Emigration and Immigration to the United States, 1789–1930

Collection of selected historical materials from Harvard's libraries, archives, and museums that documents voluntary immigration to the U.S.

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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    Front page illustration for the original serialized version of The Yellow  Wallpaper from the New England Magazine (1892).

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  • African-American Soldiers in World War I: The 92nd and 93rd Divisions

    Painting of African American soldiers fighting German soldiers in World War I

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  • Lesson 1: The Origins of "Wilsonianism"

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    Japanese forces enter Mukden, China, September 18, 1931, as part of Japan's  Manchurian campaign against China.

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    Photograph showing six people, including Charles Young

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  • Lesson 3: Navigating Modernism with J. Alfred Prufrock

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  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wall-paper"—The "New Woman"

    "Wash Day" satirizes the suffrage movement at the turn-of-the-century.

    Charlotte Perkins Gilman's story "The Yellow Wall-paper" was written during this time of great change. This lesson plan, the first part of a two-part lesson, helps to set the historical, social, cultural, and economic context of Gilman's story.