The Curriculum

An eighteen-month-long project developed African American studies curriculum units and materials based on the histories of five locally significant individuals whose lives dramatically intersect key moments in American history.  Participants were a core group of twenty K-12 teachers.  At secondary level, it included teachers from social studies and English.  The group includes teachers from both public and private schools, but we paid special attention to state and national curriculum frameworks. 

Before being accepted into this invitational project, applicants identified a curricular area of special interest related to one of the five focal personalities and historical periods.  Participants explored a common body of information as their entry point and designed and completed individual grade- and subject-specific curricula over fifteen months.  Optional course credits were available to participants who completed an additional content-based project with a shorter timeframe.

A weeklong colloquium was held with the participants  in July 2005, focusing on key periods of American history as reflected in the experiences of five African Americans in and from Berkshire County and in texts of literary and historical importance.  For the most part, consulting scholars presented national overviews (historical, literary, and cultural), local historians explored the local landscape, and curriculum specialists worked with participants to create curriculum units linking local and national.  The colloquium also included visits to historical societies, archives and restorations with attention to primary source materials and cultural artifacts.

Key questions posed in this colloquium were:

  • What do we currently know about the history and experiences of African Americans in American history?
  • What can we learn from the exemplary biographies of these five locally significant figures?
  • How does the local history relate to national periods, events, cultural trends, and personalities?
  • What texts help us better understand the interrelation of local and national scenes?
  • How might these texts be interpreted from an historical or literary perspective?
  • How might these texts be incorporated into social studies or English language arts classes?
  • What local history sites and primary sources are available for teachers and their students to explore this history and these texts?
  • Where does this material potentially fit in state and national curriculum frameworks or private schools' overall curricular goals?
  • How can K-12 teachers use this information and these materials to develop curricula that are grade- and subject-specific?

During the colloquium, participants worked with our curriculum specialist, grade-level coordinators, and co-directors to begin defining individual projects.  By mid August, approximately a month after the end of the colloquium, participants posted a curriculum development plan to the project's website outlining:

  • topic and overall goal(s)
  • relation to curriculum frameworks and learning standards
  • specific instructional and behavioral objective(s)
  • content outline
  • methods of evaluation
  • potential sources and sites of information
  • realistic timeline with clear benchmarks toward completion.

Follow-up workshops with project staff and consultants were held in September, November, February, and April to review and report progress on individual curriculum units, provide opportunities for peer critiques, and continue visits to local history sites and archives. Final Curriculums were completed in August 2006. Below you will find some examples of the completed curriculums.


Ann-Elizabeth BarnesIn-School, Hands-On, History Program For 3rd Grade
Elizabeth Freeman and Everyday Life in Berkshire County in the 18th Century Download | Comment
Anne BeattieElizabeth Freeman: A Slave's Road to Freedom, 6th Grade Download | Comment
Donna DrewThird Grade Art Class Curriculum Unit: African American Biographies
Berkshire's Colonial and Revolutionary Period, 3rd Grade Art Class Download | Comment
William IrvinSamuel Harrison -Pragmatic Idealist, Representative Man Download | Comment
Karen KetchenColonial Sheffield, 3rd Grade Download | Comment
Kristen LeonardHarlem Renaissance
Jeanne LemlinThe Harlem Renaissance, 11th-12th Grade Download | Comment
Kathleen M. MeyerThe Mask: Exploring Double-Consciouness in the Adolescent English Classroom
Lynne NilanFrom Civil War to Civil Rights
Karen O'BrienInterdisciplinary High School Unit Using the Poetry of Harlem Renaissance as Stepping Stone to Explore the Interactive Nature of Writing, Art, and Music of the Era Download | Comment
Emily OldsChains and Wings: Limitations and Opportunities for African-Americans From Emancipation to the Renaissance Download | Comment
Melanie RancourtRemembering Samuel Harrison
Matthew RutledgeThe Civil Rights Movement and DuBois
Gordie SouleW. E. B. DuBois/Civil Rights
Robert SkyesPost Traumatic Slave Syndrome
Kathy VoltolineAgents of Change: A View of the Harlem Renaissance Through its Artists
Patricia WallaceThe Harlem Renaissance and the American Dream, 11th Grade Download | Comment