Philadelphia Futures Summer 2013 Academic Program Participants
Our innovative curriculum presents a collection of lesson plans and materials developed for educators who are interested in furthering social justice. We use The Ward’s documentary and board game alongside artwork, maps, historical data, and role-playing as tools to engage students in productive dialogue about Du Bois’ work and the continuing importance of race and inequality today.
No one should graduate from high school without knowing the basic outline of W.E.B. Du Bois’s life and work. Arguably as important as any figure in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and human rights movement around the globe, he was also among the greatest intellectuals of the 20th century. His courage in fighting oppression and relentless insistence that the world accept the full humanity of African-derived people provides inspiration to all who work toward social justice.
Written in 1899, at the beginning of his long career, The Philadelphia Negro is greatly under-appreciated. While heralded as a classic in recent times, it is read only sparingly by undergraduate or graduate students of sociology and urban history and almost never by high school students or a general audience. The Ward uses 21st century video, mapping, and internet technology to introduce students to the people who lived in the Seventh Ward as a way of bringing this late 19th century story back to life.
By finding and interpreting primary historical documents, students and educators can bring history alive as students make new discoveries about how they understand the past. Across the country, National History Day allows students and teachers to experience the excitement found in studying history by engaging them in primary historical research projects and competitions. The Ward curriculum exposes students to newspaper articles, photographs, pamphlets, essays, and advertisements from the late 19th century, encouraging them to engage directly with history.
To identify patterns in and make sense of our world, social scientists systematically collect and analyze data. By introducing students to the social science methods that Du Bois used in The Philadelphia Negro —door to door surveys, key informant interviews, ethnography, mapping, and archival research—we seek to help grow a new generation of investigators who see themselves as social scientists, at least for a few days but perhaps for a lifetime. In the tradition of Du Bois, we seek to have students connect research with bearing witness to injustice and advocating for social change.
Attention to people who are struggling to “make it” too often focuses on their personal failings without contextualizing their circumstances. One of The Philadelphia Negro’s major themes explains that the social and physical environment, not genetic inferiority, were to blame for disparities in education, employment, and health between black and white citizens. Although the idea of systematic or structural oppression is more commonly accepted today, Du Bois was the first to propose this theory, a ground-breaking idea in the late 1800’s. This framework can help current students – regardless of whether they are growing up in the inner-city or the suburbs— understand how our society does not operate on a level playing field. Only by first supporting each student in becoming aware of this structural inequality and then by improving the environments in which people live, work, and play can we expect all to thrive.
Segregation in our neighborhoods, schools, religious institutions, and workplaces too often prevents us from engaging in honest discussion with people of different races and ethnicities. The shameful and unique history of discrimination against African Americans in the U.S. continues to hold us back from embracing the multi-racial and multiethnic reality of who we are as a people. This lack of dialogue and failure to apply lessons that we should have already to current situations involving the present-day oppression of immigrants, religious minorities, and people of color keeps us all oppressed. Our hope is that by studying race and racism in the late 19th century among people long since deceased, we can create some initial distance from our current hurt, shame, and fear. Then by allowing students to make connections between the issues that Du Bois raised , current events in the U.S., and their own lives, we can create truly productive discussions about race and racism in the present.
Who was W.E.B. Du Bois? What does his life and work teach us about courage and social change?
Why did Du Bois come to Philadelphia to study the “Negro problem”? Why did he study the Seventh Ward? How did he study the Seventh Ward?
What did he discover about the living conditions and opportunities for African Americans? What challenges did they face? What opportunities did they have?
How has the Seventh Ward changed over the last 100 years? How have conditions for African Americans changed?
How can we, as citizens, actively challenge racism in this country?
Our complete set of curriculum materials includes suggested lesson plans, documents, and resources for each of the six thematic learning goals. Although designed as a series, these materials do not need to be used chronologically or in conjunction with one another; rather, we encourage you to use our resources as inspiration, selecting and modifying as necessary to best fit your students, timeframe, and course goals. We have compiled these materials on Canvas Instructure, an open-source course management system, similar to Blackboard and Moodle. For free access to these materials, please register under the “Teacher Registration” tab at left.