In late March, I took a trip to Memphis with my wife and some friends. It was meant to be a nice little road trip to a town that I had never been to for some new BBQ and warmer weather. What I found was an amazing place filled with history and emotion, and while a bunch of that history was music related, what really stuck with me was the National Civil Rights Museum.
I had no idea that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, and I’d like to think that I’m in the minority, but after spending four hours at the National Civil Rights Museum, I’m not so sure because one of the lasting impressions that I walked away with is that we, as a nation, do not discuss the realities of the Civil Rights’ Movement. Not in schools, not in our homes. We don’t discuss it. It is for this reason that everyone that can travel to Memphis to visit this museum…should.
Exiting through the gift shop, I finally picked up a copy of March: Book One. A book by and about Congressman John Lewis.
The amazing thing about this book is that teaching this book (and hopefully the trilogy…there will be three books, book two is out now as well) is teaching the Civil Rights’ movement. Last semester, I used I Kill Giants as the book I had my seniors write their final exam on; however, having taught I Kill Giants earlier in the semester, and being moved by my trip to Memphis, I decided to use March: Book One as this semester’s final exam book (I will link to materials in a bit). I gave the students a total of fifteen questions and two graphic organizers as their final exam, and my final question of the fifteen was…
- How do the events of March connect to your life personally? Has this book changed your perspective in any way? If so, explain.
Out of the 95 responses, about half of the students related to being a victim of some sort of prejudice, but on top of that, about half expressed disbelief that they did not really know anything about the Civil Rights’ Movement. They were shocked; I was shocked; American should be shocked. I don’t like to get political up here on this blog, but after reading the student responses, I was instantly reminded of a line that Michael Che on an episode of SNL said on Weekend Update; he was discussing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. I can’t find the clip, but he said something to the effect of…”great again?” “For whom?” He went on to explain that for large groups of people, America still hasn’t been great. Believe what you want, but he has a point, and the fact that we breeze over this part of our collective history is a travesty.
Read it. Teach it, all aspects of it. Let our students get this information from somewhere. If you live near Memphis, I’m sure your students have been to the National Civil Rights Museum, but if not, take them.
What follows are three links:
The final link above is to my three day final exam questions. I compiled them from the two study guides I’ve linked to, and each section tackles about 40 pages of the book. I also used the two graphic organizers found in the PDF.
You have homework: read the book, check out these resources, figure out how you will teach the book.
Let’s talk about it.
Will you answer the call?