Living the Legacy


Growing tensions II: Affirmative Action

Unit 3 , Lesson 3

Jewish Women's Archive - Living the Legacy

Growing tensions II: Affirmative Action

Lesson plan:
  1. Introduction: Review Growing Tensions I: Black-Jewish Relations

    1. If you did not teach the previous lesson (Growing Tensions I) give your students some brief background on black-Jewish relations during the civil rights era using that portion of the essay that accompanies this lesson. If you did not teach the lesson African Americans and Jews: Siblings in Oppression? you may want to summarize that portion of the essay as well.


      If you did teach Growing Tensions I: Black-Jewish Relations, either use the beginning of this class period to stage the Poetry/Spoken Word Slam students prepared for at the end of the last lesson or ask students to reflect on what they learned from the Poetry/Spoken Word Slam they held last time. You also may want to discuss with your class the issue of cultural appropriation. (See that lesson for more details and suggestions relating to the Slam.)
    2. Fun with Post-its
      1. Give each of your students 3 post-its, one each of 3 different colors. Divide the board or wall space into three spaces marked "Causes of Tension" "African American Response" and "Jewish Response." (Or indicate which color equals which category.)
      2. On one color post-it have them write down one thing they learned about the causes of tensions between African Americans and Jews during the Civil Rights Movement, on a second color post-it have them write down one way African Americans responded to these tensions, and on a third color post-it have them write down one way Jews responded to the tensions.
      3. Divide your class into small groups and have students share within their group what they've written on their post-its.
      4. Have each group come up one at a time and stick their post-its on a wall or white board, organizing them by color (i.e. all the blue post-its together, all the yellow post-its together, and all the pink post-its together).
      5. When all the post-its have been stuck up in front of the class, have one or two representatives from each group come to the front of the class to begin organizing the post-its into new categories that make sense to them (for example, they might find that there are a bunch of post-its related to financial tensions between African Americans and Jews in the tension category). After they've had time to make a few categories, invite the next set of representatives to come up. (If you're using a wall, rather than a writing surface, be sure to have a fifth color of post-its on hand for the categories.)
      6. Review the categories and some examples with your class.
  2. Text Study: Jigsaw

    1. Explain to your students:
      In the late 1960s and the 1970s new tensions arose between African Americans and Jews. Today, we're going to explore one subject of those tensions: affirmative action policies. (More information can be found in the Affirmative Action section of the introductory essay.)
    2. Divide your class into two groups and give each group one of the document study guides. (If you have a larger class, make more groups and each document will go to two or more groups. Then use groups of four instead of groups of two for part d.)
    3. Have the groups read and discuss their document. Then they should prepare to teach their document to another group by working on the "Teaching Preparation" section of their document study guide.
    4. Split into new groups of two (or four) students, with each student (or pair of students) having studied a different document. Have each member of the group teach the other students about the document s/he read.
    5. Have your students come back together as a class and discuss the following questions:
      • Would you be willing to "give up" your spot at your first choice college so that another student from a historically underserved minority could go to that school? Why or why not? In what, if any, circumstances would you feel differently? (Be sure students who themselves are members of a historically underserved minority have a chance to contribute to the conversation.)
      • Why do you think Jewish communal organizations took official positions on affirmative action? Do you think this is an issue of particular concern for the Jewish community? Why or why not?
      • If you were in charge of designing a just and equitable admissions policy for a university, what would it look like and why?
  3. Wrap-up: More fun with Post-its

    1. Give students 2-3 of a fourth color of post-it notes.
    2. Using their new post-its, ask students to respond to the following questions:
      • How did the responses to affirmative action reveal tensions between the African American and Jewish communities and within those communities?
      • What do you think is relevant for today? Why?
    3. Have your students add their post-its to the categories and sub categories from the beginning of class. They may also start new sub-categories if they feel they are necessary.
    4. Choose a few ideas related to issues that are still relevant today and discuss these with your class.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Living the Legacy - Lesson: Growing tensions II: Affirmative Action." (Viewed on April 20, 2014) <>.