School Improvement in Maryland

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 1.0 Political Science

Topic C. Protecting Rights and Maintaining Order

Indicator 2. Explain how the United States government protected or failed to protect the rights of individuals and groups

Objective b. Describe methods that were used to deny civil rights to women, African Americans and Native Americans

Because this objective requires coverage of discrimination methods that were used against three different groups, it is likely to be completed at a minimum of three different points throughout the 8th grade U.S. History course. The lesson seed below can be applied to any or each of the three groups listed in the text of the objective.

It is important for students to recognize that particularly in early U.S. history, forms of discrimination against women, African Americans, and Native Americans were public policies that were widely accepted by large segments of the population and enforced by both governments and civil society. Such recognition will help students begin to think about the challenges faced by those who supported eliminating these discrimination policies.

In the context of units covering various forms of discrimination against women, African Americans, or Native Americans, introduce or review with students the definition of the term public policy. (According to the Center for Civic Education’s Project Citizen text, a public policy “a concept or set of ideas that guides a course of action or a procedure used in dealing with public issues or problems. Public policies are often embodied in laws, rules, or regulations or agreed upon procedures…”) Also introduce or review with students the idea that public policies are made and implemented by the government and/or by civil society (the part of society where people associate or interact voluntarily to pursue interests they share, such as businesses, churches, organizations, or associations).

Tell the students that today, they will conduct an investigation to analyze and draw conclusions about public policies made in U.S. History that were intended to discriminate against [women, African Americans, Native Americans]. As needed, post and/or distribute a sample primary source that contains evidence of a discriminatory policy against the group the class is studying. In full class discussion, have students summarize the discrimination policy, identify who made it, and discuss whether the policy was implemented by government, civil society, or both.

Depending on the unit context, provide students with a variety of primary and/or secondary accounts of discrimination against women, African Americans, or Native Americans from early U.S. history. Using these sources of information, have the students conduct investigations to gather information about discrimination, for the purpose of completing organizers/notes sheets asking students to (1) identify and describe forms of discrimination; (2) identify who made the discriminatory public policy, and provide supporting evidence; and (3) identify who implemented or enforced the discriminatory public policy, and provide supporting evidence (the answers to (2) and (3) will be government, civil society, or both).

Following their analysis of the source materials, be sure the students can summarize some general methods that were used, such as coverture laws and voting restrictions against women, Black Codes and Fugitive Slave laws against African Americans, and the “Discovery Doctrine” and Indian removal policies against Native Americans, to discriminate against minority groups in early U.S. history. Finally, in full class discussion, ask students to consider what they learned during their investigations to brainstorm a list of barriers to reversing discrimination policies.

As time permits, add an additional activity in which students will first identify how and when each form of discrimination was ultimately overturned either by law, constitutional amendment, or the Supreme Court.

Suggested primary sources for this activity include:


African Americans:

Native Americans:

Resources for Objective 1.C.2.b:
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