My Country, My Voice: Teaching the Progression of the Concept of Citizenship from the Eras of Slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement

April Louzini, 4th Grade, E.E. Waddell Language Academy

Curriculum Unit (PDF)


The goal of this curriculum unit is to show my students what true citizenship should be in terms of the full rights and responsibilities of an American citizen and how these full rights were denied to the African American community from the era of Slavery through to the era of the Civil Rights Movement. In addition, by showing the progression of the concept of citizenship in the African American community through these eras, this unit will illustrate to my students how citizenship evolved for our African American population in the United States from the beginning of Slavery to the era of the Civil Rights Movement. Equally, teaching this citizenship unit will also include showing my students that the responsibilities of citizenship include using one’s agency (one’s voice) to bring about meaningful change and that the ultimate goal of such meaningful change should be to make our country more inclusive (in both the societal and governmental guises) of our ever-changing and increasingly diverse population in the United States of America.
The curriculum unit that I am creating based on the seminar of “African-American Poetry”, is an integrated unit with both the subjects of English Language Arts and Social Studies having equal weight, as the two subjects will be taught concurrently. Furthermore, the concept of citizenship in the United States of America and what citizenship means in this country will be viewed through the “lens” of African-American poetry from and about these very important eras in the historical narrative of African-American history. Classroom discussions will focus on denied citizenship during the era of slavery and will equally highlight what the new fledgling citizenship for emancipated African-American peoples resembled during the Reconstruction era and also how those hard-won and minimal rights were quickly hacked away at by Southern lawmakers of the Jim Crow era. Finally, the last part of my curriculum unit will come full circle to the Civil Rights Movement era where the African-American community fights back for their lost rights in the previous eras.

Consequently, the discussions, focused on the concept of citizenship for the African- American peoples during these eras, will culminate in broader discussions on the progression (or lack thereof) and transformation of citizenship rights for the African-American people from the inception of slavery all the way through to the Civil Rights Movement. These class discussions, however, will not just occur within the vacuum of these eras. The poetry and historical eras important to the history of the African-American community will, hopefully, lead to meaningful classroom discussions about how far our nation has progressed or not progressed in the pursuit of full citizenship for all members of our nation.
Finally, I have chosen to explore and write my curriculum unit within the topic of my seminar “African-American Poetry”. My curriculum unit will focus on the idea and theme of citizenship in poetry written by African Americans during the four pivotal eras of the African American people’s history in the United States (the era of Slavery, the Reconstruction era, the Jim Crow era and finally, the Civil Rights Movement era). The poetry chosen for this unit will be from the perspectives of African-American poets some of whom were alive and writing during those eras and some who wrote about those eras after they had ended.