Albany’s Underground Railroad Walking Tour

Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region

     The mission of the UGRRHP is to research and preserve the local and national history of the anti-slavery and Underground Railroad movements, their international connections, and their legacies to later struggles, engaging in public education and dialogue about these movements and their relationship with us today. They sponsor an annual conference and the restoration of the he Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence on Livingston Avenue in Albany. In 2004 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stephen Myers was probably the most important leader of the Albany Underground Railroad movement from the 1830s through the 1850s. Albany was a thriving port city on the Hudson River near its junction with the Erie Canal. By the 1850s the port could dock at one time fifty steamboats and a thousand canal boats. Albany was home to seven daily newspapers and twentyfour hotels. From 1830-1850, Albany’s population doubled to 48,000 people. The picture below is an 1853 lithograph Birdseye View of Albany, depicting the port of Albany and providing a view of the vitality and activity of the port.

     The first stop on your tour is at the Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center at 25 Quackenbush Square, which was built in the 1870s as a water pumping station. Today this building is a staffed tourist center that houses gallery exhibits related to Albany’s history. Locate the Underground Railroad exhibit in the Albany Business and Capital City Exhibit Area. This exhibit provides some introductory information about the Underground Railroad in Albany and its relationship with Underground Railroad efforts in other parts of New York State.

     Walk west of Clinton Ave. to N. Pearl St. Cross to the west side of N. Pearl St. and arrive at your second tour stop at First Church in Albany located at 110 N. Pearl St. Sam Schuyler of the Black Schuyler family was a member of First Church. Sam Schuyler was enslaved until he purchased his freedom in 1805. Schuyler owned a home at Westerlo and Ashgrove Streets and established himself as a successful, sought after towboat operator. Schuyler provided contributions that supported local Underground Railroad activities.

     Continuing south along N. Pearl St., your third tour stop will be at the pedestrian walkway across from 67 N. Pearl and alongside the Steuben Club. Look up at the front facade and you should see Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) which used to be housed in this building after the days of the UGRR movement. A previous building on this location was a boarding house managed by Quaker sisters Lydia and Abigail Mott. The sisters assisted Freedom Seekers, organized abolition meetings, and Lydia Mott taught Frederick Douglass’ daughter Rose. At this stop we like to recognize the work of women in the Underground Railroad movement. Women, like Sarah Johnson worked together to organize bazaars at which they would raise money that was used to meet the needs of Freedom Seekers. While they held their knitting and sewing circles they would discuss their plans for working together to abolish the institution of slavery. They organized the Lundy Society and Lovejoy Society and the Albany Female AntiSlavery Society as a means to work together and network with other women outside the local area in educational, fundraising, and advocacy pursuits. Lundy and Lovejoy were respected abolitionists.

     Continue south on N. Pearl St. to Pine. Turn right (west) onto Pine and walk up to Eagle St. turn left (south) on Eagle to your fourth stop, Albany City Hall located at 24 Eagle Street. At this location, though in another City Hall building torn down in the 1890s, the Eastern NY Anti-Slavery Society was formed in 1842 and the Jerry Rescue trial was conducted in 1851.

     The Eastern NY Anti-Slavery Society was composed of members from the Mohawk and Hudson River Valleys and from the neighboring states of Vermont, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. This organization provided the network support throughout New York State that was essential for abolitionists to have an impact at the state and national levels of government. It also provided the network necessary for providing effective assistance to Freedom Seekers in their journeys.

     The Jerry Rescue was an effort by abolitionists in Syracuse to protect William Jerry Henry from being apprehended and returned to enslavement. Although William Jerry Henry was ultimately able to escape to freedom in Canada, those involved in the rescue were prosecuted under the 1850 Federal Fugitive Slave Law. The trial was held in Albany’s City Hall, bringing to the city abolitionists from around the state and nation, where the abolitionists won their case!

     As you walk east down Pine St. to N. Pearl St., take a right at N. Pearl St. and proceed toward State St. At the corner of N. Pearl and State St. is a building that today is home to a Starbucks and Citizens Bank. This is your fifth tour stop. The Albany Evening Gazette newspaper used to be published at this location.

     Crossing over State St., continue straight ahead on S. Pearl and turn left (east) onto Hudson Avenue. Walk on to the intersection of Green Street and Hudson. You should be standing in front of a parking garage. This is the sixth tour stop. You are standing at the spot where the Northern Star and Freeman’s Advocate Newspaper was published in the 1840s. Spearheaded by Stephen Myers, a man born enslaved in New York State and given his legal freedom in 1818, this newspaper was used to educate readers about the real experiences of people who were enslaved, to provide public information about Freedom Seekers’ and abolitionists’ activities, and encourage the uncommitted to join the cause of abolition. Stephen Myers was assisting Freedom Seekers as early as 1831, four years after he married Harriet Johnson and New York State abolished the institution of slavery. However, the Underground Railroad work in which he engaged, along with wife Harriet and other colleagues, put them at risk for prosecution under the New York State and Federal laws that protected the enslaver-enslaved relationship even in New York State. These laws did not deter them from doing what they believed was right, working to abolish the institution of slavery.

     To arrive at your seventh tour stop walk east on Hudson Avenue toward S. Pearl St. Turn left (north) onto S. Pearl St. and walk past the SUNY Administration building and the Old Post Office. On your right is a small parking area. You will also see a plaque with the name Exchange Street on it. At the end of the parking area once stood a red brick, three-story building which housed The Eastern New York Anti-Slavery Society. Interviews of Freedom Seekers would take place here and arrangements made to meet their needs.

     Cross to the west side of S. Pearl St. and continue walking north until you arrive at Tricentennial Park where you will find a bronze statue of Mayor Whalen III with his dog Finn McCool, a monument commemorating Dutch and Native American heritage and industry This is your eighth UGRR tour stop. Look across the street to Peter D. Kiernan Plaza and you are looking at the site where the Delavan House once stood, a grand, five story full-service hotel at which abolition meetings were held and Stephen Myers worked as Head Waiter. Meetings were intense, tempers would flare, but eventually strategies would be agreed to on what to do to abolish the institution of slavery, and the meeting would close with song.

Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework

New York State Department of Education

The entire Framework is available online at culturally-responsive-sustaining-educationframework.pdf

     For more than a century, education providers throughout the United States have strived and struggled to meet the diverse needs of American children and families. A complex system of biases and structural inequities is at play, deeply rooted in our country’s history, culture, and institutions. This system of inequity — which routinely confers advantage and disadvantage based on linguistic background, gender, skin color, and other characteristics — must be clearly understood, directly challenged, and fundamentally transformed. The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has come to understand that the results we seek for all our children can never be fully achieved without incorporating an equity and inclusion lens in every facet of our work (see also New York State’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plan).

     This understanding has created an urgency around promoting equitable opportunities that help all children thrive. New York State understands that the responsibility of education is not only to prevent the exclusion of historically silenced, erased, and disenfranchised groups, but also to assist in the promotion and perpetuation of cultures, languages and ways of knowing that have been devalued, suppressed, and imperiled by years of educational, social, political, economic neglect and other forms of oppression.

     In January 2018, the New York State Board of Regents directed the Office of P-12 Education and Higher Education to convene a panel of experts, engage with stakeholders, and develop from the ground up a framework for culturally responsivesustaining education. The New York University Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, under the leadership of Dr. David Kirkland, drafted a robust guidance document that served as a springboard for this initiative. The New York State Education Department presented this guidance document to students, teachers, parents, school and district leaders, higher education faculty, community advocates, and policymakers. The guidelines in this document represent the collective insight of this work.

     The Culturally Responsive-Sustaining (CRS) framework is intended to help education stakeholders create student-centered learning environments that affirm cultural identities; foster positive academic outcomes; develop students’ abilities to connect across lines of difference; elevate historically marginalized voices; empower students as agents of social change; and contribute to individual student engagement, learning, growth, and achievement through the cultivation of critical thinking. The framework was designed to support education stakeholders in developing and implementing policies that educate all students effectively and equitably, as well as provide appropriate supports and services to promote positive student outcomes. Historically, education debates have been polarized, with difference sometimes being viewed as an individual deficit. The CR-S Framework marks our journey forward and begins the evolution toward leveraging difference as an asset. The framework is grounded in four principles:

  •  Welcoming and Affirming Environment
  • High Expectations and Rigorous Instruction
  • Inclusive Curriculum and Assessment
  • Ongoing Professional Learning

     Each principle is illustrated by a set of features rooted in elements of quality education that illustrate how CR-S might look in practice across a range of domains, from the State Education Department to the classroom. The framework represents an opportunity for stakeholders to continue to work together and plan for the unique needs of their communities. The New York State Education Department recognizes much of this work is already happening across the state and looks forward to an even deeper understanding of culturally responsive sustaining education in New York State schools, districts, and communities. This framework reflects the State’s commitment to improving learning results for all students by creating well developed, culturally responsivesustaining, equitable systems of support for achieving dramatic gains in student outcomes.

     The New York State guidelines for culturally responsive sustaining education are grounded in a VISION of an education system that creates:

I. Students who experience academic success.

Students are prepared for rigor and independent learning. Students understand themselves as contributing members of an academically rigorous, intellectually-challenging school and classroom community. Students demonstrate an ability to use critical reasoning, take academic risks, and leverage a growth mindset to learn from mistakes. Students are self-motivated, setting and revising academic personal goals to drive their own learning and growth.

II. Students who have a critical lens through which they challenge inequitable systems of access, power, and privilege.

Students acknowledge the limitations of their own perspectives. They have empathy for others while they appreciate and respect others’ differences. They demonstrate cooperation and teamwork, using active listening and communication skills to resolve conflict. They use interpersonal skills to build and maintain strong relationships, including those along lines of difference, in their class and school communities. All layers of the environment in which students learn (classroom, school, family, and community) affirm and value the various aspects of students’ cultural identities (i.e. race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, socioeconomic background). Role models in the classroom, school, family, and community recognize student strengths and offer opportunities for students to grow and learn.

III. Students who are sociopolitically conscious and socioculturally responsive.

     Students bring a critical lens to the world as they study historical and contemporary conditions of inequity and learn from historically marginalized voices. Students learn about power and privilege in the context of various communities and are empowered as agents of positive social change. This vision is grounded in Gloria LadsonBillings’ early work on culturally relevant teaching, specifically the three criteria for culturally relevant pedagogy she puts forth in Ladson-Billings (1995). The New York State Culturally Responsive –     Sustaining Framework includes guidelines for students, teachers, school leaders, district leaders, families and community members, higher education faculty, and Education Department policymakers. For guidelines to be effective, all stakeholders must work together, prioritize and implement systems and structures that facilitate the scale of culturally responsive-sustaining practices, and hold each other accountable to short- and long-term goals. When stakeholders work together to implement culturally responsive-sustaining practices, educators will grow in their ability to be:

Teaching the Young Lords Party: The Civil Rights Movement in New York City

Tommy Ender, Rhode Island College

     The social studies curriculum positions the Civil Rights Movement as an era when individuals and groups promoted the collective rights of marginalized individuals. Yet, the Civil Rights Movement is often viewed as a Southernbased campaign (Fernandez, 2003). This awareness has been solidified in social studies classrooms with a focus on civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks (Brown Buchanan, 2015). While other individuals such as Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, civil rights leaders in California, have been included in the study, social studies neglects to mention movements in other geographical settings (Loewen, 2018). New York State and New Jersey social studies curricula maintain this perspective. The limited geographical scope implies that the Civil Rights Movement did not happen in a setting like New York City. The inclusion of the Young Lords Party (YLP) in social studies (SS) curricula expands the view of the Civil Rights Movement.

     The YLP advocated for the civil rights of Puerto Ricans and other Latinos living in New York City and New Jersey. This article provides: 1) a concise overview of the YLP during this time period, 2) explanations on how the New York State (NYS) and New Jersey (NJ) curricula fail to mention local civil rights movements, and 3) support for the inclusion of the YLP. Incorporating the YLP into the NYS and NJ SS curricula will help students learn how one aspect of the Civil Rights Movement occurred in the heart of New York City.

Overview of the Young Lords Party

     The Young Lords Party of New York City officially existed from 1969 to 1972. The YLP leadership consisted of college-educated individuals, such as Juan Gonzalez, Pablo Guzman, Felipe Luciano, Mickey Melendez, Iris Morales, and Denise Oliver. The YLP originally worked as the New York chapter of the Young Lords Organization (YLO). Based in Chicago, the YLO backed civic empowerment and selfdetermination for Puerto Ricans in the United States (Enck-Wanzer, 2010). However, political differences led to their separation. Pablo Guzman (1998) argues that the YLO maintained a street gang mindset, relying on violence as a movement tactic. Mickey Melendez (2003), contends that the YLP maintained a different level of social understanding than the YLO. The YLP cited community dialogue as the driving force in their movement. The YLP, after separating from the YLO, created the Young Lords Party: 13 Point Program and Platform. The declaration called for the “liberation of all third world people,” “equality for women,” “community control,” and “self-determination for all Latinos” (The Young Lords Party & Abramson, 1971, p. 150). The YLP addressed the plight of Puerto Ricans and Latinos in New York City through community-based actions.

     Three major actions reveal the scope of the YLP movement. The Garbage Offensive was the first major act of the YLP. Residents living in El Barrio (At the time of the movement, it was the largest Pureto Rican neighborhood in New York City) complained about the inconsistent garbage pick-up and vermin infestations (Melendez, 2003). After listening to their concerns, the YLP leadership attempted a dialogue with city officials. The city officials, however, refused to change their policy. On August 17, 1969, the YLP lined up hundreds of garbage bags across Third Avenue and burned it for hours (Enck-Wanzer, 2006). While the garbage burned, residents interviewed by local reporters verbally supported the YLP (NegronMuntaner, 2015). The results from the Garbage Offensive led to an agreement with the Mayor’s Office. The sanitation department restarted regular garbage pick-ups in El Barrio (Melendez 2003).

     The YLP also learned that anemia was a chronic health issue affecting residents. The YLP developed the idea of implementing a freebreakfast program for children to combat anemia (Enck-Wanzer, 2010). However, finding a location posed to be a problem. The Young Lords started communications with Reverend Humberto Carranzana, leader of the First Spanish Methodist Church. Reverend Carranza was a Cuban refugee who established the church on the premise of providing community outreach in El Barrio (Enck-Wanzer, 2010). The church, with a renovated basement and meeting rooms, sat unused during the week (Morales, 1996).

     However, Reverend Carranzana routinely refused to open the church up to the YLP during the week. The leadership decided to attend one Sunday service where members of the congregation could offer public testimonials. Reverend Carranzana notified the police upon hearing the plan. Felipe Luciano, during the testimonial portion of the service, asked the congregation for support (Morales, 1996). As Luciano tried to engage in dialogue with the congregation, police attacked YLP members inside the church (Morales, 1998). While members of the YLP were assaulted by police in house of worship and jailed for their actions, the publicity from the action gained new supporters for the YLP. The new-found support encouraged the formal take-over of the same church weeks later.

     The church occupation lasted eleven days. The YLP renamed it the First People’s Church (The Young Lords Party & Abramson, 1971). The YLP used the space to run a free daily breakfast program, clothing drives, a day care center, lead poisoning tests, and other community-based initiatives (De Jesus, 2015). The YLP also engaged with local and national media. The leadership disclaimed any premisconceptions about the movement or the takeover of the church, focusing on city institutions oppressing communities of color (Morales, 1996). By the 12th day, the YLP and the church leadership agreed to end the occupation. The potential for regional influence existed when the YLP expanded into New Jersey in 1970. Internal divisions, however, led to the disintegration of the YLP.  

     A combination of government intrusion and debates on future actions led to the collapse of the YLP. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) had infiltrated the movement. The F.B.I. positioned Latino subversives within the movement as part of its COINTELPRO program (Morales, 1996). The YLP leadership split on expanding the movement outside the NYC area. The dissension centered on the idea of opening YLP branches in Puerto Rico as part of a focus on liberating the island from U.S. control. The decision to expand to Puerto Rico forced Juan Gonzalez, Pablo Guzman, and Denise Oliver to exit the YLP (Guzman, 1998).

     The subsequent focus towards the island and the loss of original leaders fortified the disintegration. One branch closed, and the second branch struggled to maintain a presence within six months of expanding to Puerto Rico (Melendez, 2003). The YLP’s hyper-focus on Puerto Rico caused an erosion of support in New York City (Melendez, 2003). By 1972, the YLP officially changed their name to the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (EnckWanzer, 2010). While the organization continued to advocate the liberation of Puerto Rico from the United States, the name change signaled the end of the movement.  

The Curricula on the Civil Rights Movement

     Analyses of the NYS SS frameworks and the NJ SS curriculum suggest two interpretations: the absence of civil rights movements happening in New York and New Jersey and minimal representations of Latino civil rights movements.

     The New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Social Studies (2014) advocates the analysis of “the successes and failures of women’s rights organizations, the American Indian Movement, and La Raza in their pursuit of civil rights and equal opportunities” under Standard 6.1 (p. 30-31). This statement suggests that La Raza represented all Latinos in the United States during this time period. According to Mintz and McNeil (2018), La Raza supported voting drives, rights for agricultural workers, and the appropriation of land stolen from Mexican landowners. It also suggests a view of New Jersey Latinos not participating in the Civil Rights Movement. The statement excludes other Latino movements during this time period. A similar view is found in the two New York State social studies curricula.

     The NYS K-8 Social Studies Framework (2016) omits direct references of Latinos in the Civil Rights Movement. For 5th grade, Standard 5.6c, students “examine at least one group of people, such as Native Americans, African Americans, women, or another cultural, ethnic, or racial minority in the Western Hemisphere, who have struggled or are struggling for equality and civil rights or sovereignty” (p. 77). For 8th grade, Standard 8.9b, the curriculum states that “the civil rights movement prompted renewed efforts for equality by women and other groups” (p. 109). The standards imply that Latinos were not part of the movement. The standards do not mandate a specific examination of Latino civil rights movements. The standards lack references to movements taking place in New York State, such as the YLP, during this time. The 9-12 framework is more specific.

     The NYS 9-12 Social Studies Framework (2016) formally references Latino movements. Standard 11.10 encourages the study of “Brown Power (Chicano) movement” who “sought to bring about change in American society through a variety of methods” (p. 43). This curriculum again positions Latino movements as an experience outside New York State. However, the standard provides some flexibility in introducing other Latino civil movements into the curriculum. In a study of New York City high school students engaging with culturally responsive teaching, Epstein, Mayorga, and Nelson (2011) note that the majority of students in humanities classes selected different movements that aligned with their racial/ethnic identities. Students who identified as Latino chose the YLP. The potential exists for thoughtful study of the Young Lords Party in New Jersey and New York in social studies classrooms.

Including the Young Lords Party in the Curriculum

     Including the Young Lords Party in the New Jersey and New York State curricula as part of the learning does the following: 1) positions Latinos as diverse, active participants during the Civil Rights Movement era, 2) redefines the geographic scope of the Civil Rights Movement to include New York and New Jersey, and 3) examines the legacy of a Latino civil rights movement.

Positioning of Latinos as Active and Diverse Participants

     Including the YLP positions Latinos as a diverse group of individuals addressing social problems in the United States following World War II. First, the YLP represented Puerto Ricans and other Latinos who experienced systemic

      First, the YLP represented Puerto Ricans and other Latinos who experienced systemic prejudice. The leadership saw their comunidades (Spanish for communities) suffer under government policies.   They sought to be a collective voice for them, similarly to the Black Panther Party (The Young Lords Party & Abramson, 1971). Second, the YLP worked within urban contexts. The Puerto Rican diaspora, escaping rural poverty in Puerto Rico brought on by U.S. colonialism, resulted in Puerto Ricans moving to cities such as Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Boston (Lee, 2014; Korrol, 2010). Finally, the YLP promoted gender equality. While internal struggles over gender equality are documented (Enck-Wanzer, 2010; Nelson, 2001), the YLP publicly advocated for the rights of women. Palante, the YLP newspaper, included section on women’s rights on every issue (Enck-Wanzer 2010). The YLP also established the Men’s Caucus, a suborganization aimed at eliminating male chauvinism within the movement (The Young Lords Party & Abramson, 1971). Along with expanding the view of Latinos during this time, the YLP also helps redefine the geography of the Civil Rights Movement.

Redefining the Geography of the Civil Rights Movement

     The YLP provides the curricula with local contexts. Standard 6.1 in the New Jersey curriculum states that thinking analytically about the past develops “knowledge and skills” need to “make informed decisions that reflect fundamental rights and core democratic values as productive citizens in local, national, and global communities” (p. 30). Only Strand A (Civics, Government, and Human Rights) positions New Jersey as a local community. The YLP enhances New Jersey as a local setting under Strand D (History, Culture, and Perspectives). The YLP opened branches in Newark and Jersey City in 1970 (The Young Lords Party & Abramson, 1971). In the New York State K-8 social studies curriculum, Standard 8.8b calls on students to “examine migration and immigration trends in New York State and New York City such as the increase in Spanish-speaking…populations and the contributions of these groups” (p. 108). In Standard 8.8a, students need to “examine the effects of suburbanization, including urban decay,…both nationally and with New York State” (p.108). Students studying the history of the YLP learn how the promise of employment and white flight created an environment where Puerto Ricans became the dominant social group living in urban poverty (Berman, 1982). While poverty continues to affect millions of residents in New York and New Jersey, the recent popularity illustrates the need to examine the legacies of the YLP.

Examining the YLP Legacy

     Books, museums, and cultural centers in recent years have illustrated the lasting societal impact of the Young Lords Party. Scholars such as Darrel Enck-Wanzer, Johanna Fernandez, and Yasmin Ramirez have introduced the words and images of the YLP to new generations of students and scholars. Darrel Enck-Wanzer edited The Young Lords: A Reader, a collection of YLP writings on the 40th anniversary of the movement’s founding. Johanna Fernandez is current writing a historical narrative on the YLP. The Bronx Museum of the Arts and El Museo del Barrio coordinated exhibitions on the YLP in 2015, curated by Johanna Fernandez and Yasmin Ramirez (Lo Wang, 2015). The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute and the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center in New York City hosted lectures with former YLP leaders. The public appeal for the YLP extends to members of the YLP leadership.

     Former leadership members transitioned to the public stage in different ways. Juan Gonzalez became an award-winning journalist for the New York Daily News and author, writing Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America. Pablo Guzman became an awardwinning television reporter for WCBS-TV in New York City. Iris Morales became an awardwinning author and documentarian, most notably Through the Eyes of Rebel Women, The Young Lords: 1969-1976. Denise Oliver-Velez cofounded WPFW-FM, a radio station serving communities of color in Washington, DC (She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, n.d.). The continued public interest in the YLP translates into learning opportunities for K-12 students studying the Civil Rights Movement.


     The Young Lords Party invokes new views and interpretations of the Civil Rights Movement. The YLP created a civil rights movement based on the experiences of Puerto Ricans and other Latinos. The YLP established urban contexts, such as New York City, as pivotal locations in the overall narrative on the Civil Rights Movement. The continued public involvement of former YLP members and recent historical exhibitions demonstrate a wide appeal for the YLP in contemporary times. Social studies students, especially students of color, would benefit from learning about the Young Lords Party.  


Berman, M. (1982). All that is solid melts into air. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Brown Buchanan, L. (2015). Fostering historical thinking toward civil rights movement counternarratives: Documentary film in elementary social studies. The Social Studies, 106, 47-56.

De Jesus, J. (2015). From 1969: The young lords take over historic East Harlem Church. Retrieved from

Enck-Wanzer, D. (2006). “Trashing the system: Social movement, intersectional rhetoric, and collective agency in the young lords organization’s garbage offensive.” Quarterly Journal of Speech, 92(2), 174-201.

Enck-Wanzer, D. (Ed.) (2010). The young lords: A reader. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Epstein, T., Mayorga, E., & Nelson, J. (2011). Teaching about race in an urban history class: The effects of culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Social Studies Research, 35(1), 2-21.

Fernandez, J. (2003). Between social service reform and revolutionary politics: The young lords, late sixties radicalism, and community organizing in New York City.” In J.F. Theoharis & K. Woodward (Eds.), Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles Outside the South, 1940-1980 (pp. 255-285). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Guzman, P. (1998). “La vida pura: A Lord of the barrio.” In A. Torres & J.E. Velazquez (Eds.) The puerto rican movement: Voices from the diaspora (pp. 155-172). Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Jimenez, L. (2005). Interview with Juan Gonzalez: His road to the Young Lords. Retrieved from onicles/interview-juan-gonzalez-his-road-younglords

Korrol, V.S. (2010). The Story of U.S. Puerto Ricans. Centro: Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Retrieved from ( -rican-studies/teaching-us-puertorican-history)

Lee, S. (2014).  Building a Latino civil rights movement: Puerto ricans, african americans, and the pursuit of racial justice in New York City. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.

Loewen, J. (2018). Lies my teacher told me. New York, NY: The New Press.

Lo Wang, H. (2015). Once outlaws, young lords find a museum home for radical roots. Retrieved from 7/29/427429960/once-outlaws-young-lords-finda-museum-home-for-radical-roots

Melendez, M. (2003). We took the streets: Fighting for latino rights with the young lords. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Mintz, S. & McNeil, S. (2018). Viva la raza! Digital History. Retrieved from print.cfm?smtid=2&psid=3347    

Morales, I. (1996). ¡Palante, siempre palante!. New York, NY: Latino Education Network Service – Third World Newsreel.

Morales, I. (1998). ¡PALANTE, SIEMPRE PALANTE!” In A. Torres & J.E. Velazquez (Eds.) The puerto rican movement: Voices from the diaspora (pp. 210-227). Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Negron-Muntaner, F. (2015). The look of sovereignty: Style and politics in the young lords.” Centro Journal, 27(1), 4-33.

Nelson, J. (2001). Abortions under community control: Feminism, nationalism, and the politics of reproduction among New York City’s young lords.” Journal of Women’s History, 13(1), 157180.

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She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (n.d.). Denise Oliver-Velez. Retrieved from nise-oliver-velez

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The Young Lords Party & Abramson, M. (1971). ¡Palante!: Young lords party. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

The Battle of Gettysburg

Samantha Bitten

     “Writing is not the transcription of thoughts already consciously present in my mind. Writing is a magical and mysterious process that makes it possible to think differently. Because writing is an act that is far from completely accessible to our conscious minds, recommendations about how to write history may well be irrelevant.”

     As curriculum directors and teachers begin to review the revised New Jersey Learning Outcomes when they are adopted later this year or sometime next year, it is essential to remember that writing supports critical thinking and enduring memory. Teachers understand the importance of engaging students in the beginning of a lesson or activity with essential questions and inquiry into the content. We also know that each student responds differently to each document, image, motivating activity, and question. One perfectly planned lesson does not necessarily engage every student.

     There are many ways to write. Perhaps it is NOT what we write or how we write BUT that students write! The right answer is the write answer!

     The story of The Battle of Gettysburg is written by my ten year old granddaughter, in Grade 4, after her family visited Gettysburg. Her story on The Battle of Gettysburg is self-initiated and represents her reflection on the ride back from Gettysburg to her home. As a grandparent I was taken by the impact of what she learned from the monuments, posters, and words of the tour guide, although most of her time was on a self-guided tour. She left Gettysburg with questions with answers accessible through the web.

     The art of thinking became deeper as she read, wrote, found pictures, asked questions, developed perspectives, wrote, revised, and talked about her secret manuscript. When her Grade 4 teacher learned about her story, she invited her to read it to her class. As a teacher who taught about the significance of the Battle of Gettysburg as a turning point in the war, as a costly battle in the heat of the summer, as a victory for democratic freedom and emancipation, I realized that what was important to me may not have had lasting importance to the hundreds of students I taught over 45 years.

     Enjoy the essay and find ways to engage your students from Kindergarten to college to write-think-and-write!

The Battle of Gettysburg by Samantha Bitten

     In this book you will meet two soldiers that are best friends, Paul, from the north and Mark, from the south. You will also meet Henry who is a slave and a family who is all worried about their son Jake who has to fight in the war with Paul, his uncle. 

     The Battle of Gettysburg was the major turning point of the civil war. It was also one of the bloodiest battles. This battle lasted from July 1-3 1863. During those three days it was so hot outside. Also, the “hospitals” were really in a bad quality. Usually you would like to be wounded because you could relax in the hospital and you won’t have to fight. But these hospitals were either barns or even people’s houses! Sometimes the “hospital” would get so full that they would lay the people on the ground!


Jake, Sarah, Bob and Kate

     “Mom! Let’s go, I got to get to the battlefield by 10:00 and it is already 9:50!” Jake yelled to his mom. “O.K. sweetie, let me just hug you goodbye!” Sarah told Jake. They walked down to the battlefield and the only person Jake knew was his Uncle Paul. Paul introduced Jake to three of his friends. William, Ethan, and of course, Mark. I kind of already knew Mark. He used to come over every Christmas before the war started. Mark is Uncle Paul’s best friend. Also, the reason my dad wasn’t fighting was because in the last battle at Antietam, he got hurt very badly so he couldn’t fight anymore. The battle was about to start, everyone was practicing so I joined them.


     “I can’t believe Jake is on that battlefield fighting and could get shot any minute!” Sarah cried. “Don’t worry Sarah, Jake will be O.K. As you know, he is very strong.” Bob explained. “Is anything going to happen to Jake?” Kate worried. “No Kate, like I said, everything will be O.K.” Bob told her. Kate walked outside to sit by the lake across from their small, stone home. She sat and thought about many things. She thought about when there was no war and when things were normal. She thought about when her dad got hurt and everyone was panicking. She thought about Jake. “What would happen if he got hurt and couldn’t fight! It was his dream to fight like the older kids and adults! I remember he used to watch the smoke from the shots slowly go up into the sky. Then he would go and ask his mom when he would be able to fight. And, her answer every time was “soon Jake, soon.” If he got hurt all his dreams would be crushed! Kate thought about it for a little while but then she remembered her dad said Jake would be O.K. She kept those words in her mind and started walking inside. “Everything will be O.K., everything will be O.K., everything will be O.K.” Kate whispered to herself over and over again as she walked inside.

     When she got inside her mom asked her where she was. She just said she was picking some flowers for when Jake comes home. Sarah thought that was so sweet of her to do that. “Kate, where are the flowers?” Sarah questioned her. “Ummmm they are ummm, by the lake. I forgot to bring them inside.” Kate ran outside to pick just about five flowers so it looked like she was doing that the whole time. “Here they are mom!” Kate yelled from the front lawn. “Exactly five flowers, just for Jake.” She explained. “Perfect. now go put them in your room so Jake won’t see them.”

     As Kate ran upstairs the parents saw lots of smoke from the field across town. “I hope Jake is O.K.,” Bob mumbled. “Bob, I have something to tell you.” Sarah said while tearing up. “Yes Sarah, what is it?” Bob asked. “I didn’t know the right time to tell you, but-” Sarah talked fast. “What is it? It can’t be that bad.” Bob cut her off. “Jake, ummm, Jake got hurt.” Sarah mumbled. “No, no this can’t be happening! I need to go and don’t follow me; I want to be alone.” Bob explained. “O.K. but whatever you do, don’t tell Kate; she can’t know!” Sarah yelled. “Know what?” Kate questioned. “Ummmm” Sarah froze.


Includes: Henry

     “…. and that is how I got this scratch on my leg.” Henry told some kids. He was telling them about the many times he tried to escape slavery.

      “Henry, are you doing your work or telling stories again!” The Master explained. His real name is Charles but he forced us to call him, “The Master.” Anyway, back to the farm. “Sorry Master, I will do my work now.” Henry explained. “Thank you.” Said the Master.  

     Henry grabbed an ax and started to chop wood. Since he was older than most of the slaves, he had to do the hard work. When Henry was just about eight years old, he thought the jobs that the older kids did were so cool! But now that he is experiencing it, he hates it.

     The only thing Henry enjoyed was getting to tell stories to the kids and hang out with them. They told jokes while washing The Master’s suit and they played games while cooking The Master’s food. He had so much fun with the kids but what ruined it was the second The Master heard a peep from them he would run downstairs and give an entire speech about the meaning of slavery. So, unless Henry and the kids wanted to hear that speech said for the 90th time, they all had to stay quiet.

     Then, all of a sudden, an idea popped into Henry’s head. Henry needed a plan to escape. He couldn’t live another day there. If he had to wash The Mast- Charles suit again he would die! He needed a big plan, a HUGE plan to get EVERYONE out of there. Henry gathered all the slaves when they had a small break. He said they needed a plan to escape. He drew a map in the dirt of the entire field. Henry said they needed a certain path to follow so they could make it safely. Everyone gave plenty of ideas. They all agreed they should run at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday. They agreed that day because the guard only worked half his time on Wednesdays. Emma, a 5-year-old slave who had a huge imagination, suggested they dress up so they all look like civilians.

   “That is a great idea Emma.” Henry explained. They all looked at the clothes drying on the thin, white string and found all of The Master’s clothes.    “Are you guys thinking what I’m thinking.?” Henry asked. “We use The Master’s clothes to dress up!” They all yelled at the same time.  They all grabbed a piece of clothing that was their size and started putting it on. “Ready guys?” Henry asked. “Ready!” They all yelled back.


Includes: Mark and Paul

3 weeks before the battle

     “Hey Paul, are you going to sail to where I live to fight with me?” Mark asked Paul. “Yes, definitely.” Paul explained.


     Boom! Soldiers shot each other left and right. But right there in the center was Mark looking for Paul. He was looking all over. Then right there he saw Paul. But the problem was, Paul wasn’t on his side. He was fighting for the other side! How could Paul betray him like that?

     O.K. so here is my (Paul’s) story. So, I was all packed with my things and I walked down to the dock. The next ship was coming any minute now. I waited a little when I hear a voice yell: Please get on the ship now! I went to the dock when I froze.

     “Do I really want to do this?” I thought. The captain got in his ship and started sailing away. “No!” I yelled. “Sorry, too late!” The captain screamed from a distance.  So, yeah that was my (Paul’s) story. “Paul why are you over there?” Mark yelled. “It’s a long story, let me tell you later.” Paul explained.  After the battle Paul and Mark met up. “So, tell me why didn’t you come with me?” Mark asked Paul. “O.K., let me tell you.” Paul said.

     After Paul told Mark, Mark was really angry. He didn’t actually say he was angry because he hid it. All Mark did was laugh at the story acting like it was funny. Mark went home and Paul went to sleep. They had a big battle the next day, the Battle of Gettysburg.

     When they got to the field they fought right away. Bullets flew everywhere. When the battle was over, about 7,058 people had died. It had been one of the bloodiest battles ever fought! There was blood all over the field. But then something happened. Mark’s uniform got caught to a fence. When Paul saw what happened, he saved him before he got shot. But Mark’s anger came out and he shot Paul! He was just so angry that Paul didn’t sail across the river to fight with him. He just shot his best friend! And, he walked away.  


     So, after about five weeks of recovery Jake was O.K. and was ready to fight again.

     Henry and the kids were able to escape after lots of hard work. Emma and a boy, Conner got captured but Henry went back for them.

     Mark found another friend and he fought the war. That battle changed slavery so now Henry was quite happy too.

     Kate found out about Jake and was very disappointed but she helped him recover.


      In this story you met Mark, Paul, Jake, Kate, Sarah, Bob, and Henry. All of them went through something terrible. All these characters represented someone at the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle in the Civil War. Many people died in this battle, just like the character Paul did. Slaves were working very hard, like Henry. It is estimated that there were 100,000 children, as young as 15, who were fighting in battles while their parents were worried sick, just like Kate, Jake, Sarah, and Bob. I hope you enjoyed my story and learned some new things about the Battle of Gettysburg. 

Teaching about Race and Racism with Springsteen Songs

Mark T. Kissling

Penn State University—University Park

     At first thought, it might seem odd to teach about race and racism in the United States with the music of Bruce Springsteen. One of the more famous long-time musicians in this country and around the world, Springsteen is likely not often associated with these topics, perhaps foremost because he is White. Yet race and racism are important topics in and across his music. Further, many of his musical influences—like James Brown and Curtis Mayfield—were Black, as was his most influential musical collaborator, Clarence Clemons, his longstanding friend and band-mate known as “the Big Man.”

     For decades, Springsteen has written and sung about race and racism, particularly America struggling with racism. Yes, he writes about cars and love and the Jersey Shore, too, but race and racism are, importantly, also there in the mix. He has often uttered a line in interviews that his music charts the gap between the American dream and everyday living in America (e.g., Pelley, 2007). In doing this he takes up the question, what does it mean to be an American? This work includes—sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly—race and racism. Shortly after the death of Clemons in 2011, Springsteen biographer Dave Marsh noted that “Springsteen set out to write about the heart of the country, and race was central to what he found there” (2011, paragraph 7).

     With Springsteen’s voice as one of the more prominent American cultural voices over the past several decades, it is relevant to most all social issues, but this doesn’t mean it’s the lone voice to consider about race and racism. Indeed, the voices of people of color must be central to social studies teaching about race and racism. The curriculum cannot be directed solely by White voices, especially those attached to great fame and wealth.

     Yet, famous, wealthy, White voices are not useless. Racial justice cannot come about without progress in all corners of society, including—maybe even particularly—White America. Toward this end, White voices calling for racial justice need to be heard and considered (and undoubtedly not just those of famous, wealthy, White men). Springsteen’s voice reaches the ears of many, particularly in White America, in ways that most other voices do not. It can be an important model for White students to learn to speak out against racism, and it can be an important example for students of color of how some well-known White people do speak out in favor of racial justice. 

Teaching about Race and Racism—with Music

     In Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about learning to “ruthlessly interrogate” (2015, p. 29) his social world. Such critical investigation is central to powerful social studies teaching and learning. The United States was founded on—and today, in 2019, remains structured by—racism. The evidence is strewn across the country’s history (e.g., Kendi, 2016; Lepore, 2018), including 400 years ago, when the first ship with Africans landed at the Jamestown colonial settlement. The evidence is also strewn across contemporary America, in the form of staggering gaps in wealth, education, incarceration, housing, and other areas between White and non-White (e.g., Alexander, 2012; Rothstein, 2017). Social studies teachers have the precious responsibility of shining a light on this evidence and wrestling with questions of why and how.

     Because teaching about race and racism is not easy, music is a great avenue for inquiring into and discussing these topics. Songs introduce stories, characters, and ideas that make us feel and think, consider and investigate. For example, for many teachers addressing the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the mid-Twentieth Century, spirituals and protest songs—freedom songs—sung primarily by the participants themselves are foundational resources in their lessons. Songs like “Oh Freedom” and “We Shall Overcome” are examples of the larger theme that music has a long and important history (and present) in the United States of calling for and activating wheels of social change.

Race and Racism in Springsteen’s Life and Songs

     Born in 1949, Springsteen grew up in Freehold, New Jersey. Issues of race and racism were not foreign to him. In “My Hometown” (1984) he writes and sings,

In ’65 tension was running high at my high school.  There was a lot of fights between the black and white.  There was nothing you could do. Two cars at a light on a Saturday night, in the back seat there was a gun. Words were passed in a shotgun blast. Troubled times had come to my hometown.

     Freehold, like many others, was a struggling American town and racial tension was one of its struggles. Like his hometown, Springsteen personally struggled. In “Tenth Avenue FreezeOut” (1975) he writes and sings,

Tear drops on the city,   Bad Scooter searching for his groove.   Seem like the whole world walking pretty,  And you can’t find the room to move.

     Scooter is Springsteen, a working-class White male trying to find his way as a young musician (“stranded in the jungle,” he sings in the next stanza), not buying into the rhetoric of his father, schooling, or the mainstream establishment calling for him to cut his hair and get a traditional job. His prospects seemingly change when he partners up with an older, massive, saxophone-blowing Black male—Clarence Clemons, the Big Man. As “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” turns triumphant, Springsteen exclaims,

When the change was made uptown And the Big Man joined the band From the coastline to the city,  All the little pretties raise their hands.     I’m gonna sit back right easy and laugh,  When Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half.

     To be sure, the E Street Band, Springsteen’s band, was not simply Scooter and the Big Man but it revolved around and was built upon their dynamism. The cover of Springsteen’s breakout album, Born to Run, in which a bemused Springsteen with his guitar leans on Clemons as he plays his sax, is telling. Year later, reflecting on the relationship between Clemons and Springsteen in a society marked by racism, the biographer Marsh wrote,

Bruce and Clarence could not pull down the tower in which America is shackled, no two humans could do that, but they inflicted their share of damage…They were these two guys who imagined that if they acted free, then other people would understand better that it was possible to be free. (2011, paragraph 15)

“Gonna be a judgment that’s a fact”

     Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf area in late August of 2005. The aftermath of the hurricane was environmentally and socially disastrous. Not only was New Orleans flooded, social relations within the city were characterized by utter disregard of the city’s poorest people, particularly people of color. Nine months after Katrina hit, Springsteen and his accompanying group of musicians known as the Seeger Sessions Band played the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Reviewing the performance for the Times-Picayune, music writer Keith Spera wrote,

“No other artist could have spoken to, and for, the city of New Orleans at this most important of Jazzfests more purposefully, more passionately and more effectively than Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band” (Spera, 2012).

     One song Springsteen sang was “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live,” an adaptation of Blind Alfred Reed’s Great Depression-era song of the same name. After singing Reed’s opening stanza about a doctor and his “humbug pill,” Springsteen departed from Reed’s story in order to tell a story about New Orleans post-Katrina:

“Me and my old school pals had some mighty high times down here And what happened to you poor black folks, well it just ain’t fair” He took a look around, gave a little pep talk, said “I’m with you” then he took a little walk Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live

There’s bodies floatin’ on Canal and the levees gone to Hell Martha, get me my sixteen gauge and some dry shells Them who’s got out of town and them who ain’t got left to drown Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live

Got family scattered from Texas all the way to Baltimore Yeah and I ain’t got no home in this world no more Gonna be a judgment that’s a fact, a righteous train rollin’ down this track Tell me how can a poor man stand such times and live

     The second stanza focuses on the response by then-President George Bush. The president metaphorically takes a walk, signifying the way in which the people most struggling in New Orleans, many of whom were poor and Black, were left behind by all levels of government.

     In the third stanza, the folks who “got (money)” fled the town. Those who “ain’t got (money)” were left to drown. As I read this stanza, the simple Black-White binary is troubled. The speaker, as I imagine, is a small business owner, or even simply a homeowner, of any race who is looking to protect his business or home, and family. All who “ain’t got,” of all races, were left behind. Importantly, though, those who “ain’t got” were overwhelmingly Black.

     The fourth stanza faces the reality of the exodus from New Orleans from the point of view of someone who was able to flee. The reality of families and communities scattered to the winds is plainly acknowledged. Springsteen sings “I ain’t got no home in this world no more,” echoing Woody Guthrie’s lament (“I ain’t got no home, I’m just a ramblin’ round”) during the Dust Bowl and westward migration that John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath characterizes. But there is also a hope expressed in the idea of a “righteous train”: a judgment is coming. It may not be present yet but it’s coming.

“It ain’t no secret”

     In February of 1999, a 23-year old Guinean immigrant named Amadou Diallo was shot 19 times by four police officers while he stood in the entryway of his apartment building in the Bronx in New York City. Diallo was unarmed. The officers shot 41 times. Diallo died.

     At the time, Springsteen and the E Street Band were in the midst of a reunion tour. In the wake of Diallo’s shooting, Springsteen wrote a song titled “American Skin.” The subtitle is “41 Shots.” He writes/sings:

Lena gets her son ready for school She says “on these streets, Charles You’ve got to understand the rules If an officer stops you Promise you’ll always be polite, that you’ll never ever run away Promise Mama you’ll keep your hands in sight”

The chorus repeats:

Is it a gun, is it a knife Is it a wallet, this is your life It ain’t no secret It ain’t no secret No secret my friend You can get killed just for living In your American skin

     Springsteen first played “American Skin” in Atlanta, during the reunion tour. It was big news, particularly in the New York press as the tour concluded with a 10-night stand at Madison Square Garden in New York City (Barnes, 2000). Springsteen played “American Skin” each night at the Garden despite protests from the New York City Police Department and the Police Benevolent Association. A recording of the song from one of these performances, which is serious and haunting, was included on a DVD released after the tour. The repetition of “41 Shots” by Springsteen and other members of the band—seemingly 41 times, even if not really— serves as the song’s heartbeat.

     In 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old Black male, was murdered by George Zimmerman, a 28-year old biracial (Latino and White) male, in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, where Zimmerman was the neighborhood watch coordinator. After the shooting, Springsteen began regularly singing “American Skin” during his ongoing tour, including at shows in Florida. Two years later, just months before Eric Garner was strangled in New York City and Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri—two of the events that precipitated the Black Lives Matter movement— Springsteen released the album High Hopes, featuring a first-ever studio version of “American Skin.”

Ideas for Teaching with Springsteen Songs

     The songs featured above are just several of many Springsteen songs that engage race and racism. I chose these both for their personal significance to Springsteen (“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”; “My Hometown”) and their relevance, including commentary, on important cultural and political events (“My Hometown”; “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live”; “American Skin”). These songs can be engaged in the classroom in numerous ways. Here are curricular possibilities for each one. I intentionally do not affix grade levels to these suggestions as I believe they could span across many grade levels with appropriate adaptation. As a beginning, a teacher might play audio (and possibly video) for the song and hand out a copy of the lyrics so that students can examine and annotate them.

“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”

• Focus: Personal Reflection

• Context: Our personal experiences shape how we interact with the world. They also provide the boundaries around our imagination for what might be possible. Thinking about the relationship of Bruce and Clarence, students can examine in their own lives the influences and roles of people from different backgrounds.

• Guiding Questions: What are your experiences with people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds than you? Thinking about what Bruce and Clarence meant to each other, how has your life been bettered, directly or indirectly, by the actions of people from different backgrounds than you?

• Additional Considerations: Student might write narratively in response to these questions; they might also gather artifacts related to their experiences and compile them in a scrapbook or memory box

“My Hometown”

• Focus: Attending to the Local

• Context: So much attention in the social studies curriculum is focused on the national level, sometimes obscuring more local levels. While learning about race and racism across the United States, it’s important for students and teachers to study these topics locally.

• Guiding Questions: What are ‘race relations’ (or ‘struggles for racial justice’) like in your local community? What is the history of ‘race relations’ in your local community, including during the 1950s and 1960s when Springsteen was growing up in Freehold, New Jersey?

• Additional Considerations: Local libraries can be a wonderful resource for such investigations, as well as local newspaper archives; interviews with community elders can also be quite powerful

“American Skin (41 Shots)”

• Focus: Studying Examples of Racial Injustice

• Context: The murder of Amadou Diallo is one of many instances in U.S. history of people being killed “just for living in [their] American skin.” Students might study two instances of this kind of injustice, one historical and one contemporary.

• Guiding Questions: What social context precipitated each instance? What happened in each instance? What were the ramifications of what happened? How do the instances compare and contrast?

• Additional Considerations: Having both national and local dimensions to this investigation can be quite meaningful as students come to see that injustice is not solely ‘here’ or ‘elsewhere’

“How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live”

• Focus: Extending the Tradition

• Context: Many folks songs, including freedom songs sung during the Civil Rights Movement, are adapted across time and place to speak to new contexts. Just as Springsteen adapted Blind Alfred Reed’s song to the context of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, students can write an adaptation of the song (or any song) for a new, present-day context.

• Guiding Questions: What is a justice issue that needs particular attention? What details of the issue are important and should be worked into the song? Who is the audience for the song and what particular words, phrases, or ideas will be meaningful to that audience?

• Additional Considerations: Students can record and/or perform their songs to bring awareness to, and spur action of, others in their schools and/or communities Additionally, in working with each of these songs, I encourage teachers to ask students to find other songs, especially in other musical genres, which have similar themes and bring them into the inquiry.


     Social studies teachers must grapple with the history and present of race and racism in the United States and across the world. This is simply non-negotiable if we are to take seriously our charge to create effective citizens, as stated by the National Council for the Social Studies (2010). In doing this, we must work with and see to it that our students hear many voices; Bruce Springteen’s is one of so many potential curricular resources. While his voice cannot stand alone in the inquiry, it can be a powerful part of it, particularly as it is firmly rooted in the places of New Jersey and New York. Thinking about the significance of place, and what it might mean for students learning about their places, I am reminded of something that Springsteen said to me when I was able to an interview him about Woody Guthrie’s song “This Land Is Your Land”:

[“This Land Is Your Land” is] enormously beautiful. It’s one of the most beautiful statements of ownership of your own Americanness. The insistence of your place, that this is your place. That you have a place, not just geographically, but by birthright you are a player in history. By your belonging to this place, at this time, and making your claim of ownership of this place, at this time, marks you as a player in this moment in history. As such you are empowered, rather than disenfranchised. (Author, 2018, p. 14)


Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: The New Press.

Author. (2018). Blinded for review. Barnes, J. E. (2000, June 13). Springsteen song about Diallo prompts anger from police. The New York Times. Retrieved from pringsteen-song-about-diallo-prompts-angerfrom-police.html

Coates, T. (2015). Between the world and me. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau.

Kendi, I. X. (2016). Stamped from the beginning: The definitive history of racist ideas in America. New York: Nation Books.

Lepore, J. (2018). These truths: A history of the United States. New York: Norton.

Marsh, D. (2011). MIGHTY MIGHTY, SPADE AND WHITEY: Clarence and Bruce, friendship and race. Virtual Dave Marsh [blog]. Retrieved from

National Council for the Social Studies (2010). National curriculum standards for social studies: A framework for teaching, learning, and assessment. Washington, D.C.: NCSS.

Pelley, S. (2007, October 4). Springsteen: Silence is unpatriotic. 60 Minutes. Retrieved from

Rothstein, R. (2017). The color of law: A forgotten history of how our government segregated America. New York: Norton.

Spera, K. (2012, April 22). Remembering Bruce Springsteen’s big moment at the 2006 New Orleans Jazz Fest. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved from remembering_bruce_springsteens.html

Springsteen, B. (1975). Tenth avenue freeze-out. Retrieved from

Springsteen, B. (1984). My hometown. Retrieved from

Springsteen, B. (1996). The ghost of Tom Joad. Retrieved from

Springsteen, B. (2006). How can a poor man stand such times and live. Retrieved from

Springsteen, B. (2014). American skin. Retrieved from

Using Malala’s Story to Develop Student Agency

Monisha Moore

     The National Council of the Social Studies (NCSS) suggests that social studies instruction in the elementary classroom should offer opportunities for students to recognize societal problems, investigate those problems through questioning, consider the possible solutions and consequences, and act upon their learning (NCSS, 2017). Nonetheless, Heafner and Fitchett (2012) documented the diminishing role of social studies in the elementary curriculum in a notable meta-analysis. Further analysis of the literature (Hubbard, 2013; Britt & Howe, 2014; Heafner & Fitchett, 2015) indicates that social studies instruction in the elementary grades is marginalized as a direct result of the attention required in high-stakes tested subject area such as English language arts (ELA) and math. Even though tenets of equity are set forth in Common Core State Standards, the emphasis on teaching to standardized test still undermine quality efforts to teach social justice issues in most classrooms (Dover, 2015; Agarwal, 2011; Alsup & Miller, 2014). Although the focus on ELA and math are deemed necessary, so are the skills introduced to elementary students through quality social studies instruction. It is often through this instruction that students learn to investigate structural inequities, analyze multiple perspectives, critically examine history, and envision how they can enact social change in their world (Nieto, 2000; Sleeter, 2015; Picower, 2012)

     Rethinking the curriculum could benefit students significantly. Using culturally sustaining trade books to supplement the curriculum benefits students in important ways (Tschida & Buchanan, 2017). Providing opportunities for students to learn historical context of subject matter through inquiry based curricular activities allow students to construct deeper knowledge of subject matter introduced in core reading programs. That deeper knowledge positions students to do history through hands-on activities rather than just receive it through transmission from the teacher (Levstik & Barton, 2015).

     In elementary core reading programs, there are often stories that show main characters in leadership positions. Each of these lessons is an opportunity to expound upon the concept with additional material which makes the learning personal while providing historical context. The addition of well-thought out activities supplemented with developmentally-appropriate trade books encourage students to delve deeper into the curriculum. Students need to examine these topics to more fully understand acts of resistance such as organized protest. They benefit by gaining a firmer grasp of the historical context of children advocates so they can better understand how they are capable to effect comparable change (Witherspoon, Clabough & Elliott, 2017). The activities in this article introduce a method of extending a reading lesson on leadership with a trade book, For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story.

The value of trade books

     Students must be able to utilize the inquiry process, collect and analyze data, and collaborate with others in decision-making and problem-solving activities as described in the NCSS C3 Framework (NCSS, 2013). To ensure that students develop agency, they must be intentionally introduced to texts which are rich in historical value. Trade books are an excellent means to provide such experiences (Moore, 2018).

     Trade books allow students to explore historical events in depth through factual accounts (Clabough, Wooten & Turner, 2014). Trade books are usually levelized (Bickford & Schuette, 2016) so they readily offer themselves to teachers for differentiated lessons (Schwebel, 2011). Paperback versions of trade books are economical and they are often used in elementary classrooms as independent and readaloud options. Such developmentally appropriate opportunities allow students to learn about historical events through the integration of social studies and literacy instruction (Bickford & Schuette, 2016; Agarwal-Rangnath, 2013).

     Rather than experiencing leadership through a singular perspective, trade books allow students to connect to literature through multiple perspectives. Trade books also provide students with a springboard from which they can critically evaluate those perspectives as begin to formulate and analyze their own position (Allen, 2018). Trade books tap into the emotional elements of events in ways that textbooks often lack (Krey, 1998). Culturally-sustaining trade books allow students to see themselves and their cultures represented in positive ways which affect their emotions, attitudes and connections to information (McCarty, 2007). Students are drawn to characters and themes which are relatable to them (Bickford, 2018). These relatable experiences allow students to understand the value and importance of their history within the larger history of America. The following activity for working with trade books afford students the ability to develop personal agency.


     I begin the lesson by writing the overarching question on chart paper so that it visible for the duration of the lesson. The question is “How can children act as leaders to effect change?” I explain that all of the activities in this lesson are based on this question. Further, I explain that events in the past have allowed young children to act as leaders on behalf of themselves or others. Their actions at specific moments in history had implications for others which are still felt today. Next, we work collaboratively to define leaders, effect, and change. The definitions are added to the chart paper with the inquiry question. We discuss synonyms, and I elicit synonyms for the word leaders so that students understand the meaning of other words they may hear that define leaders (i.e. advocate, agent).  

     I ask students to describe their education by completing the left portion of a t-chart entitled “My Education.” This activity allows students to thoroughly examine their feelings about the educational process they experience as they formulate their own thoughts and ideas. When students are expected to speak on an issue, they should be able to determine their perspective based on their background, their culture, and the empathy they may either share with others or that will stand in defiance to the voice of others. This is an integral step in students connecting themselves, their emotions, and their attitudes to information they encounter (Ladson-Billings, 1995; 2014). Students will share and explain their responses with the larger group.

     Next, I explain to students that they will have the opportunity to research the life of Malala Yousafzai. They are told that they should consider the ways their educational experience parallels or differs during the reading. Students read the book, For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story. For students with reading difficulties, the text can be read aloud by the teacher, pre-recorded and independently accessed by a QR code, or peer-read with a reading buddy. This ensures that each student has the opportunity to read and comprehend the story before extending the learning.

     Students work collaboratively with peers to identify the person(s) being discriminated against in the text. The graphic organizer that follows allows students to chart their ideas as they work. Their responses should include text evidence. The text evidence should indicate a quote from the story or a paraphrase of the author’s words along with a page number from which those words were taken. This facilitates students’ ability to cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking so they can support conclusions they have drawn from the text. Students meet together to discuss their findings. The teacher serves to clarify information disclosed using prompts such as “Tell me how you arrived that that conclusion” or “Can you tell us more about your thinking?” This activity is important as students learn how to substantiate their claims with textual information. Having students attend to textual information and applying that information to authentic discussions call for higher order thinking. Higher order thinking skills associated with such text analysis has been related to better comprehension in elementary students Deeney, 2016).                            

Figure 1: Graphic organizer for text analysis

     Next, students summarize the steps taken in the text to address the restrictive policy. This step ensure that students recognize advocacy. Further, it ensures that students are able to distinguish how they can act as agents of change. This benefits students as they further develop comprehension skills through determining central ideas and summarizing key ideas and details from text.

     When students complete their graphic organizer, they share and discuss their findings with their group through Socratic activities. These activities encourage students to think critically and ask questions about the text they have read. Further, students engage in questioning their perspectives and the perspectives of those in the larger communities in which they live. This discussion is instrumental in aiding students in participating effectively in conversations with diverse partners as they listen to the ideas of others and express their own ideas persuasively.

     An example of a Socratic activity engages students in analysis of the text. As young students may be novice participants in these types of discussions, the teacher leads the whole group discussion by asking questions such as:

1.Analyze how the educational expectations for students in the text differ from those in your community.

2. In what ways are students that you may know prevented from attending school?

3. What are some reasons people may have for keeping children out of school?

     The teacher listens to the responses and asks students to clarify necessary information by using prompts such as “Tell me more about that” or “Can you explain what you mean?” The teacher charts the students’ responses and encourages students to evaluate or connect to them. Next, the teacher explains the importance of the Nobel Peace Prize. She acknowledges that in 2014 Malala was the youngest recipient of the award. Students then watch a short clip of the video at accessible at The teacher explains that characters in books can impart multiple perspectives. She asks students to think about the ways in which Malala’s perspective may differ from the perspective of her father or her mother. Then, students choose one of the following prompts and work in pairs or small groups to discuss and write about their prompt through perspective writing.

1. What does it mean when Malala says “Thank you to my father, for not clipping my wings, and letting me fly?”

2. Malala thanks her mother for inspiring her to always speak the truth. Discuss how someone has inspired you to speak the truth. What was that truth?

3. Malala thanks her teachers for inspiring her to believe in herself and be brave. How have teachers (or others) inspired you to believe in yourself or to be brave?

     This activity benefits students as they learn to acknowledge the importance of multiple perspectives. Such diverse perspectives encourage students to acknowledge how values and cultures other than their own are represented and experienced by those around them. Further, students are able to construct knowledge about the world in which they live (Bickford & Rich, 2017). Students are also able to distinguish their own point of view from the author’s.

     After working through the activities, students move into a whole group area. Collectively, they summarize prior learning by highlighting their group work. I chart the students’ responses. Then, I ask the group to evaluate if the restrictive policies they have identified are still problematic for individuals or groups today. I chart the responses and facilitate the discussion as necessary. Facilitation of the discussion includes clarifying erroneous presumptions that young students may offer through supplemental discussion or primary source information. For the policies identified by the students, I ask them to evaluate the ways in which they can act to effect change. I facilitate a discussion in which students plan their next steps as agents of change to restrictive policies they have identified.

     Finally, students will complete the Tchart they completed at the beginning of the activity. As students have been immersed in the learning, they have encountered multiple perspectives through independent, small group, and whole group efforts. Completion of the graphic organizer allows students to compare and contrast their educational experience with Malala. Most importantly, it allows students an opportunity to recognize and address internal conflicts they may have encountered through this learning. Students will have choice in how they utilize this segment of the activity. They may choose evaluate the comparison privately. Otherwise, they may choose to expound upon their learning by constructing a poem, composing a song, producing a video response or writing a letter to Malala. Options such as these are important to students. Although some students may be emotionally ready to delve into such important works, others may require more time to analyze how their feelings align with those they have encountered.


     Students need to understand that children can act as advocates for change. They need to understand that even as young students, they have the ability to address restrictive policies in important ways. Doing history rather than learning facts allows students to delve deeply into historical content as they read expository and narrative text, collaborate with peers, and write about their learning (Levstik & Barton, 2015). Through identification of policies and appropriate actions, students have the ability to create more equitable communities.

     Presenting students with opportunities to learn about children in other parts of the world or at other times in history allows them to understand other cultures and multiple perspectives. In doing so, students learn to question the decisions and choices of others as well as their own. Developing the ability to understand issues from multiple perspectives allow students to better understand the complex society in which they live. Through social studies literacy skills, students learn to engage in practices which are transformational.

     Students can use social studies literacy skills to challenge and change systems they view as oppressive. Participatory actions such as those discussed in this article encourage students to develop developmentally appropriate responses to these systems which benefit themselves and others. As students become more aware, they are more capable of acting upon socially constructed rules which serve some while marginalizing others.


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One-to-One Layered Curriculum: Differentiation in the 21st Century

Starlynn R. Nance University of Central Missouri

     As usual, Mr. Lockwood enters the classroom with a spring in his step and a smile on his face greeting his 7th grade students. He usually makes a figure eight around the classroom saying, “thank you, Julie, for having your AR book out. Thank you, Joe, for having your notebook out and working on the bell ringer,” which gets the students organized for the day and ready for social studies. However, today in class, instruction will look different. For one, all students will participate in one-to-one technology (their school is not one-to-one) and two, students will choose their own adventure (CYOA) for the Ancient Egypt unit. Students are coupled together, each checking out a computer from the cart borrowed from the library in back of the classroom. Mr. Lockwood enthusiastically tells the students they are going on an adventure and to get to the end destination, they must CHOOSE their own way to learn! The students are confused but excited to see how this new unit will play out. Differentiated Instruction Mr. Lockwood is about to engage his students in differentiated instruction through layered curriculum. Differentiated instruction was developed by Carol Ann Tomlinson and can be defined “as an approach to teaching in which teachers proactively modify curricula, teaching methods, resources, learning activities, and student products to address the diverse needs of individual students and small groups of students to maximize the learning opportunity for each student in a classroom” (Tomlinson, et al. 2003). Mr. Lockwood is demonstrating the basic level of differentiation, shaking up the curriculum to fit his students’ needs and moving away from a unitary approach of teaching (Tomlinson, 2017). Described as a Little House on the Prairie one room schoolhouse situation, differentiated instruction uses whole-class, small-group and individual instruction to teach the curriculum. In a 2003 article titled Differentiated Instruction in Response to Student Readiness, Interest, and Learning Profile in Academic Diverse Classrooms: A Literature Review, Tomlinson and colleagues found that teachers do not adjust their instruction to the needs of the students in order to reach a diverse population of learners (p. 131). Instead teachers will switch instructional strategies throughout the lesson but all students will do the same activities no matter their ability.  As stressed over and over throughout Tomlinson’s publications, differentiation is not individualized but allows the teacher to use multiple avenues for students to learn, “attending to students as individuals” (Tomlinson, 2017, p. 3). One way Tomlinson suggests that teachers focus on differentiation is through tiered lessons. Through tiered lessons “everybody works with essential knowledge and skills but at different degrees of difficulty or different levels of complexity” (Wu, 2013, pg. 130). Enter Layered Curriculum.

Layered Curriculum

     A layered curriculum is differentiated through tiers and “integrates the three keys: choice, accountability and increasingly complex thinking” (Nunley, 2003, pg. 35). This type of differentiation allows the teachers to change delivery of instruction, student product and content throughout an entire unit. Organized into a four-step process, Nunley (1996) discusses it in a publication from the Science Teacher. Her first step is the unit sheet consisting of various assignments with point systems attached to the assignments. Second, she then divides her curriculum into layers C, B and A and uses Bloom’s Taxonomy to create the layers and assignments. The letter represents the letter grade and score range a student could receive on that certain layer. Roughly, C layer represent basic knowledge and comprehension, B layer represents application and A layer is critical thinking. After assignments are completed Nunley explains that she would speak to each student about their assignment giving them an oral evaluation. She does not give them a paper/pencil test at the end of the unit. The last step is the learning stations. These learnings stations consist of audio lectures, physical props, TV shows/documentaries, etc. Throughout the layers, students are given choices and different avenues to learn the content from the curriculum. In the unit, differentiation occurs through process, product and content. Using Nunley’s layered curriculum, three separate empirical studies (Gun, 2013; Kilincaslan & Simek, 2015; and Uzum & Pesen, 2019) showed that when students engaged in layered curriculum their motivation and attendance increased but also academic achievement increased with respect to a controlled group.

21st Century Layered Curriculum

     Thinking about the definition of differentiated instruction from Tomlinson and the four-step process of Layered Curriculum from Nunley, how can Mr. Lockwood have the same outcomes as the empirical studies from layered curriculum? Taking inspiration from Nunley (1996) when she stated, in layered curriculum “technology should be used whenever possible” (pg. 55), Mr. Lockwood and Dr. Nance go on their own adventure to create a one-to-one differentiated layered curriculum of Ancient Egypt. They had to manipulate the fourstep process to adjust for 21st century skills, district requirements, data collection, a common curriculum map and common assessments. The result was a one-to-one Google Site that included all the parts discussed by Nunley but placed in different order to adjust to Mr. Lockwood’s building and district requirements. The new four-step framework was implemented in a 7th grade world history class and called Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA). The unit lasted about 6-7 days of a block scheduling AB schedule.

     The CYOA format includes a four-step process used for one-to-one layered curriculum differentiated instruction. It includes an introduction, the level tabs, assessment and technology. First, Students are introduced to the unit that is called Choose Your Own Adventure. They login to their Google Classroom to find a web address. All students proceed to the Google Site and stop at the homepage. The homepage gives specific directions to take a diagnostic or pretest on Google Forms. After all these are submitted, the students click on the level C tab. At this time, the teacher explains the concept of CYOA, the classroom expectations during CYOA and how to locate all levels, assignments, assessments on the Google Site. Second, the Google Site consists of a Homepage tab, Level C tab, Level B tab and Level A tab. On the front of each level are directions for that particular level, a Google Slides Screencast Informational Video, a Graphic Organizer, a Formative Assessment and CYOA Assignments. Students have written directions on each level that include points required, tentative due dates and step-by-step directions through each individual level (See Appendix A). For example, directions on each level read, “the graphic organizer, video(s) and formative assessment are required in every level of the CYOA and must be competed first. Remember, you must complete the graphic organizer while watching the video(s) (5 points) and make an 80% (5 points) before you can move forward to the adventure.” The teacher checks each formative assessment. If the student scores an 80%, then they move forward to their adventure. If the student makes below 80%, the teacher re-teaches on the spot. If the teacher is also satisfied with its graphic organizer and oral assessment, the student re-tests. If the teacher is not, the student will listen to the video(s) again and redo the graphic organizer. Then the student will retest to get the appropriate benchmark to move to the adventure. Levels B and A have a skills video with a graphic organizer along with the informational/lecture video and it’s graphic organizer. Two graphic organizers will be required for levels B and A. Each level also includes “How To” videos from Google Classroom, Google Suite and some assignment examples from YouTube. Each assignment is posted separately with total points required, assignment points and directions for the assignments. After students complete levels CA, a summative is given. The teacher facilitates and answers questions during the assignment phase constantly assessing the students. Third, students are assessed for the collection of data specifically for data teams and district requirements. The assessments used are diagnostic/pretest, formative assessments and summative evaluation. The diagnostic assessment is on the first day of CYOA and is taken on Google Forms. The formative assessments are quality questioning from the teacher and multiple-choice questions (objectives/targets) located on Google Forms. The formatives are built into each level and have a required benchmark. This allows the teacher to have one-on-one instruction with each student and use the Google Forms to follow the student’s progress through the unit. Fourth, technology is implemented throughout the CYOA using a Google Site. Using Google Sites is optimal for this type of instruction. All videos from screencasts to YouTube can be uploaded to the site. The students can complete all assignments through Google Suite and turn them into Google Classroom.

Colleague Reflection

     After the unit was complete, I sat down with Mr. Lockwood and debriefed. Because this was not an empirical study, the conversation is just two colleagues’ reflections of what transpired in the classroom. First, both of us thought it went well. The flow of the classroom remained the same and the students followed procedures without major incidents. The students’ interaction with each other was excellent. They relied on their partner for clarification questions and used their small group and sometimes an impromptu larger group to discuss the assignments and get help with content. Overall, the students enjoyed the choices they had in the different levels and liked that they could go back to the videos for help if they needed it. They enjoyed the “How To” videos because they could go at their own pace to learn the skill and could rewatch as many times as they needed to get it right. It looked like the students were taking responsibility for their own learning and Mr. Lockwood liked watching his classroom environment change to student-centered. We also agree with the empirical articles that layered curriculum increased motivation and academic achievement. Mr. Lockwood saw significant progress from the diagnostic test to the summative test. The students took a survey about CYOA and they overwhelmingly liked how it was done in the class, and they had freedom to go at their own pace. The problems that occurred were all technological and could be fixed in a matter of minutes. There were not problems with the differentiated instruction layered curriculum philosophy that Mr. Lockwood brought to his classroom. Overall, Mr. Lockwood is happy with CYOA and will be implementing it in more units in his classroom this next school year. I also want to add that Mr. Lockwood and I cannot take credit for the clever title of CYOA. That was borrowed from as were many of the assignments the students completed. His website is amazing, and I hope you go visit it when you put your CYOA together.


    Differentiation is not individualized lessons for each student but looking at the needs of your students and offering different pathways to learn the objectives/content so each student can achieve success. Layered curriculum is tiered differentiation that can accomplish the goal of giving students different avenues to learn in the classroom. Moving layered curriculum to one-to-one is optimal for students to learn new skills but also to be able to move at their own pace and enjoy a major advantage of individual instruction with the teacher most days of the week.                   

Appendix A      


Gun, E.S. (2013). The reflections of layered curriculum to learning-teaching process in social studies course. International Journal of Instruction, Vol. 6, No. 2, 87-98.

Kilincaslan, H. & Simsek, P.U. (2015). Effects of curriculum layered and creative drama methods on 6th grade “Force and Motion” unit on achievement, attitude and detention. Education and Science, Vol 40, No. 180, 217245.

Nunley, K. (1996). Going for the goal: Multilevel assignments cater to students of differing abilities. The Science Teacher, 63 (6), 52-56.

Nunley, K. (2003). Layered curriculum brings teachers to tiers. The Education Digest, 69 (1), 31-36. Roughton, Kevin (2019). CYOA. Retrieved from

Tomlinson, C.A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Tomlinson, C.A., Brighton, C., Hertbert, H. Callahan, C., Moon, K.B., Conover, L. & Reynolds, T. (2003). Differentiating instruction in response to student readiness, interest, and learning profile in academically diverse classrooms: A review of literature. Journal for the Education of the Gifted. Vol. 27, No. 2-3, 119-145.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2017 ). How to differentiate instruction in academically diverse classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Uzum, B. & Pesen, A. (2019). Do the learner centered approaches increase academic performance? Effect of the layered curriculum on students’ academic achievement in English lessons. International Journal of Instruction, 12 (1), 1585-1608.      

Wu, E.H. (2013). The path leading to differentiation: An interview with Carol  Tomlinson. Journal of Advanced Academics, 24 (2), 125-133.