Legacy of The Philadelphia Negro:
Race and Racism Today
Students will explore the continuing relevance of Du Bois’ work and the continuing effects of race and racism today. They will make connections between both The Philadelphia Negro and Philadelphia life in the late 1800’s and their own lives today. Through a number of creative activities, students will learn and practice constructive ways to recognize and to address racism.
- Analyzing artwork; Role-playing; Group discussion
Students will engage in a “silent conversation” using political cartoons that address issues of present day racism and inequality. They will circulate around the room, writing their individual responses to these cartoons while responding and adding on to what their classmates have written. The conversations that they generate will then form the basis of a group discussion that explores how we understand and experience race today. Educators may create this activity with any visual media that they choose, but we have specially collected the political cartoons of artist, Samuel Joyner, one of the few African-American cartoonists to achieve national acclaim. Born in 1924, Joyner is a Philadelphia native and later taught in the city’s public schools. His work addresses social inequalities, including racism, discrimination, and poverty. His story is captured by The Ward’s Oral History Project, and the Urban Archives at Temple University house a collection of his work.
Student responses to the silent conversation:
“I liked it because when you talk out loud other people are like ‘Oh, I don’t agree, I don’t like that,’ and then sometimes they just can’t help themselves, and they blurt out comments. But this gave everybody a chance to write what they want. And you don’t really know who wrote things, so if you’re shy you got to get your voice out.”
“You look at the amount of people that agree with each other, and you wouldn’t have found that out if everybody was talking out loud because everybody would be talking over each other. So that’s a good thing to be silent, we should do that in my school.”
“[The cartoon] with Obama, that really did a lot. When he was elected president, there was a lot of talk that he was the first African-American president, and that brought a lot of problems, racial issues, conversations about that type of stuff. I would say that would be of our time, it’s still happening.”
– High school participants in the 2013 Philadelphia Futures Summer Academic Program
Students will then explore the concept of “microaggressions,” or common, subtle interactions that demean people because of their race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, and/or ability. Educators will have access to a range of resources, including articles, videos, and blogs, that explore how people unknowingly perpetuate inequality in our daily lives. Educators may select and adapt those materials that they feel are best suited to both their students and their own teaching needs. Our lesson plans suggest several ways of facilitating dialogue with students around this theme.
Finally, students and educators may further explore discrimination through acting out skits based on daily encounters with racism. Students will play different roles and narrate both the spoken dialogue and the inner thoughts of each character in a scenario.We provide both pre-written scenarios and prompts for groups to create their own scenes. All of the example dialogues are unfinished, however, so that students must explore and practice different ways of addressing and resolving these situations.
Each of these activities will lead to a group discussion in which students will offer their interpretations of Du Bois’ message for contemporary times.