Subject Area: United States History, 1850 to the Present (High School)
Author: Steve Hopkins, District Supervisor of Social Studies, World Languages, and English Language Learners, Berkeley Heights, NJ
Lesson Description: The lesson, which is based on a website developed by the author, is designed to introduce students to the concept of “History from Below” and to develop their analytical skills by examining the “voices” of specific sets of nonelite people. The lesson would be the introduction to this theme, which could be carried forward through an entire course. This particular lesson is pitched high for high-school students, but it could be modified for any level, including for introductory college-level courses.
The website provides a guided introduction to the concept of “History from Below” via an excerpt from E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class followed by a guided analysis of Childish Gambino’s music video “This is America.” Students then complete four modeled group projects focused on different non-elite groups, including women, the poor, African Americans, and workers. (Groups would be about four to five students.) In each group students work on interpreting their assigned documents and creating their presentations, which would include the addition of two more documents, of different types, that enhanced the scope and “voice” of the non-elite group covered by their project. Student groups would then present their findings.