part television series, "The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow," which schools can purchase for $99; but it's worth a visit even without the series. The "History," "Geography," and "Literature" sections include essays, maps, and many lessons (written by teachers) on books such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Beloved. See also the image gallery, teacher resources, and opportunities to contribute to the site. www.jimcrowhistory.org/home.htm

Related Articles

Jim Crow's Schools
By Peter Irons

The Decline of the Idea of Caste
Setting the Stage for Brown v. Board
By Robert J. Cottrol, Raymond T. Diamond, and Leland B. Ware

NAACP v. Jim Crow
The Legal Strategy That Brought Down "Separate but Equal" by Toppling School Segregation
By Robert J. Cottrol, Raymond T. Diamond, and Leland B. Ware

Legislating Jim Crow

Teachers' Roles in Ending School Segregation

Teaching about Brown

American Educator, Summer 2004