Teachers

Teaching With Documents:
Documents Related to
Brown v. Board of Education

Frontiers in Civil Rights: Dorothy E. Davis, et al. versus
County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia

Teaching Activities

Standards Correlations

This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.

  • Era 9 -Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
    • Standard 4C -Demonstrate understanding of the Warren Court's role in addressing civil liberties and equal rights.

This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.

  • Standard II.A.2 .-Explain the extent to which Americans have internalized the values and principles of the Constitution and attempted to make its ideals realities.
  • Standard III.B.1. -Evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues regarding the purposes, organization, and functions of the institutions of the national government.

Constitutional Connection

This lesson relates to the 14th Amendment, primarily the equal protection clause, as well as to the powers of the Supreme Court under Article III of the U.S. Constitution.

Cross-curricular Connections

Share these documents and teaching suggestions with your history, government, and language arts colleagues.

Activities

  1. Reproduce the photograph of Moton High’s exterior on a transparency. Use this photograph to demonstrate to the students techniques in photo analysis. Give students a few minutes to look at the photograph. Turn off the projector, and ask them to write down everything they saw in the photograph. After a few minutes, ask students to share their findings. Cut an 8 1/2" x 11" piece of paper into four parts. Place these four parts over the picture so that you can reveal one section of the photograph at a time, keeping the rest of the picture covered. Ask students to look closely at the area that is revealed and describe what they see in the photograph. This will draw their attention to the details of the photograph. After students have had an opportunity to view each section, uncover the whole photograph and ask them how what they now see in the photograph has changed.

  2. Divide the students into 3 groups and distribute one of the remaining 3 photographs to each group. Instruct the students to analyze their photograph using the method described above. Ask a representative from each group to describe their photograph to the class.

  3. Conduct a class discussion about the photographs using the following questions: When do you think these photographs were taken? Where do you think they were taken? Why do you think they were taken? What might such a collection of photographs have been used for? Explain to students that these images were exhibits introduced by the plaintiffs in the court case Dorothy E. Davis, et al. versus County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia to illustrate the differences in the facilities of the white and black high schools.

  4. Using the background information, describe the Davis case to the students. Tell them that Barbara Johns, the student who led the strike, was quoted years later as saying “It [suing for the end of segregation] seemed like reaching for the moon.” Ask them to assume the role of Barbara Johns and describe what she meant by this statement in a 2-page explanation.

Enrichment/Extension

  1. Divide students into 4 groups and instruct each group to investigate the other school segregation cases that were decided by the Supreme Court in 1954 (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka , Briggs v. Elliott, Gebhart v. Belton, and Bolling v. Sharpe). Direct a representative from each group to describe their case to the class. Ask the class to compare the four cases and determine why the Supreme Court decided 3 of them with the Davis and Brown cases and why a separate opinion was issued in the Bolling v. Sharpe case.

  2. The 12-page Opinion of the Supreme Court in Dorothy E. Davis, et al. versus County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia is available online from the National Archives. Direct students to read the opinion and write a one-page summary of it. Note: The opinion is available through the National Archives Online Catalog. To access it, go to www.archives.gov/research/search/ and conduct a Digital Copies Search on National Archives Identifier 279110.

  3. Additional documents from the Davis case are available online from the National Archives. These include additional exhibits, witness testimony, the complaint filed against the school board, the defendant’s answer to the complaint, the original opinion, and the appeal. To access them, go to www.archives.gov/research/search/ and conduct a Digital Copies Search on the keywords “Davis” and “Prince Edward.” Encourage students to access the documents for additional information on the case and incorporate it into a History Day project.

How to Use this Lesson for History Day entries:

Supreme Court cases, like the Davis case, lend themselves well to History Day entries. Research for projects in all categories can include interviews with people involved in or affected by the case, court documents, newspaper articles reporting on the case, and editorials expressing opinions about the case. Using information from these sources, a student could develop a performance depicting a courtroom scene, a witness’s testimony, or an attorney’s monologue. A performance about the Davis case could also focus on the students’ strike, or Chief Justice Warren’s announcement of the decision (this is described well in chapter 26 of Simple Justice). Court cases also offer documentaries a clear timeline and documents from which to quote and suggest images that reflect significant events and individuals. Exhibits offered by both the defendant and the plaintiff in a court case can often be great additions to an exhibit board, as could a timeline illustrating concurrent events. Historical papers that focus on a particular court case can incorporate the words of the plaintiffs, defendants, and judges found in the court documents.

Bibliography/Suggestions for Further Reading:

Armor, David J. Forced Justice: School Desegregation and the Law. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Greene, Mary Frances. Documents Related to Brown v. Board of Education. National Archives Constitution Community.
http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/lessons/
brown_v_board_documents/brown_v_board.html

Howard, John R. The Shifting Wind: The Supreme Court and the Civil Rights from Reconstruction to Brown. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999.

Kluger, Richard. Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.

National Park Service. We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement. A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary. http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/civilrights/index.htm

Robert Russa Morton High School. http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/civilrights/v1.htm

Wilkinson, J. Harvie. From Brown to Bakke: The Supreme Court and School Integration, 1954-1978. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

National Archives Document Citation

  1. Photograph No. 21-51E83-CA1333DAVIS(AB); “Exterior View, Farmville,” n.d.; Case No. 1333; Dorothy E. Davis, et al. versus County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia, Civil Action; United States. District Court. Eastern District of Virginia. Richmond Division; Records of the District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21; National Archives Middle Atlantic Region, Center City Philadelphia, PA.

  2. Photograph No. 21-51E83-CA1333DAVIS(AB); “Auditorium, Farmville,” n.d.; Case No. 1333; Dorothy E. Davis, et al. versus County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia, Civil Action; United States. District Court. Eastern District of Virginia. Richmond Division; Records of the District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21; National Archives Middle Atlantic Region, Center City Philadelphia, PA.

  3. Photograph No. 21-51E83-CA1333DAVIS(AB); “Exterior View, Moton,” n.d.; Case No. 1333; Dorothy E. Davis, et al. versus County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia, Civil Action; United States. District Court. Eastern District of Virginia. Richmond Division; Records of the District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21; National Archives Middle Atlantic Region, Center City Philadelphia, PA.

  4. Photograph No. 21-51E83-CA1333DAVIS(AB); “Auditorium, Moton,” n.d.; Case No. 1333; Dorothy E. Davis, et al. versus County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia, Civil Action; United States. District Court. Eastern District of Virginia. Richmond Division; Records of the District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21; National Archives Middle Atlantic Region, Center City Philadelphia, PA.

Article Citation

Potter, Lee Ann. “Frontiers in Civil Rights: Dorothy E. Davis, et al. versus County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia.” National History Day Teachers' Guide: Frontiers in History: People Places, Ideas (2001); 71-75.

 

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