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Thurgood Marshall Makes a Difference

Can one person make a difference? Find out how Thurgood Marshall's legal career in Civil Rights shaped the lives of people in the United States.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Organize students into small groups to study the life and deeds of Thurgood Marshall. The focus of their research in this lesson will be to investigate how the life and deeds of Thurgood Marshall changed the lives of African Americans and all people who live in the United States. Invite students to include in their research a look into Thurgood's early educational experiences, his parents and grandparents, his early life as an attorney, and significant law cases that he is connected to.
    2. Create a diorama to illustrate Thurgood Marshall's journey to become the first African American to serve on the highest court in the country, just 13 years after he had argued before it for the rights of African American school children. Cut off the top and one long side of a recycled box with Crayola® Scissors. Save the cut pieces for later use.
    3. With Crayola Colored Pencils, Color Sticks or Crayola Multicultural Markers, illustrate Marshall's argument before the Supreme Court (or any other scene from his life that you choose) on the bottom and sides of the box.
    4. With the extra box pieces or recycled file folders, draw the Supreme Court Justices as they listen to Marshall. Cut out pieces as needed. With Crayola School Glue, attach judges to the box in front of Marshall. Then illustrate Marshall as a Supreme Court Justice. Cut the figure out and attach him to the foreground of the box to make it look like he is remembering his role in Brown v. Board of Education.
    5. Provide an opportunity for students to present their dioramas to classmates and participate in a discussion regarding Thurgood Marshall's influence on the advancement of Civil Rights in the United States.
  • Standards

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade level topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

    LA: Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

    SS: Identify key ideals of the United States' democratic republican form of government, such as individual human dignity, liberty justice, equality, and the rule of law, and discuss their application in specific situations.

    SS: Explain how public policies and citizen behaviors may or may not reflect the stated ideals of a democratic republican form of government.

    SS: Explain the purpose of government.

    SS: Identify and use various sources for reconstructing the past, such as documents, letters, diaries, maps, textbooks, photos, and others.

    SS: Explore factors that contribute to one's personal identity such as interests, capabilities, and perceptions.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

    VA: Integrate visual, spatial, and temporal concepts with content to communicate intended meaning in artworks.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: A Picture Book of Thurgood Marshall by David A. Adler; Thurgood Marshall (Biography Series) by Montrew Dunham; Thurgood Marshall (Up Close) by Chris Crowe; Thurgood Marshall: The Supreme Court Rules on "Separate but Equal" (A Graphic History of the Civil Rights Movement) by Gary Jeffrey; Plessy v. Ferguson: Segregation and the Separate but Equal Policy (Landmark Supreme Court Cases) by David Cates

    Encourage students to investigate the U.S. Supreme Court. How many justices sit on the court? How does someone get to be a justice? How long do justices serve? What are they charged with accomplishing? How does this branch of the U. S. government work with the other two branches?

    Students research the history of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). What was the purpose of its formation? How has its mission evolved during its history? What does the NAACP stand for today?

    Examine other justices that sat with Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court. What are significant cases that they addressed? How did their decisions change life in the United States for the future? Students work in small groups to examine a single case that was addressed by the Supreme Court while Thurgood Marshall was a justice. Organize research into an electronic format for presentation to classmates.

    Students investigate other "firsts" for the U. S. Supreme Court, such as the appointment of the first woman on the court, Sandra Day O'Connor.

    Working in small groups, students look at the saying "separate but equal" that was inspired by the law suit Plessy v. Ferguson. Research the facts of the case and the Supreme Court's response to hearing the appeal. How did this case set the course for minority treatment for the first half of the 20th century?


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