Social Reform and Issues of Race and Class

In this activity students explore how Progressive Era reforms did not apply universally, but rather varied depending on issues like race and class. Students watch the 30-minute film Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl and read an article that explains tensions among immigrants and African Americans in the Progressive Era.

Objectives

  • Students will examine the experiences of African Americans during the Uprising of the 20,000.

  • Students will analyze the ways that race and class affected the goals and impacts of social reform movements.  

This activity supports the following Common Core Literacy Standards in History/Social Studies:

  • WHSS.6-8.2. Write informative/explanatory texts.

Instructions

Step 1: Have students watch the 30-minute film Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl.  Alternatively, students can read relevant passages from the viewing guide for the film.  

Step 2: Give each student a copy of the excerpt from Meredith Tax's The Rising Women and the triple-entry journal form.  Each student should read the excerpt and take notes with the form:

  • In column A, note key facts, words or phrases

  • In column B, note your reactions to the reading

  • At the bottom of the page, identify areas or issues you wanted to know more about as a result of this reading.

Step 3: Now have students choose a partner (or divide students into pairs).  With their partners, students should exchange their notes on the reading and write their responses to the notes in Column C.  After noting their responses, students should pass the journal form back to their partners for them to read.  Partners should discuss the issues raised with each other.  

Step 4: Lead the entire group in a discussion of the reading and the questions it raised.  Discussion questions include:

  • What has the reading informed you about issues of race, class and gender?

  • Do similar issues resonate today?

  • What do you still want to know more about?

Step 5: Ask students to imagine that they are journalists in 1909.  Using the information provided in the film, the viewer's guide and Meredith Tax's excerpt, they should write an editorial about the Uprising of the 20,000, focusing on the situation of black women.  

Historical Context

As millions of immigrants flooded into turn-of-the-century New York City, they encountered a smaller but growing African-American community, and America's heritage of racial inequality. In many areas of life, immigrants and African-Americans found themselves in competition; in some areas they struggled to find common ground.

Source | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, 2007.
Creator | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning
Rights | Copyright American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Item Type | Teaching Activity
Cite This document | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, “Social Reform and Issues of Race and Class,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 1, 2014, http://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1496.