People are People

Grade Level: 6 through 8

Sunshine State Standards:

View all Sunshine State Standards

Problem Statement

Many groups historically have been treated poorly. Typically those persecuted have done nothing wrong to prompt the actions taken by their aggressor. Most often these groups are singled out for characteristics that are not harmful. Through the ignorance of certain people many groups have been wronged innocently throughout history.


The students will be able to understand the human condition more clearly through the historical examples of the Holocaust and segregation. The students also will be challenged to examine their own beliefs in order to pledge for peace in the future.

Projected Time Frame

Depending on the reading level of the class, this unit will take approximately 15-20 class sessions.

Unit Overview and Timeline

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor and The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen can be paralleled to display the cruel nature of modern societies. Through the careful examination of these two samples of adolescent literature, the history of the time can make a larger impact on the life of each individual student.

Materials and Resources Common Experiences/Content Procedures:

Menu of Choices for Students

For those students who would like to go over and above the daily course work, they may create a bulletin board display. Here the students could develop a portrait of the famous individuals lost as a result of the oppression in WWII. If pictures can be downloaded from the Internet or found in books, incorporate those as well.

Culminating Event/Closure

Use Dr. King's speech I Have a Dream. Create pictures and poetry that celebrate the true potential of this piece of history. Then have students create a Code of Conduct for Peace in the Future. By working on the wording of the code, students can truly take ownership and hold each other accountable for its statements.

Reflections and Insights

Finding that a growing number of my students mistreat each other on a daily basis, I found this unit necessary. I stress consideration for one another at all times in my classroom. After awhile the students grow tired of me saying the same thing over and over again. There is a great need today to show students how to live in peace and harmony.

Supplementary Materials

I Have a Dream

by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

The Greenies

By William Goodykoontz

John Doe, Jr., is not born with prejudice against people who have green hair. But from the time he is a small child, he is warned against them. He is not supposed to play with green-haired children. He is told not to talk with them. His parents say, "Stay with your own kind. You'll be bad, John, if you mix with green-haired children."

As John grew older, he learns that his parents, their friends, and neighbors do not want people with green hair to: attend his church, live in his neighborhood, go to his school, or playground, or camp.

John believes what the adults around him say. And they say that green-haired people should go to church elsewhere, and go to other schools. As a child, John does not see many people with green hair.

At home, John often listens to his father talk. John Doe, Sr., started out in life with high hopes. But somewhere along the way, John Doe, Sr., did not get the job he wanted or the raise he hoped for. He began to believe that a certain group of people were the cause of his failure and that these people are to blame for everything that is wrong in life. Naturally, the bad ones are the Greenies - the people with green hair!

John Doe, Sr., talks against the people with green hair everywhere he goes - in public and in private. At home, especially, he talks about how dirty, dumb, poor, and evil the people with green hair are. Day after day, he makes jokes about them. He says that they should be thrown out of the community or that they are turning the country over to the enemy. And he always says that no Greenies will ever move into his neighborhood. Complaining about the green-haired people makes John Doe, Sr., forget that he himself is something of a failure. And when he is reminded of his failure, he can easily blame it on the green-haired people.

John Doe, Jr., begins to believe that his father is right. And anyhow he doesn't often talk with green-haired people to see what they're really like. Sometimes he reads about them in newspapers. But since newspapers play up crime, he usually reads about green haired people who have gotten into trouble with the law. Again John believes his parents are right. Green-haired people do bad things. Even the newspapers say so.

John Doe, Jr., becomes a man. He believes the things he has learned about people with green hair. Then he marries Jane Roe, who has learned the same prejudices against people with green hair. Later they have children. "Don't play with children with green hair. You are bad if you do."

So John Doe, Jr., carries over his prejudices to his children. And his children, too, become infected with the disease called prejudice.

Complete the following sentences with facts from "The Greenies"
  1. John is not supposed to play with......
  2. John's parents, their friends, and their neighbors do not want people with green hair to......
  3. As a child, John does not see many people......
  4. John's father believes that a certain group of people are to blame for......
  5. Complaining about the green-haired people make John Doe, Sr., forget that he himself......
  6. Since newspapers play up crime, John usually reads about green-haired people who have......
  7. John Doe, Jr., carries over the......
  8. Using your own words, define the word prejudice.
  9. What can you do to stop prejudice?

Pre-reading Activity

As a teenager your daily needs often require a few necessities. List all the "items" it takes to make you comfortable day in and day out. Be specific. Don't forget to explain its importance.

If your house were about to be engulfed by fire, what would you choose to take with you? List all the items you would save. Further, explain the significance in saving those items.

KWL Chart

What I already know
What I would like to know
What I have learned


Submitted by:

Jennifer Ashby, Teacher, Grace Lutheran School, St. Petersburg, Florida

A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 1997.

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