The History of Jim Crow, Jim Crow Laws, and Plessy v. Ferguson

1. What was “Jim Crow”? Where did the term "Jim Crow" originate?

2. What was Brown v. Board of Education?

3. What was Plessy v. Ferguson?

4. Read the 14th Amendment and explain how the Supreme Court used it to disallow segregation in the Brown decision. Why didn’t the Court use it for the same purpose in Plessy v. Ferguson?

5. How did the Plessy v. Ferguson case (1896) uphold Jim Crow laws? What effect did this case have on the lives (transportation, education, social implications, etc.) of southern blacks?

The Great Depression

6. Explain how the Wall Street Crash led to The Great Depression.

7. Who were the Presidents during the 1930’s?

8. How many people were unemployed in 1933? What did they do to survive?

9. Social Problems: What social problems occurred in the USA as a result of the depression?

10. Images of the Depression: How did it affect farmers?


11. What were sharecroppers or tenant farmers?

12. Especially after the Great Depression, what problems did sharecroppers have and leave as a “legacy”?

13. What is the difference between cash renters and sharecroppers?

The Scottsboro Boys

14. Who were the Scottsboro Boys? How did they get into so much trouble?

15. Where and when did the Scottsboro Boys' original trial take place? How do you think this affected the outcome of their trial?

16. What does the NAACP acronym stand for? Why did the NAACP decide not to help the Scottsboro Boys?

17. The Communist Party came to the aid of the Scottsboro Boys. How did the South perceive the Communist Party, and how was it similar to the perception of blacks? What was the Communist Party's hidden agenda in providing aid to the Scottsboro Boys?

18. The Scottsboro Boy were not provided with adequate defense lawyers. List at least 3 ways in which the defense lawyers were inadequate.

19. Describe the trials. Were they fair or unfair? Include at least 3 supporting facts to support your description.

20. Were the Scottsboro Boys ever pardoned of their convictions?

21. Look at the dates of the trial and the age of Harper Lee during this trial. Make a prediction about how this trial might be an important motivation for the book.

Harper Lee

22 When and where was Harper Lee born? What was her family like?

23. Who was her childhood best friend?

24. What did she study in college? Did she participate in any extra-curricular activities? Why might this be important to consider while reading To Kill a Mockingbird?

25. How did her decision to move to New York make To Kill a Mockingbird a reality?

26. What year was To Kill a Mockingbird published? When was it adapted to screen?

27. Was Harper Lee honored in any way following the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird?

To Kill A Mockingbird

28. What reasons are frequently given for banning/challenging books?

29. You have been asked to write a short paragraph to read at a BoE meeting in support of the decision to ban To Kill a Mockingbird. (4-5 sentences, formal language use, at least two reasons)

30. Bonus: “I don’t believe you can change the hearts of men with laws or decisions,” said one person who opposed court ordered desegregation. Do you agree with the statement? Is it a valid reason to continue segregation?