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Units March 2, 2022

Defenders of Democracy

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Lesson Summary: In a series of inquiries that culminate in a claim-based research task, an investigative journalism piece, and an informed action project, students learn about the pivotal role Black Americans continue to play as defenders of democracy, find modern-day defenders of democracy, and develop a plan to defend democracy themselves. Downloads: Unit resources Links: 1619 podcast and transcripts
SECTIONS


This unit was created by educators in Chicago, IL, as part of the 2021 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately 28 class periods.

Objectives

Students will be able to...

  • Create and defend a claim, based on multiple pieces of evidence, about how Black people have defended democracy
  • Conduct an investigative report about a current, local, underreported defender of democracy 
  • Develop a plan for a civic action to defend democracy

Essential Questions

  • How and why have Black people defended democracy?
  • Who is defending democracy in our communities and why?
  • In what ways can I be a defender of democracy and why?

Unit Overview

Although the United States has been called a democracy from its earliest origins, Americans have always disagreed about who has the right to participate in our democracy. Students will learn that throughout our nation’s history, many Black Americans have played a pivotal role as “defenders of democracy,” taking actions to demand that the right to fully participate in our democracy is extended to all Americans equally. 

As we look at the history of our nation, students will see that the definition of who has the right to participate has broadened and continues to broaden, in large part thanks to the activism of Black Americans. Yet even today, our democracy is not perfect. The ongoing work of defending democracy continues, and as we look for modern-day “defenders of democracy,” students will find that the members of their communities are taking up that mantle in many different ways. Additionally, students will come to see themselves as fellow “defenders of democracy,” taking actions informed by careful planning and collaboration, to advocate for equality and justice for ourselves and our communities.

The unit consists of three inquiries, which culminate in a claim-based research task, an investigative journalism piece, and an informed action project.

Performance Task

Each inquiry results in a unique performance task designed to advance the learner’s engagement with themes of the unit.

At the end of Inquiry 1, students create and defend a claim, based on multiple pieces of evidence, about how Black people have defended democracy. The final product will take the form of a web page submission to the Defenders of Democracy Hall of Fame, using multiple examples to show a way that Black people have defended democracy.  

At the end of Inquiry 2, students conduct an investigative report about a current, local defender of democracy - an underreported

story. The final product will take the form of a web page submission to the Defenders of Democracy Hall of Fame, profiling a local person or organization. 

At the end of Inquiry 3, students develop a plan for civic action to defend democracy, possibly execute the plan or take a beginning step to execute the plan. Reflect on the scope of the planned action and its impact on the intended audience.

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