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Units May 26, 2022

Understanding the Racial Wealth Gap

Lesson Summary: Students will explore resources about the wealth theft from Black Americans that has repeatedly occurred from 1619 to the present in order to research and propose a comprehensive solution. Downloads: Full unit plan and teaching materials

This unit was created by 10th grade African American History Educators in Philadelphia, PA, as part of the 2021 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately 2-3 weeks, or eight class periods.

In this unit, students will explore the wealth theft from Black Americans that has repeatedly occurred from 1619 to the present. They will look at ways Black Americans have resisted this and consider what solutions they might be able to envision for the ongoing racial wealth gap in the United States. At the end of the unit, students will consider a problem they have explored in the unit and create a proposal for a comprehensive solution. Innovative solutions are the goal. Students should not be limited by what is “practical.” The forms offered for the final project are photo essay, expert presenter presentation, podcast, and zine.

Objectives and Outcomes

Students will be able to…

  • deconstruct and evaluate primary and secondary source documents in order to have a clear understanding of different media sources.
  • delineate and evaluate an argument in order to be able to participate in civil discourse. 
  • conduct research to produce clear and coherent writing in order to express their learning, understanding, and opinion.
  • compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics in order to create their own opinion.

Essential Questions:

  1. What are ways that the United States could begin to repair the harm of enslavement, Jim Crow, and other forms of wealth theft from Black Americans? 
  2. How does white rage fuel the racial wealth gap?

Guiding Questions:

  • Why are Black Americans often living in a lower socioeconomic class in the U.S.? 
  • What patterns do we notice about violence and terrorism by White Americans against the Black middle class? 
  • What are reparations and are they actually possible in the U.S.? 
  • Why does the Tulsa Massacre stand out as a jarring event in history? 
  • How is American Capitalism more brutal than other forms? 
  • What are possible solutions to the wealth gap for Black Americans?

Performance Tasks

Assessment 1: After reading and interacting with numerous materials, students will participate in a conversation about the history of wealth inequality in the United States. Students will have the opportunity to prepare for this and students not actively speaking will utilize a backchannel on Padlet to share thoughts and questions, as well as capture quotes from speakers. 

Assessment 2: Students will apply what they have learned to propose a solution to the lasting impacts of enslavement and wealth theft.  They will be able to choose the format in which they would like to share their learning and proposed solution. Students can choose to present their information as either a photo essay, zine, podcast, or presentation. Each method will require students to research and develop an argument to defend their solution.


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