This unit was created by Conscious and Radical Teachers team as part of the 2022 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately three weeks, or 13-17 days.
Students will be able to...
- Identify and analyze the rhetoric within the selected essays from The 1619 Project and other supplemental writings.
- Develop an argumentative essay that synthesizes information from at least four sources to support their argument.
- Create a podcast episode that utilizes research, primary sources, journalism, and rhetoric to inform their audience.
- Contextualize & connect historical events to modern day.
- Analyze arguments in primary and secondary sources.
- Understand the cause and effect of the historical events discussed in selected essays from The 1619 Project.
- What role should journalism play in telling the truth and in education at large?
- How and why were enslaved Black Americans commodified and/or treated as commodities?
- How have Black Americans (and their enslaved ancestors) contributed to the formation of American democracy?
- How have Black Americans (and their enslaved ancestors) been essential to the development of the American economy and wealth?
- What factors contributed to the existing racial wealth gap in America?
- What, if anything, is owed to the descendants of enslaved Black Americans?
- What might compensation look like?
This unit seeks to explore how the forced labor of enslaved Black Americans was a commodity in establishing America’s wealth and success, how they were contributors to the formation of American democracy (and other critical areas), and are deserving of compensation as a result of these oft overlooked and ignored historical facts.
This unit asks students to analyze and examine the legacy of slavery in contemporary U.S. systems and society and the contributions that Black Americans have made to the country over the past 400+ years by exploring several resources from The 1619 Project and a wealth of supplemental documents and media.
Students will write an essay that synthesizes the arguments proposed by 1619 Project contributors, as well as counterarguments, in order to develop a position on compensation, reparations, and on what, if anything, is owed to the descendants of enslaved Black Americans. As an optional extension, students may collaborate with their peers to create and record a podcast that builds upon one of the 3Cs (Commodities, Contributions, or Compensation).
Important Note on Cultivating Joy: Due to the sensitive nature of the readings and materials in the unit, we will intentionally cultivate moments of joy to show students the many ways that Black Americans have contributed to art, to music, to fashion, to the sciences, etc. as forms of resistance and how those contributions continue to impact us in positive ways today. These will largely appear as Fun Facts of the Day that will be posted around the room.
The culminating project will be an argumentative essay that synthesizes details from The 1619 Project in order to develop a position on compensation, reparations, and on what, if anything, is owed to the descendants of enslaved Black Americans. Students are asked to incorporate evidence from multiple sources explored throughout this unit to make their claim, and to address counterarguments.
As an optional extension, students may collaborate with their peers to create and record a podcast that builds upon one of the 3Cs (Commodities, Contributions, or Compensation).
Three-week unit plan for teachers, including pacing, texts and multimedia resources. Download below, or scroll down to review key resources included in the unit plan.
|Resources from The 1619 Project||“The Idea of America” by Nikole Hannah-Jones*The cornerstone essay of The 1619 Project, exploring the contributions of Black Americans in moving America towards its stated democratic ideals.
“The Wealth Gap” by Trymaine Lee*An essay outlining some of the systemic causes behind the vast wealth gap between Black and white Americans today.
“The Economy that Slavery Built,” episode 2 of the 1619 podcast with Nikole Hannah-Jones and Matthew DesmondA podcast episode tracing the roots of the U.S.’s brutal brand of capitalism to its roots in enslavement.
*=Note: These texts have been scaffolded and prepared for student annotation by the educators. Explore the complete unit plan to find student-facing versions of the resources.
|Supplemental Resources Providing Arguments for Reparations||“What Is Owed” by Nikole Hannah-Jones from The New York Times
“Ta-Nehisi Coates Revisits The Case for Reparations” in The New Yorker
Video: Trevor Noah interviews Nikole Hannah-Jones on The Daily Show
|Supplemental Resources Providing Arguments Against Reparations||“Reparations for Slavery - Pros & Cons” from ProCon.org
“The Impossibility of Reparations” by David Frum from The Atlantic
“Black reparations panel could decide who gets compensation” from Fox News
Common Core Standards
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.
Evaluate authors' differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors' claims, reasoning, and evidence.
Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.
Evaluate an author's premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
Throughout this unit, students annotated texts to identify and evaluate their key claims, and to analyze the rhetorical strategies used by the authors.
Students also expressed personal opinions, questions, and key takeaways related to the resources they explored in this unit through group discussions, gallery walks, and graffiti boards, using Post-it notes to share their reflections.
To conclude this unit, students wrote essays that synthesize the arguments proposed by 1619 Project contributors, as well as counterarguments, in order to develop a position on compensation, reparations, and on what, if anything, is owed to the descendants of enslaved Black Americans. Explore quotes from their essays, and select complete essays, below.
While some may argue that reparations aren’t owed to living descendants, as “the people who are owed for slavery are no longer here” and the concept of “collective guilt” grows (Source G), the purpose of this indemnification is to encourage “remembrance and repentance for for the wrongs of the past” and the lasting societal impacts slavery and suffering left behind…Reparations should aim to advocate equality and the unification of a nation torn apart by slavery and its grueling consequences, whether it be providing “better schools, more jobs, some form of universal health coverage” (Source G) or other types of government aid…It is only after reparations are given that the country can consider its sins atoned for, and with such diligence the issues facing Black Americans today can be slowly diminished…The impact slavery had on the United States is not one that should be forgotten, and for the majority of descendants, these reparations will make a drastic difference in their lives and future generations.
Students examine how the forced labor of enslaved Black Americans was a commodity in establishing U.S. wealth and success; explore their contributions to the formation of American democracy; and examine arguments for and against reparations.Unfortunately, due to America's racist and discriminatory past, descendants of enslaved peoples have been unable to build generational wealth in any natural way. Reparations allow these communities a chance at gaining generational wealth and would adequately lessen the wealth gap in America. After all, isn't it better for all citizens of America to succeed, especially the descendants of the people who built it?