Guest Blogger: Jean Waites-Howard
Last fall I taught Social Policy. I always want to introduce relevant Black Historical events that impact on Social Policy. I had recently learned about The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. This is a very long text which chronicles the Great Migration from the South to the North from 1915 to 1970. The book focuses on the adventures and trials of three migrants: Ida Mae Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster. The book includes individuals and families seeking a “better life,” as well as those who played a major role in the transformation of America’s landscape. I really wanted the students to have an opportunity to read this well-documented, informative report of our history.
My Social Policy class was very large (37 students). I divided them into six groups. I divided the text into six sections. Each group was to read their section and respond to seven questions about the text. The students had to prepare PowerPoints for their group presentation and a two-page summary.
The student presentations were excellent. The students shared equally in the presentations. They worked together and really covered their assigned material. Several students encouraged me to use this book again for this course. Leaving the “Jim Crow South” and confronting racism in Chicago was eye opening for our students.
For instance, Ida Mae Gladney had attended a neighborhood watch meeting in Chicago where she had the opportunity to hear a young state senator named Barack Obama. That led to the question of what the impact of the Great Migration was on Obama’s presidency. The students could connect this history with current events, as they could the fact that “the first black mayors in each of the major receiving cities of the North and the West were not longtime native blacks but participants of sons of the Great Migration.” (p. 529, The Warmth of Other Suns)
Group projects can reinforce learning and build our students’ skills. This is a creative manner to introduce important subject matter.