Imagine how powerful it will be for your child to talk face to face with someone who actually remembers what it was like to live in a racially segregated America. Your child will have an opportunity to collect valuable, first-hand accounts of life as an African American during a time of racial strife and the Civil Rights Movement. This meaningful activity can be done on Martin Luther King Jr. Day or during Black History Month and will definitely make a lasting impression on your child.
Whether or not your child is a member of her school’s newspaper reporting staff, she can be a reporter for a day as she talks with someone in her community about their experiences. She may simply need a copy of a real newspaper for inspiration and as a formatting guide. This activity is a great way to build your child's speaking and interviewing skills—important skills to have for the future—and will also give her great essay writing and critical thinking practice.
What You Do:
- Help your child identify someone to interview who is old enough to remember what it was like living in the United States prior to desegregation. Possible resources are local black churches, social organizations, senior centers, or anyone in your neighborhood you many know. Contact your sources ahead of time and let them know what your intentions are and what you hope to learn from the project.
- Help your child draft a list of questions. Potential questions might be:
- Describe what life was like growing up black in America. Where did you grow up and were there many other blacks in your neighborhood?
- What was school like? Were black and white students separated?
- Were you ever made to feel different from mainstream society? How did you deal with racism?
- Were there things that you are able to do now that you were not permitted to in decades past?
- To what extent did race impact choices you made in your life, regarding education, career, your interpersonal relationships, or the way your raised your children?
- Do you believe there is room for improvement in race relations in this country and if so, how do you think my generation can go about it?
- Your child should come up with as many questions as she likes. Your goal is to get a true sense of who your interviewee is and what his or her experience was like. It's also important to remember that you do not need to stick only to the questions you've come up with. Let the conversation flow and go wherever it takes you.
- Have your child bring a tape recorder so she can concentrate on listening to the stories being told rather than trying to take feverish notes. Be sure your interviewee knows he is being recorded.
- Once your child has finishes her interview, at home, ask your child to summarize the interview her very own newspaper article. Using Microsoft Word or Power Point, she can incorporate important quotes and excerpts from her interview and use any photos she took.
- Have her make it as realistic as possible. Be sure your child includes her byline and gives photo credit to herself. As mentioned before, if she needs some inspiration, she can use a real newspaper as a guide. The article should be a coherent and complete story chronicling the interviewee and the things your child has learned. The most important thing, is that there needs to be a point to the story. Make sure that the story is complete.
- Once your child has finished her article, make a copy and give it to the interviewee along with a thank you note for participating in such a meaningful project.
Your child will learn things that will go beyond what can be taught in a classroom with this meaningful project. The end result will be a piece of writing that you and your child will be proud of along with an experience that your child will never forget.