Lesson Plan: Overview

"Bus"ting Down the Doors of Segregation

Briggs v. Elliott
Grade Level: 3rd
Liberty Hill Colored School

Academic Standards

Social Studies Standard 3-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the major developments in South Carolina in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century.

3-5.6 Summarize the key events and effects of the civil rights movement in South Carolina, including the desegregation of schools (Briggs v. Elliott) and other public facilities and the acceptance of African Americans’ rights to vote.

English Language Arts Standard 3-5: The student will write for a variety of purposes and audiences.

3-5.3 Create written descriptions about people, places, or events.

English Language Arts Standard 3-6: The student will access and use information from a variety of sources.

3-6.4 Paraphrase research information accurately and meaningfully.

Social Studies Literacy Elements
No literacy elements available for this lesson plan.
Essential Questions

1. How did the court case of Briggs v. Elliott affect segregation of schools?

2. Why is Briggs v. Elliott an important part of the Civil Rights movement in South Carolina?

Historical Background Notes

In 1947 some brave, ordinary (but quite extraordinary) African Americans brought about change in the policies regarding the segregation of public school facilities. These few African Americans filed a court case known as Briggs v. Elliott. It combined with several other similar cases and became known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.  The dispute began with the need for a school bus for African American children in Clarendon County, South Carolina and ended with better educational opportunities for all. It effectively “…caused the National office of the NAACP to redirect its approach from suing for “separate but equal” facilities to challenging segregation as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution” (Williams, 47).

Clarendon County was a small rural community.  Like other parts of the South, Jim Crow Laws were in place and discriminated against Blacks.  Schools here were segregated and grossly unequal.  About three fourths of Clarendon County was black.  Most African Americans worked as sharecroppers or maids.  In fact, schools catered to this life style for blacks by limiting educational opportunities for blacks.  Blacks would be offered courses in agriculture and home economics.  African American schools were “unhealthy, overcrowded, and in dilapidated condition” (Petition of Harry Briggs, 1949).   White facilities were far more superior.  They were constructed with sturdy materials. The facilities were spacious and offered a variety of educational opportunities.

“ [The case of Briggs v. Elliott] began as a simple effort to obtain school buses for African-American children” ( Botsch, 178).  Bus service was provided for white children but not black.  Some black children had to walk from eight to ten miles to school each way!  Reverend Joseph Armstrong DeLaine, a minister and principal, went to the school board with the request for a bus.  His request was denied.  He was told that black citizens did not pay enough taxes to support a bus, and it would not be fair to ask white taxpayers to provide bus transportation for black students.  He and some parents bought an old bus that they used for awhile. However, it broke down frequently, so DeLaine found Levi Pearson. His children had to walk nine or ten miles to Scott’s Branch School.  He filed a petition for bus transportation for black children.  The case was dismissed.  “Under the leadership of Reverend Joseph A. Delaine, an AME minister, the parents filed a new suit known as Briggs v. Elliott” (Williams, 50).  This case challenged the legality of the “separate but equal” ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson.  Harry Briggs was the first signature on the petition, so it was named after him.  “…The case bearing his name, became the first school desegregation case to move to the U.S. Supreme Court…Briggs and his wife Eliza lost their jobs but steadfastly refused to remove their names from a petition requesting that segregation be declared unconstitutional.” (Williams, 87).  Terrible things happened to others that signed and supported the petition. Reverend Delaine’s son recalled, “On several occasions in 1955, our home (a church parsonage) was fired upon by person in cars that then sped away. Reverend Delaine gave the license numbers to the police, but they told him, ‘Preacher, get yourself another pair of eyeglasses.’{His church in Lake City} was mysteriously destroyed by fire. {He received} an anonymous letter …giving him ‘10 days to leave town or die.’ On October 10, 1955, there was heavy gunfire aimed at our house.  They were shooting into our house, and my father was shooting out” (Williams, 50). However,  they persevered.  The case went to the Supreme Court and was combined with some cases that were challenging the same law.  It became known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. Thurgood Marshall argued that there was no such thing as “separate but equal.”  This was demonstrated with tests on dolls by a psychologist, Dr. Kenneth Clark.  The Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” had no place.  This was a major victory for African Americans and equality.  However, desegregation was not immediately realized.  The term “with deliberate speed” gave the South an excuse to slow down the court order.  However, because a few brave ordinary people, segregated barriers have now been broken.  Desegregation has become a reality. Segregation was “bus”ted because of the need for a bus.

Cultural Institution Partners

Pendleton District Commission, Pendleton, SC

I obtained photos of segregated schools here to use in my lesson.  Nothing was found here on Briggs. v. Elliott.

I also visited Anderson County Museum after the class.  I was absent this day of class due to my daughter getting married, so I went on my own.  They had a small section on Briggs, but I was unable to take pictures in the museum due to the flash.

By visiting the various cultural institutions, I was able to get a firsthand glimpse of the past.  They all had so much to offer and helped me make connections to different time periods in history. 


Primary Sources

Black Jack School Children 1937-38,” Photograph. Blackjack School, 1937-38 Vertical File, Pendleton Local History Archives, Pendleton District Commission, Pendleton, SC.

Kelley, Robert W. "White Students and Teacher in Segregated School Classroom." Photograph. Mar 01, 1953. Time & Life Pictures. Getty Images. Accessed 2 November 2009.

"Mrs. Ray’s First Grade Class, Washington Elementary School." Photograph. University of Kansas Libraries, Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Separate Is Not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education. Topeka, Kansas: Segregation in the Heartland. National Museum of American History, Behring Center. Accessed 2 November 2009.

Petition of Harry Briggs, et al., to the Board of Trustees for School District No. 22.  11 November 1949.  Clarendon County Board of Education, L14167. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

Segregated School. West Memphis, Arkansas 1949. Photograph. Black Past. Accessed 2 November 2009.

“Summerton Graded.”  #00476. State Budget and Control Board, Sinking Fund Commission, Insurance File Photographs, 1948-1951. S 112113.  South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

“22 Liberty Hill Colored.” #00477.  State Budget and Control Board, Sinking Fund Commission, Insurance File Photographs, 1948-1951. S 112113.  South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

Secondary Sources

“American History: Racial Inequality: Remnants of a Troubled Time.” Discovery Education. SCETV. Accessed July 2009.

Botsch, Robert E. Briggs v. Elliott (1954). University of South Carolina Aiken, Aiken, South Carolina. Accessed 13 December 2009.

Botsch, Dr. Carol Sears, Dr. Robert E. Botsch, Dr. James O. Farmer, Dr. W. Calvin Smith, and Dr. Barbara Woods.  African Americans and the Palmetto State. Columbia, South Carolina. South Carolina State Department of Education, 2004.

Briggs v. Elliot PowerPoint. Road Trip! Knowitall. ETV Commission. Accessed 17 January 2010.

Fairfax, Barbara and Adela Garcia. Read! Write! Publish! Making Books in the Classroom. Cypress, CA: Creative Teaching Press, 1992.

Hyerie, David and Chris Yeager. Thinking Maps. Cary, NC: Thinking Maps, Inc., 2007.

Malo, Barbara and Sue Lewis. Seasons and Holidays Clip Art. Cypress, CA: Creative Teaching Press, Inc., 1998.

McKissack, Patricia E. Goin’ Someplace Special. New York, New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2002.  

Tillerson, Amy J. and Susan Wise. South Carolina. Glenview, Illinois: Scott Foresman, 2005.

Walker, Joel and Donald O. Stewart. The South Carolina Adventure. Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith, 2005.

Williams, Cecil J. Out-of-the-Box in Dixie. Orangeburg, South Carolina, Cecil J. Williams Photography/Publishing, 2007.


• Access to the internet
• Access to a track
• Stopwatch
• Promethean Board
School bus cut out and cut out sentences to go on bus
• Glue
• Scissors
• Crayons
• Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia E. McKissack
• Primary Documents (Briggs Petition, Photos of Segregated Schools-Segregated School 1, Segregated School 2, Segregated School 3, Segregated School 4, Photos of  Liberty Hill and Summerton Graded)
• Paper (for bubble maps, double bubble maps, and school bus cut-outs) or bubble maps from Thinking Maps
• Pencils
• Atlas or textbook with a county map of South Carolina

Lesson Plans

Day 1: Children will be given photographs of children in segregated schools (see Tools section above).  They will be asked to describe what they notice and led to realize that in some pictures there are all white children and in others there are all black.  The word segregation will be introduced.  Read Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack. Ask children to reflect on the conditions for African Americans at this time.  Brainstorm what life was like for African Americans when their civil rights were being denied.  Children will then be given pictures of Liberty Hill and then Summerton Graded.  On a bubble map they will write adjectives that describe each school. The teacher will post adjectives on a bubble map on the Promethean Board.  Children will locate Clarendon County on a map from their South Carolina history books.  Ask children if ordinary people can do extraordinary things?  Have them think and give examples.  They will then watch a Briggs v. Elliot PowerPoint from Knowitall.org.

Day 2:  The children will discuss their bubble maps (see Examples of Students Work section below) and the PowerPoint from the previous day.   They will go to the track and walk the track for a mile.  It will be timed.  Then we will go back into the classroom to calculate how long it would have taken them to walk ten miles to school as some of the African American children did in Clarendon County.  Children will view the petition signed by Harry Briggs.  A brief discussion about what a petition is will be held.  Children will look for specific grievances on the petition. The petition will also be shown on the Promethean Board where it can be viewed by all.  We will discuss some of the consequences of signing a petition like this.  They will view primary sources from Liberty Hill and Summerton Graded Schools for a second time. They will work in groups on double bubble maps to compare and contrast the Liberty Hill School and the Summerton Graded using the petition as well as the school photos.  A discussion of Brown v. Board of Education will be held and the verdict in the court case will be discussed. 

Day 3:  A review of Briggs v. Elliott will be conducted. Children will then write a summary of the Court Case of Briggs v. Elliott.  They will write a summary of the court case on a special school bus "accordion" cut out.  They will cut and paste “It began with the need for a bus.  It ended with better educational opportunities for all.”  These will be pasted on the front and the back of the bus.

Teacher Reflections

Who knew that I would eventually love to teach history? Growing up, I “got” to listen to my teachers’ monotone voices ramble on about fact after fact and date after date as they read from our history books. The drudgery over going to history class followed me through elementary school, high school, and even through college. The only good thing that happened to me during history class (and it wasn’t really during class) was that I met my future husband while sitting outside the door cramming for information by using Cliffs Notes. He happened to be a history major and would “make fun” of me because I was taking a short cut (not very successfully) to avoid the long “boring” pages of the textbook we were assigned to read. They say “Love conquers all,” and I loved my husband very much despite his obsession with history. Then, Teaching American History in South Carolina (TAHSC) came along. Wow! Who knew that I could actually love history and love teaching it?

Who knew that taking one course could change my perspective about history? I don’t know what made me decide to take TAHSC. No teacher had ever made history interesting to me, but as a teacher I was constantly striving to try to make “this boring” subject more fun for my students. Rosie Jordan e-mailed information about the course to me. I thought, “At last, maybe someone would have some good ideas of how to teach history and make it exciting.” I went out on a limb and signed up. Now, I’m hooked.

Who knew that this well-organized course would make history real? The use of primary sources is key. These sources immediately engage students. They tap into their natural curiosity and access thought processes that bring about higher-level thinking skills. They allow students to “put a face” on people of the past, to feel what they felt, to better understand their actions, to question their actions, and reflect on their situations. Primary sources give history relevance.
They open doors and uncover reasons why events happened. One can clearly see causes and effects.

Who knew looking at the constitution could be interesting and enjoyable? Enter Paul! Paul is the “King Midas” of history. Everything he teaches becomes a golden moment. One becomes rich with knowledge, and history becomes magic. Paul Anderson became an exception to my rule about mind-numbing history teachers. He is a master at teaching history. His deep understanding of why events of the past happened the way they did is so apparent as you sit and delight in his easy-going style of teaching. Paul is a natural at what he does. He uses humor throughout his lessons and makes history so personable. Paul has a talent. He asks thought-provoking questions and baits his students to think for themselves. He dangles pieces of the puzzle in front of your nose until you “bite” catching on to significant events of the past. He constantly reinforces responses. History is definitely alive in his class. Paul enables one to “find paths” that lead to understanding the “Big Picture.” In other words, his techniques enable one to see how the facts and events come together. The importance of seeing the “Big Picture” cannot be underestimated. After all, that is how one makes the connections so that deep understanding can be realized. Again and again, I experience “the Aaaah…Haaah…so that is why it happened” moments during Paul’s teaching. I wrote down in my notes, “Will there be no end to our wonderment?” That really sums up how teachers need to make their students feel. Paul said, “Put yourself in the situation where you can see the truth. Frame the big picture in a way your students can see the truth.” I guess that is what teaching history should be. Here’s the frame. Now fill in the picture. As much as possible, I try to emulate Paul’s style of teaching, of course “geared down” for third graders.

Who knew there were so many more great ideas for teaching children? Tami Finley was a dictionary of ideas. Her use of primary sources made her sessions very engaging. Teaching is about being lifelong learners. Good teachers should always be open to new and better ideas to reach the diverse population of students. Tami is one of those teachers that address the needs of all. Tami was very easy to listen to. Her notebooking idea is one of the ideas I brought back to my classroom. By using this technique, children can be creative, are actively engaged in the activity, and are really responsible for their own learning. This method enables children to process the information that is given. It is more than just note taking. Children can use acronyms, thinking maps, illustrations, etc. to enhance their understanding of the concepts being presented. I also liked the idea about using speech bubbles for people in photographs. In order to know what someone is thinking, one has to have an understanding for what is going on. The missing puzzle piece idea, as well as the PhotoStory idea, was great. I guess I could go on and on about the ideas she shared. Honestly, I was really impressed with Tami and her methods. She is truly a Master Teacher. Once, a principal of mine made a comment that has stuck with me to this day. He said, “Some teachers, no matter how long they have taught, will always be first-year teachers and never strive to improve themselves.” I think we do have some awesome first- year teachers, but we should always look and listen to fresh ideas, so our teaching doesn’t get stale. One should strive to keep the teaching and the learning exciting and meaningful. If some of my old history teachers had used something besides “read your book” and “listen to me” techniques, my memory of history class would have been quite different.

Who knew that more could be learned from the cultural institutions? The cultural institutions are amazing. What better way to learn about history than to see it firsthand. The cultural museums were almost like taking a step back in time. It is hard to pin point the place I thought was the most beneficial. Even though I visited these places last year when I took the first part of this course, there was so much more to learn. It is hard to soak everything in the first time around. The museums, Fort Hill and Pendleton, are rich with information. The curators are personable and knowledgeable. Their presentations added to my background of information so that I could make better connections to the way things were in the past. Hopefully, when the economy is better, our classes can visit most of these places, so they too can have greater experiences by seeing through “these eyes of the past.” Each time I left the cultural institution, I felt as if I had made a new friend.

Who knew TAHSC could make teaching history my favorite subject? Each school day I can’t wait until it is history time. My principal made the commit when she last observed my class that it looked like I was having so much fun. She implied my enthusiasm “spilled over” to my children. What a great compliment. All I can say is it is because of TAHSC. The lesson I did for the class this year went very well. The 1950’s is such an interesting part of history. The children are instantly intrigued, because the things that happened in that time seemed so unfair. Their eyes light up with amazement and disbelief. In my Briggs v. Elliott lesson, the children used higher-level thinking skills when they viewed photos of the past. They had to think of adjectives to describe white and black schools. They made double bubble maps to compare and contrast present day schools to segregated ones. They increased their vocabulary as well as their understanding of why things were as they were. We watched a PowerPoint that I found online. It included lots of pictures of segregated schools and was well done, but next year I will probably do my own. I had some trouble navigating through this PowerPoint. Once it started, I couldn’t pause it or turn it off. I had to shut it down completely. I like to sometimes pause, so we can discuss different parts as we go through. The PowerPoint did give me the idea to have the children use a school bus pattern for their summaries of what happened in Briggs v. Elliott, and it gave me the phrase, “It began with the need for a bus, and ended with equal educational opportunities for all.” One child exclaimed, “I get it now! The beginning is on the front of the bus and the end is on the back!” I was impressed with my childrens' understanding of the concept of segregation, the new vocabulary words they used - “desegregation, dilapidated, segregation, civil rights, etc.” Jade wrote, “Segregation was not fair.” Then, she went on to explain in words that were beyond her years why it was unfair, and how the Briggs case became part of the Brown v. Board case. She ended her account by saying, “They desegregated the schools…and now they went to the same schools altogether.” Haley wrote, “The Supreme Court decided for black and white children to go to school together.” In Isaiah’s version, he explained, “It’s not fair to have separate but equal schools, because they would never be equal. So schools were desegregated.” Reading accounts like these lets me know that the children really “Got the BIG PICTURE.” I do feel the lesson was a huge success. However a “downside” of the lesson was that I had to teach it out of consecutive order so that I could be ready for my class in February. I made it work, and it helped that my children were already familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They were interested and engaged. My lesson on this subject was better because of the research that I had to do to teach it. Next year, I will probably let the children do a Photo Story of this era along with their written bus summaries. Originally, the Photo Story idea was my plan, but I change my mind, as I am still a “little scared” of technology. Managing the classroom is difficult while some are doing Photo Stories and others are not. I will work on this next year when I don’t feel so pressed for time.

Who knew that TAHSC had so much to offer? I am forever grateful to all that were associated with the course. My teaching and my childrens' love of history has grown tremendously. I am so glad you knew!

Student Assessment

Children will show a clear understanding of Briggs v. Elliott. 1 2 3 4

Children will have an effective introduction, body, and conclusion. 1 2 3 4

Writings have a smooth progression of ideas. 1 2 3 4

Children use precise and vivid vocabulary. 1 2 3 4

Children have a logical progression of ideas. 1 2 3 4

Examples of Students Work

Student Bubble Map 1
Student Bubble Map 2
Student Double Bubble Map 1
Student Double Bubble Map 2


Gale Beasley
West End Elementary School
Easley, South Carolina