Civil Rights in Pennsylvania
Throughout the twentieth century, blacks in Pennsylvania employed numerous strategies to achieve the civil rights they deserved. Their efforts for to receive their rights began with a strategy of New Deal liberalism in the 1940s and 50s headed by prominent black leaders. When attempts to rewrite the laws using the esablished political system failed, black leaders encouraged more direct action, like boycotts and sit-ins. The movement quickly took on a black nationalist approach. Philadelphia became the perfect place for several Black Power conferences and home of the short-lived, though active, Black Panther Party. This unit leads students through these phases in the fight for civil rights in Pennsylvania using primary sources from two collections at HSP.
- Textual evidence, material artifacts, the built environment, and historic sites are central to understanding the history of Pennsylvania.
- Conflict and cooperation among social groups, organizations, and nation-states are critical to comprehending society in the Pennsylvania. Domestic instability, ethnic and racial relations, labor relation, immigration, and wars and revolutions are examples of social disagreement and collaboration.
- Analyze a primary source for accuracy and bias and connect it to a time and place in Pennsylvania.
- Summarize how conflict and compromise in Pennsylvania history impact contemporary society.
Background Material for Teacher
• Sugrue, Thomas J. “Concord Park, Open Housing, and the Lost Promise of Civil Rights in the North.” Legacies 10 (November 2010).
• McKee, Guian A. “‘The Walls of Jericho Must Come Down!” Civil Rights and Employment in Post–World War II Philadelphia.” Legacies 10 (November 2010).
• Countryman, Matthew J. Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.
• Sugrue, Thomas J. Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North. New York: Random House, Inc., 2008.
• McKee, Guian A. The Problem of Jobs: Liberalism, Race, and Deindustrialization in Philadelphia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.
End of Unit Assessment
Each of the lessons focused on a different form of organizing for political action: letter-writing, boycotting, and organizing meetings. Have students each write a persuasive essay indicating which form of action they think holds the promise of the most success in trying to change societal attitudes and public policy. Students should be asked to identify particular passages in the primary sources to back up their assertions. Evaluate their writing not only using a rubric for persuasive essays but also by how they analyze and use the information found in the primary sources in this unit.
Plans in this Unit
PA Core Standards
CC.8.5.11-12.G CC.8.5.11-12.I CC.8.6.11-12.A
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About the Author
This lesson was created by Amy Jane Cohen. Updated for SAS by Casey Wernick and Amy Seeberger, Education Interns, of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.