Lesson Plan: Overview

Desegregation of Public Schools in South Carolina


Grade Level: 5th

Dr Millicent Brown

Academic Standards

Social Studies Standard 5-5: The student will demonstrate and understanding of the social, economic, and political events that influenced the United States during the Cold War era.

5-5.3 Explain the advancement of the civil rights movement in the United States, including key events and people: desegregation of the armed forces, Brown v. Board of Education, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X.

Social Studies Literacy Elements

A. Distinguish between past, present, and future time

E. Explain change and continuity over time

G. Make and record observations about the physical and human characteristics of places

K. Use texts, photographs, and documents to observe and interpret social studies trends and relationships

O. Consider multiple perspectives of documents and stories

P. Locate, gather, and process information from a variety of primary and secondary sources including maps

S. Interpret and synthesize information obtained from a variety of sources—graphs, charts, tables, diagrams, texts, photographs, documents, and interviews
Essential Questions

1. Why were segregated schools unfair?

2. Why did some South Carolinians favor the desegregation of schools while others opposed it?

3. How did some South Carolinians contribute to the desegregation of schools?

Historical Background Notes

After Reconstruction, public schools in South Carolina (SC) and other states were segregated by race. Facilities were grossly unequal, which meant many African American students attended schools with very limited accommodations. Many school buildings lacked adequate heat and plumbing, were not well maintained, and were often over-crowded. Text books were cast-offs from neighboring white schools. Black students commonly walked long distances to attend school, while white students were provided school buses. African American students and parents recognized the blatant injustice of segregation, and in rural Clarendon, South Carolina, a group of them decided to try to change it. Their vision ultimately became one of the greatest legal battles in our nation’s history, Brown v. Board of Education.

Reverend J. A. DeLaine emerged as a leader of the fight against segregation in SC. In addition to his role in the community as a minister, he was also a teacher and member of the NAACP. Citizens signed petitions stating the school board failed to provide African American students with accommodations equal to those of white students. Many of the petition signers, including Harry Briggs, lost their jobs as a result of their participation, yet they continued despite the personal risks.

Eventually attorney Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP took on the case and claimed segregated schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment. He and the others knew separate facilities would never be equal, and they knew the fight to overcome segregation would be enormous. Undaunted by the magnitude of the challenge, they proceeded and questioned the institution of segregation in federal court. In 1952, the NAACP’s lawyers combined the Clarendon, South Carolina case with four other similar school segregation cases and together became Brown v. Board of Education. This case ended up in the Supreme Court, which in 1954 determined “separate but equal has no place.” School segregation was finally deemed unconstitutional.

Though a major victory, the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision was only the beginning of the fight for the actual implementation of desegregation. Changes were to be made “with all deliberate speed,” a phrase too vague to be effective. Some people even argued it was so unclear it could even be successfully ignored indefinitely. Opponents to desegregation who wanted to maintain the status quo vehemently resisted the progress called for by the victory of Brown, and some even resorted to violence. The first African American students to attend formerly all-white schools had to be protected by police and military escorts. Some white parents refused to send their children to school as a way to protest the very presence of black students. Much work still lay ahead.

Perhaps the most important and arguably the bravest contributors of all were the children and teenagers who were the pioneers of desegregation. Their stories are powerful and touching testaments to the strength and resiliency of the human spirit. Many of their experiences have been preserved through initiatives such as Dr. Millicent Brown’s, “Somebody Had To Do It” through Claflin University.

School desegregation was finally achieved after long, difficult struggles through the court system, including Briggs v. Elliott in South Carolina and culminating in Brown v. Board of Education. Conversely, the fight for equality has not yet been won as is evident through examinations of disparities among schools in South Carolina today. Fortunately, however, the good fight continues.
Cultural Institution Partners

Richland County Public Library

Dr. Millicent Brown, "Somebody Had To Do It: A Children's Retrospective on the Process of U.S. School Desegregation"


Primary Sources

Brown, Millicent. “The Dippity Doo Revolution or Grown Folks Don’t Have a Clue,” date unknown. Avery Research Center, Charleston, South Carolina.

Negro Pupils End A Charleston Era.” New York Times (New York City, New York), 31 August 1963: Special, p. 6.

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

"School Integration Begins Calmly in South Carolina and Baton Rouge.” New York Times (New York City, New York), 4 September 1963: Section A, p. 1. Millicent Brown Papers, Avery Research Center, Charleston, South Carolina.

Secondary Sources

Bell, Derrick. Silent Covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the Unfulfilled Hopes for Racial Reform. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.

Cushman, Clare and Martin Urofsky. Black, White, and Brown: the Landmark School Desegregation Case in Retrospect. Supreme Court Historical Society, 2004.

Levine, Ellen. Freedom’s Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories. New York: Puffin Books, 1993.

Morrison, Toni. Remember: The Long Journey to School Integration. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004 (click on the Google Preview link for a look inside the book).

Thomas, Joyce Carol. Linda Brown, You Are Not Alone: The Brown v. Board of Education Decision. New York: Jump at the Sun Hyperion Books for Children, 2003 (click on the book image for a preview of the book).

Ruby Bridges: Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges

Linda Brown, You Are Not Alone: The Brown v. Board of Education Decision by Joyce Carol Thomas

Remember: The Long Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison

Oh, Freedom! by Casey King (collection of oral histories written by fourth grade interviewers)

Freedom’s Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen Levine

copies of primary sources (see Primary Sources section above)

Brain Pop video: “Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka” (www.brainpop.com)

Venn diagrams

Lesson Plans

Day 1:
Activate prior knowledge by reviewing concept of racial segregation, Jim Crow laws, and term “separate but equal.” Initiate class discussion of what it would be like to attend segregated schools. How would our experiences be different? What may be the same? Ask students to use their schemas and infer whether segregated schools were actually “separate but equal” or not. Create Venn diagram to compare and contrast segregated schools.

Introduce Brown v. Board of Education by providing background information via Brain Pop video “Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka” at www.brainpop.com (membership required). Provide copies of primary source “Petition of Harry Briggs” and allow groups of three to four students to examine and discuss.

Day 2:
Begin immersing students in related literature. Read aloud and discuss Remember: The Long Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison. Emphasize the author’s note. Take time to study the photographs, especially noting people’s facial expressions throughout the book. Follow with second read aloud, Ruby Bridges: Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges. Discuss what it must have been like as a pioneer school integrator. Provide additional related literature for students during self-selected reading time.

Day 3:
Provide copies of primary source, Millicent Brown’s essay, “The Dippity Doo Revolution or Grown Folks Don’t Have a Clue.” Read and discuss Dr. Brown’s reflections on the day before she was to be one of two African American students to desegregate a high school in Charleston, SC. Next, provide copies of primary source, “Negro Pupils End A Charleston Era.” Assign students to write a brief response to the essay and newspaper article. Tell students they will meet Dr. Brown tomorrow.

Day 4:
Dr. Millicent Brown will visit and share her experiences with students in person. What an honor for us!

Day 5:
Assign students to write a thank-you letter to Dr. Brown for her gracious visit. Letters must include evidence of student learning and reflections on Dr. Brown’s visit. The letters will serve two purposes: actual notes of gratitude to send to Dr. Brown and a means of assessment.

Optional extension: Have students conduct interviews with people they know personally who experienced segregated school settings and compile interviews into class book. Use Oh, Freedom! by Casey King (collection of oral histories written by fourth grade interviewers) as model and further inspiration.

Teacher Reflections

Teaching American History in South Carolina (TAHSC) has definitely had a positive impact on my teaching. Prior to this experience, I did not know much at all about where to find primary sources or how to use them in my classes. I know they are important and vital components of best practices in teaching, but my ignorance about how to get my hands on them kept me from seeking them much at all. I was pleasantly surprised to find out how many resources are available to support teachers and how accessible most of them are. For example, I had never been to South Caroliniana Library or the South Carolina Department of Archives and History before. While the librarians and assistants at the former were a bit territorial and not as approachable as I may have preferred, the staff at the latter was most accommodating. I was amazed and impressed by the amount of historical documents and information housed in both facilities. Although I have never been a history fanatic, I can see now for the first time how fascinating it can be to research primary documents. If I only had the time!

Although it is unrealistic of me to claim I plan to use primary documents in every history lesson I teach as a result of this course, it is absolutely realistic to state I will incorporate them with much greater frequency. I plan to build a “treasure trove” of my own and add pieces each year. This will enrich my teaching repertoire monumentally and will enable me to make history lessons more relevant to students. Holding documents in their hands and reading the actual handwriting of people who lived through historical events is powerful and engaging to students.  Although I may have cognitively known this prior to taking the course, I did not fully realize the impact it could have on my daily classroom. Experiences with primary documents make the past seem less distant, and the closer it seems, the more meaningful it is. I am interested to see how my current students’ standardized test scores compare with those of years’ past. (Don’t get me wrong – I do not care a whole lot about standardized test scores, but I recognize they are one indicator of student learning. I fully realize they are not the be-all, end-all of our existence.)

Paul’s lectures were probably my favorite parts of the Teaching American History in South Carolina experience. He was so knowledgeable and spoke so easily about history, which made the information seem very accessible. I have only recently become even mildly interested in history, and I feel like I am so far behind I will never catch up! However, since it is my job to teach American history to fifth graders, I have to make it my business to become more educated. Listening to Paul showed me that it is possible for me to actually be interested in finding out more. I honestly do not remember much about social studies instruction throughout my school years. I hope I do a better job of sparking interest in my own students, and Paul’s lectures certainly inspired me to beef up my delivery. Two suggestions I would make for future sessions are to allot more time to discuss the novels we were required to read and to provide feedback to our reading responses.

Preston and Mitchell provided many excellent resources and practical ideas of ways to incorporate primary sources in everyday instruction. I always appreciate seeing master teachers in action, and both of them are obviously experts! I especially benefited from their presentation about Photo Story and can already use that with my students. The audio clips and Power Point presentations also illustrated how varied primary sources are. Before taking this course, I tended to think of paper documents as the only primary sources. I would love to see these two amazing teachers in action with their students sometime! They brought us such expertise while continuing to be approachable as colleagues. Never once did I feel either of them had any airs of superiority, which may have made them seem less authentic and therefore, made them less effective. Both were well-suited for their roles in the institute.

Overall I feel my participation in Teaching American History in South Carolina has made me a better teacher. It has prompted me to become more intentional about my social studies instruction. Since I am primarily a language arts teacher, my professional development focus tends to be on literacy instruction. I am proud to have taken on the challenge of a different area outside my proverbial comfort zone, and I am pleased by my genuine enthusiasm and sincere interest in learning more and more. I truly believe the best teachers are those who maintain their thirst for learning, those who never stop trying to improve their teaching skills. One of my greatest fears in life is stagnancy, and participating in TAHSC made me feel inspired to expand my quest for growth and improvement. My general knowledge about American history has increased, and as a result, my interest was piqued. Interest leads to investigation, which in turn leads to more learning. That has to benefit my students.

Throughout my career I have observed that my students tend to get excited about whatever I am excited about, which stands to reason. Now that I am more enthusiastic about history, I see an increase in my student’s energy and engagement as well. Prior to this school year I have mostly relied on secondary sources to help my students make connections between their lives and the past. Every year I select novels with historical content to read and study with my classes to try and make history come alive. Now I can add primary sources to my “bag of tricks” with greater confidence and increase the effectiveness of my teaching, which is what it’s all about. I appreciate the opportunities this experience has afforded me, and I am especially grateful to Lauren Safranek for connecting me with Dr. Millicent Brown. I highly recommend Teaching American History in South Carolina to other teachers who want to continue learning and growing.

Student Assessment

Assessment Outline

Performance assessment rubric for thank-you letter to Dr. Brown:


Exceeds Expectations


Meets Expectations


Does Not Meet Expectations


No Credit

Letter Form

Writing is in standard friendly letter format. All components are present and are used correctly.

Maximum of two errors in format and/or two friendly letter components are absent.

More than two format errors and/or more than two friendly letter components are absent.

Illegible or nothing submitted


Writing is thoughtful, reflective, and demonstrates advanced understanding of Brown v. BoE and school desegregation experiences.

Writing demonstrates adequate understanding of Brown v. BoE and school desegregation experiences.

Writing fails to demonstrate adequate understanding of Brown v. BoE and school desegregation experiences.

Illegible or nothing submitted

            6 = A               5 = B               4 = C               3 = D               < 2 = F           

Examples of Students Work

Student Thank-you Letter 1
Student Thank-you Letter 2
Student Thank-you Letter 3
Student Venn Diagram 1
Student Venn Diagram 2
Student Essay Response 1
Student Essay Response 2
Student Essay Response 3


Andrea Derrick
Doby's Mill Elementary
Lugoff, South Carolina