How does popular culture engage history? In this lesson plan, students will examine The Searchers, one of the most widely acclaimed Western movies of all time, to explore interpretations of race, gender, and family–both in the time period depicted by the film and the time period in which the film was produced.
This lesson plan uses A. A. Lamb's painting Emancipation Proclamation and resources from BlackPast to explore the successes and shortcomings of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Reconstruction amendments, as well as the roles played by Black people in securing their own freedom.
Use Aaron Douglas’s mural Into Bondage to introduce the stories of famous Harlem Renaissance figures, including Langston Hughes, and to explore the history and importance of Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the end of Black enslavement in the United States.
Kerry James Marshall's painting Voyager, depicting two partially obscured Black figures standing aboard a ship, refers to an actual ship, Wanderer, which was among the last slave ships in the United States, illegally transporting more than 400 individuals from West Africa to Georgia in 1858—even though the importation of enslaved people had been banned in 1808. Use the painting as an entry point to discuss the Transatlantic slave trade and introduce students to the NEH-funded database Slave Voyages project.
When you think about diplomacy, you may first imagine ambassadors or even the Secretary of State. But the U.S. has a long history of using the arts and humanities to influence international opinion—a practice known as cultural diplomacy. This lesson plan unpacks the principles of cultural diplomacy through an exploration of the Cold War “Jazz Ambassadors.” Students also investigate differing viewpoints of this program through historic newspapers and other primary source documents. Finally, students are asked to design their own program for cultural diplomacy.
Students have multiple opportunities to analyze photographs captured during a national photography project about local history and changing places to create their own interpretations and exhibits. These materials were developed as part of a partnership between the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Throughout Lois Lowry’s The Giver, the main character Jonas realizes there are more elements to life than he has been led to believe. This lesson explores how The Giver addresses issues of personal identity, memory, and the value of reading and education, as well as other famous classics in this genre and books that students may have read on their own.
What if Shakespeare's Julius Caesar was set in a modern and newly independent nation? What do citizens look for in a leader? In this lesson, students not only consider the significance of this updated staging and political quandary, but will address important questions about how and why Shakespeare is adopted, adapted, and appropriated by people around the world in order for them to express their own political and social concerns through the universal language of Shakespeare.
Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun provides a compelling and honest look into one family's aspirations to move to another Chicago neighborhood and the thunderous crash of a reality that raises questions about for whom the "American Dream" is accessible.