Lesson Plan

  • Grades 9-10,
  • Grades 11-12

Collaborating with History: Re-examining the Past through Research and Reenactment

Extensions / Adaptations

The Red Summer of 1919

Bisbee’s history of racial stratification and social unrest did not end with the 1917 Deportation. It was known as a “sundown town” where white residents discriminated against Arizona’s Mexican, Chinese, and African American communities—often violently. On July 3, 1919, members of the U.S. Army’s segregated 10th Cavalry Regiment—whose African American troops were referred to as “Buffalo Soldiers”—were in Bisbee to participate in the town’s July 4th parade. A fight broke out between a white policeman and members of the regiment. According to a New York Times report on the 1919 event, local white law enforcement “planned deliberately to aggravate the Negro troops so that they would furnish an excuse for police and deputy sheriffs to shoot them down.” The “riot” and shootout that ensued left two African-American soldiers wounded and more than 40 soldiers disarmed and arrested.

Throughout 1919, a wave violence against African Americans, later known as the Red Summer, occurred in more than 25 towns and cities across the United States. More than 100 African Americans were shot, burned, clubbed to death in East St. Louis, an estimated 100–240 African Americans, and five whites, were killed in Elaine, Arkansas, and from 1918-19 more than 140 African Americans were lynched across the South.

Have students examine the history and social context of the Red Summer anti-black riots across the country and the connection between the attack on the 10th Cavalry Regiment and the Bisbee deportation two years earlier.

Bisbee’s Red Summer Resources:
Five Wounded in Streets of Bisbee as Police and Negroes Exchange Shots,” Bisbee Daily Review, July 4, 1919
Red Summer Archive: A collection of primary sources related to the Red Summer of 1919
Red Summer of 1919, Equal Justice Initiative
The Nation Classroom: History as It Happened - Race Relations and Civil Rights 1919-1929. Lesson Plan, Module 4
Lynching in America: Targeting Black Veterans, Equal Justice Initiative
"Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America,” by Cameron McWhirter and Eric Arnesen, Chicago Tribune, 18 November 2011.

Songs of Work and Social Change

As illustrated in Bisbee ’17, music was embedded in the labor movement as a powerful way to document the struggles, determination and unity of workers. Miners, factory laborers, and their supporters in the early 20th century often wrote songs that conveyed their harsh working conditions and low wages and inspired workers to stand up against exploitative employers.

Have students explore the significance of songs used in Bisbee ’17 as well as other songs from the era, including the rich history of corridos: Mexican narrative folk songs that often dealt with the relationship between Mexico and the United States. Explain to students that the main song used in the film is not from the time period, but was used for effect during the reenactment. Then have students closely analyze and compare/contrast a song from the early 20th century with a contemporary song that addresses similar issues. Complete the activity by having students write their own songs in the style of their choosing.

Al Otro Lado (POV 2006) explores the Mexican tradition of corrido music — captured in the performances of Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte and the late Chalino Sanchez. The film follows Magdiel, an aspiring corrido composer from the drug capital of Mexico, as he faces two difficult choices to better his life: to traffic drugs or to cross the border illegally into the United States. In the accompanying lesson plan, for grades 6-12, students watch clips from the film and explore the factors that influence migration, particularly along the U.S.-Mexican border. The film is also available to screen in full through the POV Community Network.

Songs of Unionization, Labor Strikes, and Child Labor, Library of Congress
Songs of Social Change, Library of Congress
Songs of Work and Industry, Library of Congress
Traditional Work Songs, Library of Congress
Union Songs (More than 843 songs and poems)
Classic Labor Songs from Smithsonian Folkways
Lesson Plan | Teaching with Protest Music,” by Michael Gonchar and Katherine Schulten, The Learning Network - Teaching and Learning with The New York Times, February 4, 2016
"Rap and Hip-Hop Bring Folk Music to a New Audience,” by Alan Singer Smithsonian Folkways Magazine, Summer/Fall 2016
Understanding Past and Present Labor Injustice through Music, Teaching Tolerance

Resources on corridos:
Migrant Labor Corridos, University of Texas at Austin
The Mexican Labor Experience Depicted in Corridos, Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Nos creemos americanos: Braceros in History and Song, American Social History Project
The Corrido and Immigration: “Goodbye, United States”, The Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings