artwork from The 1619 Project

Units October 21, 2021

Exploring America’s Voices: The Connection Between Past, Present, and Future


Lesson Summary: Students examine the rhetorical strategies of texts, photo essays, and podcasts from “The 1619 Project” in order to write rhetorical precis and an analytical essay. Downloads: Unit resources Links: The 1619 project: complete pdf

This unit was created by ELA Educators in Idaho Schools, part of the 2021 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately 3-4 weeks, or 15-20 70 minute class periods.


Students will be able to...

  • Closely read, analyze, discuss, and write about given nonfiction texts (individually and in groups) in order to make a connection to real-world events and problems.
  • Make a claim about the effectiveness of an author’s rhetoric and support that analysis with textual evidence.
  • Organize claims logically, establish significance of claims, and anticipate their audience’s values and biases.
  • Analyze texts for themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.
  • Write a rhetorical analysis essay.

Essential Questions

  • What story do people tell or believe about you?
  • What story do you tell or believe about someone else?
  • What story is told/believed about America?
  • How do these narratives inform our understanding of ourselves, our community, others, and our country?
  • How are the past, present, and future linked in yourself, others, your community, and your country?

Unit Overview

In this unit, students will spend about three weeks learning about and practicing rhetorical analysis of various texts in multiple modes, including print essays, videos, photo essays, and podcasts from The 1619 Project. Their learning will culminate with a rhetorical analysis essay in which they choose three different types of texts (one photo essay, one podcast, one written essay) and analyze how they connect the past to the present/tell the story of the past/achieve each author’s individual purpose. Students will practice close reading, analytical thinking, civil discussions, argumentative/persuasive writing with claims and evidence, and more.

Performance Task

This unit’s summative assessment is an analytical essay. The texts students read across this unit have all shared a common goal: to share the story of America from various perspectives. The authors have aimed to demonstrate the ongoing impacts of slavery, racism, economic disparity, and other injustices on today’s world. Students will choose three texts—an essay, a photo essay, and a podcast—and write about how their authors achieved this goal within their works. Students will consider the choices the authors made and describe how those choices supported their purposes. In this essay, students are not writing about whether they agree with the authors. Rather, they are analyzing how the writing is successful.


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