Units January 21, 2022

American Hypocrisy

Lesson Summary: Students examine 1619 Project articles and use them as tools to guide an inquiry process into the treatment of African Americans in the U.S., and the hypocrisies underlying the founding of the country. Downloads: Unit resources

This unit was created by the History Department in Plainfield Public Schools, part of the 2021 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately 16 60-80 minute class periods.


Students will be able to...

  • Evaluate the article “The Idea of America” by Nikole Hannah-Jones and explore hypocrisy in the foundation of the United States as it relates to African American people. 
  • Evaluate the article “The Wealth Gap” by Trymaine Lee and explore the wealth divide between African American people and their non-African American counterparts. 
  • Evaluate the article “Mass Incarceration” by Bryan Stevenson and explore the impact of mass incarceration on African American males in the U.S. 
  • Evaluate the article “Medical Inequality” by Linda Villarosa and explore the ramifications of medical inequality for African Americans.
  • Create a demonstration of learning (DOL) in the form of a PowerPoint that addresses the three essential questions, using evidence from one or more articles.
  • Participate in a Socratic Seminar answering questions listed in the Performance Task section below.

Essential Questions

  1. What are underreported stories, and why are they important?
  2. How do you find and communicate underreported stories that matter to you?
  3. What is the role of journalism in evaluating history and examining the contemporary underreported issues that are connected to events in the past?

Unit Overview

In this unit, students will examine articles from The 1619 Project and use them as tools to guide an inquiry process into how African Americans were mistreated in the United States, and what hypocrisies underlie the founding of the country. Students will consider the importance of finding and telling underreported stories from history, and will examine how underreported stories from history connect to present day issues.

Students will reflect on the essential questions and the articles they explore in writing throughout this unit, culminating in a PowerPoint presentation and a Socratic Seminar through which they will demonstrate their learning.

Thematic Focuses:

  • Disenfranchisement 
  • Capitalism
  • Emancipation
  • Segregation 
  • Bigotry 
  • Civil Rights 
  • Indoctrination
  • Racism 
  • Hypocrisy 
  • Wealth 

Skill Focuses:

  • Quick writes
  • Reflective writing 
  • Creating a thorough PowerPoint 
  • Citing scholarly work
  • Close reading 
  • Speaking

Performance Task

Students will participate in a Socratic Seminar with another school district (ideally), or with another section of this course. The students will prepare for and participate in a discussion on topics that correlate with the unit. The discussion questions will include, but are not limited to:

  1. Why did author Nikole Hannah-Jones use the title “The Idea of America” for her article? What contradictory themes were presented in the article?
  2. What is the historical significance of the wealth gap between African American and white people in the U.S.?
  3. How does mass incarceration affect African American people in the U.S.?
  4. What negative ramifications were perpetuated with medical inequality between African American and white people?


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