This unit was created by the Kensington Health Sciences Humanities Team as part of the 2021 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately ten weeks with daily lessons.
- How can we reconcile the ideals of liberty and equality in the founding documents with the historical reality of slavery and its legacy of racism?
- What techniques do writers use to make their arguments stronger?
Students will be able to...
- Identify how an author uses evidence, reasoning, and/or rhetorical techniques to strengthen their argument, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of that argument.
- Understand the major themes of the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, in order to evaluate how different authors interpret these texts.
- Analyze how historical and social context influences an author’s perspective.
- Use textual evidence in order to justify their claims about how an author strengthens their argument.
- Use context clues, morphology, and other strategies as appropriate to determine meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary.
Students will begin by reading and discussing the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. They will then read the first two sections of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ anchor essay for The 1619 Project, “The Idea of America.” As they read Hannah-Jones’ piece, they will practice finding the author’s thesis and analyzing what kinds of evidence, reasoning, and stylistic techniques Hannah-Jones uses to strengthen that thesis. After using a graphic organizer to keep track of this information, they will use their notes to write a short analytical response explaining how Hannah-Jones strengthens her argument.
Much of the negative press The 1619 Project has received attempts to paint Hannah-Jones’ thesis as somehow not grounded in history. In the latter weeks of the unit, students engage with a series of primary source texts and draw their own conclusions. Each of the four additional texts included (an excerpt from David Walker’s “Appeal”; Frederick Douglass’ famous speech “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”; Justice Taney’s infamous majority opinion in Dred Scott v. Sanford; and “Lynching: Our National Crime” by Ida B. Wells) grapples with the conflict between what the founding documents say America stands for, and the reality of the Black experience in America. As they work with each text, students will continue to practice finding an author’s claim, determining how they strengthen that claim, and communicating that information clearly in argumentative writing.
The performance task for this unit will be a portfolio of short analytical responses to the texts we read. Each response will consist of two paragraphs. In the first paragraph, students will explain how the author of the text reconciles the ideals of liberty and equality in the founding documents with the historical reality of slavery and (if applicable) its legacy of racism. Students will be expected to identify the author’s thesis or main idea, and justify their choice with evidence from the text. In the second paragraph, students will identify what they believe to be the most important way the author strengthens their argument. They will choose a salient example to illustrate their point, and evaluate how effective that technique was.
As part of the final portfolio assignment, students will choose 2-3 of the short responses they have written to polish and revise, based on peer and teacher feedback. In addition, they will prepare an additional written reflection, responding to the question “Which author made the strongest argument, and why?”
Ten-week unit plan for teachers, including pacing, texts and multimedia resources, and worksheets for student projects. Download below, or scroll down to review key resources included in the unit plan.
“How to Manufacture a Moral Panic” by Sarah Jones, an article exploring how right-wing activists and media personalities ignited a moral panic around "critical race theory" in schools
The Declaration of Independence
“Declaration” by Tracy K Smith, an erasure of the Declaration of Independence
The Bill of Rights / The Bill of Rights, in simplified language
|Texts for Analysis||
“The Idea of America” by Nikole Hannah-Jones: The essay at the cornerstone of The 1619 Project, exploring the contributions of Black Americans in moving America towards its stated democratic ideals. This version of the essay, in .pdf form, has been broken up into sections for student exploration by the unit authors. (A .docx version is also available in the complete unit plan, and in the downloadable zip file.)
Excerpts from David Walker’s “Appeal”: Writings by abolitionist David Walker that address free and enslaved Black Americans and encourage resistance and revolt, first published in 1829.
“What, to the Slave, Is the Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglass: A speech delivered on July 5, 1852 at the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society.
Excerpt from Roger B. Taney’s majority opinion in Dred Scott vs. Sandford: An infamous case decided in 1857 in which the Supreme Court ruled that the descendants of enslaved people could not be considered citizens under Article III of the U.S. Constitution.
“Lynching: Our National Crime” by Ida B. Wells: A speech delivered in 1909 at the National Negro Conference, the antecedent of the NAACP.
Pennsylvania Department of Education Standards
Determine and analyze the relationship between two or more central ideas of a text, including the development and interaction of the central ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences and conclusions based on and related to an author’s implicit and explicit assumptions and beliefs.
Analyze foundational U.S. and world documents of historical, political, and literary significance for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.
Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research, applying grade-level reading standards for literature and literary nonfiction.
Evaluate how the speaker’s perspective, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric affect the credibility of an argument through the author’s stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone.
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade-level reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies and tools.
Below, explore examples of students' assessments for this unit. Throughout the unit, students were asked to write and revise two-paragraph responses to the texts they explored in this unit, analyzing how the texts reconcile the principles of liberty and equality espoused in the founding documents with the reality of slavery and its legacy, and evaluating how the authors used rhetorical devices to strengthen their arguments.
- Model response to "The Idea of America" by Nikole Hannah-Jones
- Sample student response to "The Idea of America" by Nikole Hannah-Jones
- Sample student response to David Walker's "Appeal"
Before writing their two-paragraph responses, students practiced taking notes and annotating texts. These notes and annotations became resources for crafting their formative and summative assessments.
Sample Annotated copy of "The Idea of America" by Nikole Hannah-Jones
Sample completed graphic organizer for part one of "The Idea of America" by Nikole Hannah-Jones