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September 6, 1860
Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
Curriculum Unit

NAACP's Anti-Lynching Campaigns: The Quest for Social Justice in the Interwar Years (2 Lessons)

Created December 22, 2009

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The Unit

Overview

NAACP's Anti-Lynching Campaigns Cu-overview US map

"3436 Blots of Shame on the United States: 1889-1922." A map prepared for the NAACP in 1922 and published in newspapers. The map graphically details the extent and intensity of lynchings by region and state. A complete version of the map can be found in lesson plan one.

Credit: “3436 Blots of Shame on the United States: 1889-1922.” A map prepared for the NAACP in 1922 and published in newspapers. The map graphically details the extent and intensity of lynchings by region and state.

In the twenty-first century, American citizens expect the federal government to protect their civil rights if the states fail to do so. This expectation is a consequence of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and was not engrained in the political and constitutional history of the United States for most of the twentieth century. In fact, most Americans prior in the first half of the twentieth century embraced the notion that police powers (i.e. laws that govern safety, health, welfare, and morals) were reserved to the individual states and saw little, if any, role for the federal government in protecting the health and safety of individuals.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) aggressively challenged this prevailing assumption during their anti-lynching campaign. Although NAACP's successful legal assaults on segregation in the 1940s and 1950s tend to overshadow the organization's earlier activities, obtaining federal anti-lynching legislation was their primary goal from 1909 to 1939. Unfortunately, this important chapter in the history of the NAACP has largely been forgotten or, at best, relegated to a footnote in most American history textbooks. In part, this can be explained by the fact that in both the 1920s and the 1930s proposed bills failed to become law. At the same time, much can be learned about how Americans in the interwar years understood the federal system, interpreted the Constitution, and responded to calls for social justice by examining the NAACP's anti-lynching campaign.

This teaching unit is divided into two lessons: one that examines the NAACP's efforts to get the Republican Party to enact anti-lynching legislation in the early 1920s and one that analyzes the various attempts by New Deal Democrats from 1934 to 1939 to pass a federal anti-lynching bill. Teachers may choose to use only one of the lessons, incorporate both of them into their existing curriculum, or make them the foundation of a thematic unit about social justice in the Interwar Years.

Guiding Questions

  • Why did the NAACP lobby the federal government to enact anti-lynching legislation?
  • What were the constitutional arguments for and against federal anti-lynching legislation in the interwar period?
  • Why did the legislation fail?

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the history of the NAACP's anti-lynching campaign in the early 1920s and 1930s.
  • Assess the significance of the failure of Congress to enact anti-lynching legislation and its impact on social justice in the United States.
  • How do President Franklin D. Roosevelt's unwillingness to support federal anti-lynching legislation and Congress's inability to enact a bill help to delineate the limits of liberal reform during the New Deal?
  • Evaluate the reasons for the failure of the NAACP's anti-lynching campaign in the 1930s.
  • Analyze the motives of the opposition to the various anti-lynching bills and the reasons for President Franklin D. Roosevelt's reluctance to support the bills.
  • Why did the NAACP shift its focus from anti-lynching legislation to legal challenges to segregation by the end of the 1930s?

Preparation Instructions

Review each lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and links from EDSITEment-reviewed websites. Download and print out selected documents and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing

The Lessons

  • Lesson 1: NAACP’s Anti-Lynching Campaign in the 1920s

    Created December 22, 2009
    Lesson 1: NAACP’s Anti-Lynching Campaign in the 1920s: Blots of shame

    This lesson focuses on the constitutional arguments for and against the enactment of federal anti-lynching legislation in the early 1920s. Students will participate in a simulation game that enacts a fictitious Senate debate of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. As a result of completing this activity, students will gain a better understanding of the federal system, the legislative process, and the difficulties social justice advocates encountered.

  • Lesson 2: NAACP's Anti-Lynching Campaign in the 1930s

    Created July 27, 2010
    NAACP's Anti-Lynching Campaign 1930s: Walter White

    In this lesson students will participate in a role-play activity that has them become members of a newspaper or magazine editorial board preparing a retrospective report about the NAACP's anti-lynching campaign of the 1930s. As the students analyze and synthesize a variety of primary sources, they will gain a better understanding of the reasons for the failure of anti-lynching campaign of the 1930s, the limits of liberal reform during the New Deal, and the NAACP's decision to shift its focus to a legal campaign to end segregation.

The Basics

Grade Level

9-12

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > People > African American
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Reform
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
Skills
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Cultural analysis
  • Debate
  • Discussion
  • Evaluating arguments
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Historical analysis
  • Investigating/journalistic writing
  • Logical reasoning
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Map Skills
  • Online research
  • Role-playing/Performance
  • Summarizing
  • Textual analysis
  • Using archival documents
  • Using primary sources
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    William H. Crawford was one of four candidates for President in 1824.

    All of the major candidates for president in the 1824 election claimed allegiance to the same party, the Democratic-Republicans. What distinguished the candidates from each other? What were the important issues in the campaign of 1824?

  • Lesson 4: The Monroe Doctrine: Whose Doctrine Was It?

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    In what ways did John Quincy Adams and Thomas Jefferson contribute to the formulation of the Monroe Doctrine?

  • Lesson 4: Abraham Lincoln, the 1860 Election, and the Future of the American Union and Slavery

    Created July 19, 2010
    Abraham Lincoln at the time of his historic debates with Stephen A. Douglas.

    This lesson plan will explore Abraham Lincoln's rise to political prominence during the debate over the future of American slavery. Lincoln's anti-slavery politics will be contrasted with the abolitionism of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass and the "popular sovereignty" concept of U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas.

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    Idyllic cartoon of slaves thanking their master for taking care of them

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    Andrew Jackson was one of four presidential candidates in 1824.

    This lesson will help students develop a better understanding of the election of 1824 and its significance.

  • Lesson 1: An Early Threat of Secession: The Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Nullification Crisis

    Created July 18, 2010
    Henry Clay, author of the Missouri Compromise.

    Americans affirmed their independence with the ringing declaration that “all men are created equal.” But some of them owned African slaves, and were unwilling to give them up as they formed new federal and state governments. So “to form a more perfect union” in 1787, certain compromises were made in the Constitution regarding slavery. This settled the slavery controversy for the first few decades of the American republic, but this situation changed with the application of Missouri for statehood in 1819.

  • Lesson 3: The Election Is in the House: Was There a Corrupt Bargain?

    Henry Clay did not win the 1824 presidential election

    Students examine John Quincy Adams' win of the 1824 election.

  • Lesson 3: A Debate Against Slavery

    Anti-slavery poster form the 1850s

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