When I introduced my 8th grade students to the Jim Crow era, I used the picture book, Ruth and the Green Book, as an anticipatory set to prepare students to plan a trip across America.
With the recent publication of Victor Hugo Green's story (he was the author/publisher of the Green Book) as a picture book, I felt it was time to spotlight both books and the lesson and its source, CarolinaK12.org, which as a free teaching resource I absolutely loved!
This week-long lesson and the books demonstrated to 8th grade students how much Jim Crow laws permeated everyone's daily lives.
We started by considering, "What is democracy?" It sounds like an easy enough question to answer, but you will be blown away by how your students answer.
Then students considered what democracy is, via the Power Point presentation, and recorded their answers either on the Guided NoteTaker (for shorter class periods) or on the questions sheet (for longer class periods).
The following day I read out loud to classes, Ruth and the Green Book, by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Gwen Strauss. You could substitute by reading Opening the Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book, by Keila V. Dawson, as well.
The lesson is adapted from CarolinaK12.org's two lesson plans, Jim Crow in North Carolina and Plessy v Ferguson and the Roots of Segregation, which are both much longer and contain even more, excellent teaching ideas and resources than mine. However, I found that given the time allotted on the curriculum calendar, and our state's focus (Arizona, not North Carolina), I needed a much shorter lesson. Also, I preferred to teach my students with more hands-on activities, which the adapted lesson accomplishes.
To prepare for this lesson, I first cleared a whole wall -- took everything down, posters, everything -- so my four class periods could tape up their 50 states maps. You need a LOT of wall space for this.
Second, I made manila file folders, one for each of the 36 states with Jim Crow laws. Inside, I printed out one copy of the Jim Crow laws associated with the state, laminated it or placed it in plastic sleeve protectors, and 8-10 blank copies of the state's outline. Include extra blanks for students who make mistakes, want to start over, or cut them out incorrectly. Free, one-page printable outlines of the states can be found here: State Maps (blank or with state capital). Students need to return the Jim Crow laws sheet/s to their state's manila folder before the class period ends, so the next class can use it. Have color pencils, scissors and masking tape ready for students.
When your students are finished writing and drawing the Jim Crow laws on each state, they need to cut them out and assemble the US map on the wall with masking tape. The map won't exactly look like what the US looks like, as the states aren't "to scale." It'll look a little wonky, but explain that's OK for the purposes of this exercise. And 14 states are blank. This is deliberate. Make sure someone (a volunteer or a student who finishes early) cuts them out and tapes them to the wall, too.
After they've assembled the map, they then have to plan a trip across at least 5 states. I would assign working pairs, individuals, and table groups different journeys: Florida to Virginia. Pennsylvania to Tennessee. California to Ohio. etc. Each was also given a designation of: Black couple, Black family, interracial couple, interracial family or Black / White individuals.
Students then had to use the class map to plan their trips. Some states (14) are deliberately left blank, so students have the experience of not knowing what to expect as they cross those states.
This activity will spark a lot of discussion and questions from your students seeking guidance: What did it mean to a couple's marriage when they crossed state lines? Where would they sit on the train if they were an interracial couple? If they were driving, what about buying gas? Were the rest stops along the interstates "public" they way they are now? The activity is about experiencing what it was like to plan a trip like this. Assure them they'll be able to find answers in the Green Book.
Then, either reserve a COW or a computer lab, and direct students to the actual Green Book to refine and plan their trips. The New York Public Library Digital Collections offers access to it for every year it was published. This is where a lot of your students' questions will be answered. Know it takes time for them to learn to use the Green Book, so allot a few full class periods, if not more time, for this step.
In the end, after they planned their trips, students were asked to write a one-page, "Reflection Essay" detailing their trips and the injustices / difficulties it would entail.
These were some of the most moving essays my students wrote!