Social Studies

Social Studies (X) - ELA (X) - Middle (X) - American Masters (X) - U.S. History (X)

Picturing Japanese American Internment: Dorothea Lange

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This media gallery explores the government-issued Japanese American internment that occurred during World War II using two videos from the American Masters film Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning. Dorothea Lange, a documentary photographer hired by the government, captures the plight of internees forced to leave their lives and homes behind. Learn about Lange’s struggle to document the reality of internment and the censorship she faced for not doing the exact job she was hired to do. The related materials draw on the videos and focus mainly on visual literacy (the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in images) as it relates to Japanese internment.

To Kill a Mockingbird Setting: A Portrait of a Southern Town in the 1930s

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In this video from American Masters: Harper Lee: Hey, Boo, learn about the small town of Monroeville, Alabama, Harper Lee’s hometown and the inspiration for the fictional town of Maycomb, the setting for To Kill a Mockingbird. Through archival interviews, photographs, and present-day commentary (including an excerpt from an interview with Harper Lee), students will learn what life was like for people living in the South during the Great Depression.

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise | You Are Enough

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Examine the Maya Angelou’s impact on those who knew her personally in this video from American Masters | Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. Utilizing video, discussion questions and teaching tips, students analyze and reflect on Angelou’s mentors in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

To Kill a Mockingbird: Southern Reaction 1960

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This video from American Masters: Harper Lee: Hey, Boo describes what life was like for those who challenged the system of segregation in the South in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Highlighting observations from cultural and literary icons as well as average American citizens, this video features important commentary that addresses the issues presented in To Kill a Mockingbird and how the public reacted to the novel when it was first published in 1960.

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise | "Caged Bird"

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In this video from American Masters | Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, students analyze an excerpt of the poem Caged Bird. Through discussion questions and a short activity, students analyze the poem by doing a close read of the text and examine the literary techniques used.

Sandburg and Lincoln

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This video from American Masters: The Day Carl Sandburg Died highlights Carl Sandburg’s biography of Abraham Lincoln. Known for his poetry, Sandburg began writing a short story about Lincoln meant for children. It soon became a six volume biography that changed the way Americans viewed Lincoln and the Civil War.

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise | Maya Angelou and the 1993 Inaugural Poem: “On the Pulse of Morning”

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In 1993, President Bill Clinton asked Maya Angelou to write a poem for his inauguration. After Clinton’s inaugural address, Maya Angelou recited her original poem “On the Pulse of Morning.” As the second poet in history to read a poem at a presidential inauguration—Robert Frost was the first when he recited a poem at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961—Angelou captured the attention of the nation. President Clinton called her poem “an eternal gift to America.” This clip from American Masters | Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise features part of her performance at the inauguration and provides background about Clinton’s reasons for asking her, her response, and how the poem was received by the public.

In this resource, students explore the role of poetry in American politics, compare Angelou and Frost, and consider how Angelou’s poem reflects the challenges and concerns of the time. Discussion questions, teaching tips, and a student handout push students to engage with Angelou’s words and to think critically about her famous work.

Lorraine Hansberry | A Raisin in the Sun: Role of Women in the 1950s

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Explore the role of women in the 1950s in this video from the American Masters film, Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart. Incorporating footage of women in the 1950s, Lorraine Hansberry’s life, and scenes from the film version of A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry’s choices are compared to the choices of female characters in the play. Support materials include discussion questions and a handout asking students to compare the life of women today versus the 1950s.

Lorraine Hansberry | A Raisin in the Sun: Jim Crow, Home Ownership, and the American Dream

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Learn how Jim Crow laws impacted home ownership and the pursuit of the American Dream in this series of videos from the American Masters film, Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart. Lorraine Hansberry’s family was at the forefront of fighting segregation in Chicago in the 1940s, even taking the fight all the way to the Supreme Court. Hansberry’s famous play, A Raisin in the Sun, continues the legacy of her parents by using literature to take a stand against racial inequality and injustice.

Support materials include discussion questions, teaching tips, and a student handout comparing the experience of Lorraine Hansberry’s family and the Younger family in A Raisin in the Sun.

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise | Harlem Writers Guild

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Explore the Harlem Writers Guild, the oldest African American writers association in the world, in this video from American Masters | Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. Teaching tips suggest asking students to research the Harlem Writers Guild and to think about writing as part of a community.

Documenting the Dust Bowl

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The Dust Bowl and resulting western migration that occurred in the 1930s is explored in this video segment from the American Masters film Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning. The agricultural devastation and ensuing migration is documented through the eyes and photographs of documentary photographer Dorothea Lange as she captures the influx on film. The segment discusses the causes and consequences of the Dust Bowl and contrasts the migrant farmers’ hopes of finding an “American Dream” in California with the distraught reality of farm life on the west coast during this time.

Carl Sandburg: Chicago | American Masters: The Day Carl Sandburg Died

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This video from American Masters: The Day Carl Sandburg Died highlights the turning point in Sandburg’s life when his poem Chicago was first published in Poetry Magazine. Published in 1914, this poem still captures the attention of readers and is as relevant today as it was in the early 20th century.

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise | Memory and Setting in "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"

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Explore how growing up in the South during the Jim Crow Era influenced Maya Angelou’s writing in this video from American Masters | Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. The power of memory and the importance of setting inform both the video and discussion questions as students are asked to consider why Maya Angelou chose to write about her own life in her famous autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise | The Impact of "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"

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In this video from American Masters | Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, learn about the lasting impact of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and why it’s such an important piece of American literature. Students answer discussion questions, analyze text from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and write a short essay to gain a deeper understanding of Angelou’s work and why it’s so impactful.

Is To Kill a Mockingbird Still Relevant Today?

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This video from American Masters: Harper Lee: Hey, Boo highlights the social climate in the South when To Kill a Mockingbird was first published and a few years later, when the film premiered. The video highlights the reactions to the issues presented in the story. The account by Diane McWhorter, a classmate of Mary Badham (the actress who played Scout in the movie), is given special attention.

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