Black Armed Resistance Lesson Plan
- Students will be able to compare gun control policies in the 19th and 20th century targeting Black Americans.
- Students will be able to argue whether these gun control policies are equitable and/or necessary.
- When should guns be regulated?
- Should people in positions of less power have access to weapons for self-defense?
- What is the line between violence and armed resistance?
- Left of Black video: “Black Armed Resistance”
- Accompanying worksheet, available as a Google Doc or a PDF
- Armed resistance (noun): protesting inequality while carrying weapons
- Gun control (noun): legislation limiting access to arms
- Nat Turner (noun): enslaved man who led a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831
- Black Panther Party (noun): organization fighting for civil rights and equality in the 1960s; believed in armed resistance
- Today, gun control in the United States seems nearly impossible to pass. History shows that in the past, gun control was most likely to occur immediately following a demonstration of Black Americans’ access to arms. Why is this true? In this lesson, students will explore the connections between legislators’ willingness to control guns and Black Americans’ access to weapons.
- Students should complete the Do First section of the worksheet silently and independently. Have students share their answer with a partner first, then discuss whole-class. Tell students:
- Throughout American history, Black Americans have used access to guns in order to protest inequality. Although the narrative of the civil rights movement focuses on nonviolent resistance, most activists were actually armed and alert to a potential need to defend themselves.
- We’re going to watch a short video as an example of when access to weapons was particularly important for civil rights activists in Mississippi.
- View Left of Black video “Black Armed Resistance” with the class.
- Following video, have students discuss key takeaways.
- After discussion, tell students: We’re now going to move into more historical examples to examine the response that frequently occurs when Black Americans do utilize a right to bear arms. There are two historical examples today: one from a slave rebellion, and one from the 1960s. Both are important to understanding gun debates in America throughout history.
- Have students work through the worksheet individually or in pairs. Students should read and annotate the passages as well as answering the accompanying questions. The final section of the worksheet asks students to compare the examples of Nat Turner’s Rebellion and the Black Panther Party, closing with an opinion question on gun control.
- Once students have completed the worksheet, share answers as a class. If desired, students could debate their arguments on whether these gun policies are necessary.
- Close by discussing essential questions with the class: When should guns be regulated? Should people in positions of less power have access to weapons for self-defense? What is the line between violence and armed resistance?
- Nat Turner’s Rebellion from Gilder Lehrman
- “How the Black Panthers Inspired California’s Strict Gun Laws”
- We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement, by episode guest AKinyele Omowale Umoja
- This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible, by SNCC veteran Charles E. Cobb Jr.
- “African Americans and Armed Resistance”
- Negroes with Guns – a film based on Robert T. Williams
- Left of Black Enrichment’s timeline on Black armed resistance
Alignment to Common Core Standards
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.3: Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.
Alignment to AP Standards: Key Concept 8.2 — New movements for civil rights and liberal efforts to expand the role of government generated a range of political and cultural responses.