Saturday, March 19, 2016
Our own Quinn Rollins, former UCSS president, has recently published a book called Play Like a Pirate. I highly recommend the book. It has great ideas for engaging your students which will help make school fun again among all the tests students are required to take.
Just yesterday I had a Play Like a Pirate moment in my 8th grade US History classes. After reading Quinn's book, I have been trying to do more play in my classes and I have noticed a difference with my students. The students are excited to come see what we are going to learn, how we are going to learn it and they tell me how fun class is. But not only is it fun, I have noticed more students knowing the concepts on my various formative and summative assessments, Yesterday in class I had a student ask me if I knew how to do the dab dance move. It has been a trend going around our school. I said that I would do it for them when everyone was finished with their graphic organizer. Suddenly all the students were fast at work trying to get it done because they wanted to see me do the silly move. Of course they all finished and I thought in my head that instead of being embarrassed, I would just Play like a Pirate and have fun with it. So I did and the students loved it. The rest of the day students came running to class begging me to do it. I noticed that after doing the dab, that even though the kids laughed and cheered, they also got engaged in our discussion about the upcoming caucus and candidates after doing the move. The book is a good read, but more than that, if you use the strategies that Quinn provides, you will see more engagement in your classes.
Thursday, March 3, 2016
Friday, February 26, 2016
Jesse Owens, Discrimination, and Civil Rights
By David Ellison
Jesse Owens is one of the greatest track stars and Olympic athletes in U.S. history. His controversial participation and success in the 1936 Olympics, held in Nazi-led Berlin, Germany, brought him national and international fame. As sometimes happens with historical heroes, several myths have developed around his experiences in the Olympics and in his subsequent popularity in the United States. Controversies continued to surround him based upon his evolving feelings about civil rights.
- Students will use primary source documents to develop and defend an interpretation of Jesse Owens’s experiences during and after the 1936 Olympics.
- Students will debate Jesse Owens’s role within the broader context of the civil rights movement.
- Students will engage in sourcing, corroboration, and contextualization when working with primary and secondary sources.
Possible Questions for Consideration
- Did Jesse Owens make the right decision in attending the 1936 Olympic Games, rather than boycotting it as a protest of both his government and the German government’s discrimination?
- Did Jesse Owens face severe discrimination after returning from the Olympics, or to what degree did his fame make his experiences differ from the average African American’s?
- How does Jesse Owens fit into the broader story of African American civil rights? Consider, for example, the following:
- Owens’ success in the Olympics demonstrated for Americans the flaws of Hitler’s theories about Aryan supremacy and raised questions about the morality of Jim Crow at home.
- Owens’ appeared to be less concerned or less vocal about civil rights throughout his experiences during and after the Olympics. What experiences and people influenced him? How are his experiences reflected in the messages he shared?
- Compare Jesse Owens’s words and experiences with those of Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington Carver, Stokely Carmichael, or other activists (Jesse Owens refers to a few of them in his books).
- Copy of graphic organizer for every student
- Copy of Jesse Owens documents for every student
- Video clips of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics:
- Mini-Lecture: Prepare students with adequate background knowledge of the historical context. This may include the following:
- Jim Crow laws in the United States
- Context of the 1936 Olympics (rise of Nazi power and anti-Semitism in Germany)
- General perspectives of white and minority Americans
- Civil rights movements up to this point
- Video Activity
- Play this clip through 0:34: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXIe5GbLSUs&bpctr=1454115876
- Analyze Germany’s purpose at the beginning of the Olympics, taking into account the context of Germany in the 1930s.
- Watch the rest of the video. Ask the class the following questions: What was the significance of Jesse Owens’s victories? Predict how this moment would impact Owens and his experiences at home.
- Document Analysis Activity: Documents 1-5 focus on the Olympics, whereas documents 6-10 focus on Owens’s later life; select the document-based activity, the historical thinking question, and the documents which would help students fulfill your specific objectives. Possible questions/problems include the following:
- Evaluate Owens’s perspective on discrimination according to the sources. Did his opinion change over time? In what ways? What events may have caused these changes?
- Many have come to view the experience between Owens and Hitler as the culminating moment of the 1936 Olympics and the main significance of Owens’s contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. How might Jesse Owens respond to this idea? Would he agree, or would he emphasize other ideas and messages? In what other ways did he contribute to the Civil Rights Movement, and how do his contributions compare with those of other activists?
- Compare and contrast Jesse Owens’s life in the 1930s and the 1970s. In what ways did he change? In what ways was he the same?
- Explain to the students the controversy involved in Owens’s decision to compete in the Olympics in spite of the pressure to boycott the racist Nazi regime and discriminatory practices at home. What were the consequences of Jesse Owens’s attendance at the games? How might things have been viewed differently had Owens and other African Americans or the United States refused to attend the games in Berlin? Did Owens make the right choice in competing?
- Questions in the Anticipatory Set can be used as a pre-assessment or formative assessment to measure students’ understanding of the historical context.
- The Graphic Organizer can be used to evaluate student’s understanding of sources and context, to assess their ability to detect bias and perspective, and to measure their ability to construct historical interpretations from source material.
- Students may use these documents to write an argumentative essay responding to a prompt based on one of the lesson objectives. Teachers may use this essay to evaluate student understanding and their ability to use sources to defend interpretations.
- Watch or select clips from the movie Race. Use primary source documents to evaluate the accuracy of the film. Consider what was added or left out and why these changes may have been made. How does the film’s message compare with those from Owens’s words in Blackthink and I Have Changed? Does the Jesse Owens portrayed in Race more resemble the Jesse Owens of 1936, the Jesse Owens of 1970/1972, or a fictional character from 2016? To what degree does the film reflect the values of our times as opposed to the values of Americans in the 1930s?
- Read Jesse Owens’s books Blackthink and/or I Have Changed. Consider dividing the class and having the students respond to questions as Jesse Owens would reply during these two different times in his life. How does his perspective change? How do these perspectives compare with his view during the Olympic games? Note that Owens’s description of his interaction with Hitler changed over time. Why might that have happened?
Primary Source Documents
Document 1: St. Joseph News-Press, Oct. 16, 1936
Hitler initially congratulated Olympic victors, but when Jesse Owens raced he stepped out. Jesse Owens excused Hitler’s choice to leave and claimed it was bad taste to criticize Hitler for this action, but the event was publicized all the same. When Owens returned from the Olympic games, Franklin D. Roosevelt failed to meet with and congratulate him as the president had with other Olympic athletes. When rallying for the Republican Party, Owens was reported to have said the following:
Jesse Owens, Negro Olympic track star, told an audience of 1,000 negroes here that it was President Roosevelt and not Hitler who snubbed him during his triumphs at the Olympic games in Berlin.
“Hitler didn’t snub me—it was our president who snubbed me,” Owens said at a Republican rally here last night. “The president didn’t even send me a telegram.”
Author unknown. (1936, October 16). ‘Snub’ from Roosevelt. St. Joseph New-Press. Retrieved from https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=9kxhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=uHQNAAAAIBAJ&pg=6051,1761645&hl=en
Document 2: The Afro American, Oct. 10, 1936
Excerpt from an interview of Owens published October 10, 1936 in the Baltimore-area newspaper, The Afro American, one of the nation’s leading black newspapers.
My greatest thrill came while I was standing on the platform with the two other fellows and the American flag was going up while the band was playing “The Star Spangled Banner.”
And I want to say right here that we ought to learn “The Star Spangled Banner.” Some of us could start it, but nobody could finish it, and it was very embarrassing.
When it came time for the Germans to sing, they would sing out loudly, “Deutschland, Deutschland, Ueber Alles,” and all of them would sing to the end.
I am proud to say that on that team there was no color. We were one team, and I am proud of it. We should not say race, because we are all American people. We, ourselves, are the greatest enemies of our people. I know that is a hard pill to swallow.
Author unknown. (1936, October 10). Text of Jesse Owens’s Address. The Afro American. October 10, 1936. Retrieved from https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1532&dat=19361010&id=prg9AAAAIBAJ&sjid=5ysMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3031,1091811&hl=en
Photographer unknown. (August, 1936). Berlin, Olympiade, Siegerehrung Weitsprung [photograph]. German Federal Archive.
Document 3: Walter White Letter
Controversy surrounded the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, which was under Nazi rule. Many wanted to boycott the Olympic games, even when the International Olympic Committee eventually forced Germany to allow all qualified athletes to compete. On December 4, 1935 NAACP Secretary Walter White wrote, but never sent, the following letter to Jesse Owens during this time of controversy.
My dear Mr. Owens:
Will you permit me to say that it was with deep regret that I read in the New York press today a statement attributed to you saying that you would participate in the 1936 Olympic games even if they are held in Germany under the Hitler regime. I trust you will not think me unduly officious in expressing the hope that this report is erroneous.
I fully realize how great a sacrifice it will be for you to give up the trip to Europe and to forego the acclaim which your athletic prowess will unquestionably bring you. I realize equally well how hypocritical it is for certain Americans to point the finger of scorn at any other country for racial or any other kind of bigotry.
On the other hand, it is my firm conviction that the issue of participation in the 1936 Olympics, if held in Germany under the present regime, transcends all other issues. Participation by American athletes, and especially by those of our own race which has suffered more than any other from American race hatred, would, I firmly believe, do irreparable harm. I take the liberty of sending you a copy of the remarks which I made at a meeting here in New York, at Mecca Temple, last evening. This sorry world of ours is apparently becoming in a fumbling way to realize what prejudice against any minority group does not only to other minorities but to the group which is in power. The very preeminence of American Negro athletes gives them an unparalleled opportunity to strike a blow at racial bigotry and to make other minority groups conscious of the sameness of their problems with ours and puts them under the moral obligation to think more clearly and to fight more vigorously against the wrongs from which we Negroes suffer.
But the moral issue involved is, in my opinion, far greater than immediate or future benefit to the Negro as a race. If the Hitlers and Mussolinis of the world are successful it is inevitable that dictatorships based upon prejudice will spread throughout the world, as indeed they are now spreading. Defeat of dictators before they become too firmly entrenched would, on the other hand, deter nations which through fear or other unworthy emotions are tending towards dictatorships. Let us make this quite concrete. Anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, and anti-Negro prejudices are growing alarmingly throughout the United States. Should efforts towards [economic] recovery fail, there is no telling where America will go. There are some people who believe that a proletarian dictatorship will come. I do not believe this will happen and the course of history clearly indicates that it is not likely to happen. Instead, it is more probable that we would have a fascist dictatorship.
It is also historically true that such reactionary dictatorships pick out the most vulnerable group as its first victims. in the United States it would be the Negro, who would be the chief and first sufferer, just as the Jews have been made the scapegoat of Hitlerism in Nazi Germany. Sinclair Lewis, in his last novel, IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE, has written what seems to me to be a very sound picture of what may happen.
I have written at greater length than I had intended at the outset. I hope, however, that you will not take offense at my writing you thus frankly with the hope that you will take the high stand that we should rise above personal benefit and help strike a blow at intolerance. I am sure that your stand will be applauded by many people in all parts of the world, as your participation under the present situation in Germany would alienate many high-minded people who are awakening to the dangers of intolerance wherever it raises its head.
Mr. Jesse Owens
Ohio State University
Source: White, Walter. Letter to Jesse Owens. 4 Dec. 1935. TS. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/naacp/the-great-depression.html#obj19
Document 4: Oral History of 1936 Olympian James LuValle
Excerpt from the oral history of 1936 Olympian James LuVallewho won the bronze medal in the 400 meters race, recorded in June 1988 in Palo Alto California and conducted by George A. Hodak as part of the An Olympians Oral History Project sponsored by the Amature Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles.
LuValle: We got on the train to go to Berlin, and when we arrived in Berlin there was this mob of young people—a lot of girls—yelling, “Wo ist Jesse? Wo ist Jesse?” [Where is Jesse?] Remember, Jesse had set four world records here in the United States that year, so they wanted to see him. Well, Jesse got off the train and these teenage girls had scissors and they started snipping off his clothes. (laughter) I'm not kidding. It was wonderful.
Hodak: How did Jesse respond to this?
LuValle: Jesse got back on the train as fast as he could. (laughter) In fact, to be perfectly frank, if Jesse left the Village, he usually had to go out with some soldiers to protect him. Not that they were trying to harm him, but these people just thought he was wonderful. Nobody else would go out with him as a result.
Hodak: Do you think this was hard on Jesse?
LuValle: I think it was a little hard on him but I think he loved it. After all, it was quite a bit of adulation.
Hodak, George A. (June 1988). “An Olympian’s Oral History” (PDF) (Press release). Los Angeles: LA84 Foundation. Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
Document 5: Quotes from Ruth Owens
Ruth Owens, Jesse’s wife, stayed home when Jesse went to the games in Berlin. Regarding the situation of the Nazi leadership in Germany at the time, she said the following as quoted in a Los Angeles Times article May 30, 1996:
“He was very young, and he had to work very hard to make the Olympic team. I don’t think Hitler or anything else could have kept him away. You know athletes: They don’t see color. And he had been an athlete all his life.”
Following the games, Jesse Owens was welcomed home with a parade to celebrate his victory. During the festivities, an anonymous person handed Jesse a paper bag containing $10,000. When National Public Radio interviewed Ruth about this, she said:
“That’s very true. And he didn’t know who was good enough to do a thing like that. And with all the excitement around, he didn’t pick it up right away. He didn’t pick it up until he got ready to get out of the car.
Document 6: Eddie R. Letter
Jesse Owens wrote that prior to having published his novel Blackthink in 1970, he had never received hate mail. This was one of the first two letters he received from a semi-anonymous white sender.
That’s a mighty fine story you’re doing for all those papers. But why do you say you’re black? Your real color is brown—for your nose. If it wasn’t to start with, it sure would’ve been after what you’ve been putting it in to get on the good side of the murdering Black Panthers. Now they are black, boy—and I call you boy because you still should be a slave for some white man instead of running around loose like you do after us whites taught you to read and write. But the Panthers—they should be put in ovens, just like the Jews were, every one of them. They don’t give no breakfasts for kids—they kill and rape and rob. Not only their own trashy kind, but us whites. What they all really want for breakfast is our white women.
P.S. You think if you don’t brown-nose the Panthers, they’ll [threat with racial slur] . But let me tell you, boy, that if you don’t plug up your [slur] mouth, we’ll put you back in leg irons like you belong.
Owens, J. (1972). I Have Changed. New York: William Morrow & Company. Pages 23-24.
Document 7: Charlie Anonymous Letter
Jesse Owens wrote that prior to having published his novel Blackthink in 1970, he had never received hate mail. This was one of the first two letters he received from a semi-anonymous Black sender.
Dear Jesse Owens:
Your series on the middle class black was very revealing. But it didn’t reveal anything about us blacks—only about you and how you’ve become part of the fascist-capitalist conspiracy to systematically exterminate every black man in America. The only thing I wonder, [racial slur], is why you don’t see that when you’ve helped do away with all your own kind, that the white man will put a gun to your head, too. Or is it that you’ve been a Tom for so long that you figure by then the last little bit of color will have own off your skin and you’ll be white outside like you already are on the inside? Well, [racial slur], you might get your wish sooner than you think. Somebody just might take a knife and scrape all the black away before it wears off from your playing up to White.
Owens, J. (1972). I Have Changed. New York: William Morrow & Company. Page 24.
Document 8: Jesse Owens’s Response
In response to the above letters from Eddie R. and Charlie Anonymous, Jesse Owens wrote this as an introduction to a chapter in his book I Have Changed.
Eddie R. & Charlie Anonymous
St. Louis and Newark, U.S.A.
Dear Eddie R. and Charlie Anonymous:
You each wrote me letters, trying to hurt me—hurt me bad. You did—at first. But now, wherever you are, I want you both to know that you ended up helping me—a lot.
Owens, J. (1972). I Have Changed. New York: William Morrow & Company. Page 21.
Document 9: Selections from Blackthink
Jesse Owens despised what he termed “Blackthink,” or pro-Negro, anti-white bigotry. He was criticized by some for opposing two black athletes who gave a “Black Power” salute in the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games. In 1970, Jesse Owens wrote Blackthink: My Life as Black Man and White Man, in large part, to explain his opposition to Black Power activists and advocate hard work, moderation, and peaceful approaches to resolving racism.
Believe it or not, most black men today start just about equal with the white…
I know what is usually said. Most whites and Negroes have been brainwashed to believe that black men and women, with a few exceptions such as athletes, entertainers or postmen, don’t have much chance in America. It’s a lie. If the Negro doesn’t succeed in today’s America, it is because he has chosen to fail.
I came back from Berlin and the 1936 Olympics to a welcome few people have ever experienced. The streets of New York were lined with tens of thousands of men and women and children wanting to see me—to touch me—as I moved through on the top of a new convertible…but one omission stood out more and more as the months passed.
No one had offered me a job...
I went to work...
I became a Cleveland playground instructor for $30 a week...
Negroes hadn’t offered me anything better because they didn’t have anything better to offer, and the white men who wanted me to travel at their expense...didn’t seem to have any openings in their firms except for delivery boys or bathroom attendants.
“What does it pay?” I finally asked one of them.
“Oh, Jesse...you wouldn’t want to do something like that after what you’ve had.”
So I didn’t do something like that. I worked at the playground and came home every night and thought of what I’d had and went off in a corner of our two-room apartment where I hoped Ruth couldn’t hear me and put some week-old newspapers in front of my face to try to hide my sadness...
Yes, things have changed—drastically. In fact, if we’re going to tell it true, things have sometimes gone too far and turned completely around. Because for every anti-Negro bigot—and they’re still too many—it seems as though there are two pro-Negro bigots today.
Yes, the Negro has problems—sometimes terrible problems. But they are almost always human problems now, and who in the hell doesn’t have those?
Owens, J. (1970). Blackthink: My Life as Black Man and White Man. New York: William Morrow & Company.
Document 10: Selections from I Have Changed
Jesse Owens received a lot of criticism for his 1970 publication Blackthink. After a lifetime of experiences and reading words from a militant leader, in 1972 Jesse Owens wrote I Have Changed, a response to his first book.
After my first book, Blackthink, went to the printer...a whole bunch of things that I wanted to change came to me.
There was a part where I said, “If the Negro doesn’t succeed in today’s America, it is because he has chosen to fail.” Sure, I qualified it in the very next sentence. I’d said there were exceptions. But then I’d added that there were exceptions for the white man too. Down deep, I knew better. There aren’t near as many exceptions if your skin is white. But I’d wanted so badly to tell the young blacks they did have a chance, if only they’d work twice as hard and turn the other cheek when the first one was maybe raw and open to the bone. I’d wanted to tell them too badly.
It might seem strange to you, but until I wrote Blackthink, I’d never gotten a hate letter… Even when I’d spoken on college campuses in the late sixties during the rise of black extremism, even when I’d confronted the most militant of the black militants and the wildest of the white leftists, I hadn’t heard a hiss. Sure, I’d know criticism, and prejudice—the worst kind. But not hate for me as an individual. Somehow, my confrontation with Hitler had lifted me above that.
Maybe no one except Hitler hated me till Blackthink, but just about everybody deserted me more than once when I got into trouble before that...
When the tax thing broke I was making my living the same way I had basically for twenty years: speaking to the young and doing things with them. I’d made speeches, had off-the-cuff raps, held youth clinics and set up gang-prevention centers all over the world...
No matter where I was...[I] waited not just to see if I would ever make a good living again, but whether I’d go to jail.
It wasn’t that I’d reversed my stand from Blackthink...But I realized now that militancy in the best sense of the word was the only answer where the black man was concerned, that any black man who wasn’t a militant in 1970 was either blind or a coward...
Humanity—or inhumanity—is always at the bottom of every “issue.”...
Militancy doesn’t mean violence—unless violence means survival.
Owens, J. (1972). I Have Changed. New York: William Morrow & Company.
Use the documents to evaluate Jesse Owens’s experiences before, during, and after the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Use your analyses and refer to the evidence to defend your interpretation to the prompt. Remember to include sourcing, corroboration, and contextualization.
(Who said it? Why? Who were they speaking to? What was going on around them?
(What did they say? What were their main ideas?)
(Is this source trustworthy? How does it compare with other sources?
Additional notes, responses, reflections