The Great Debaters: Lesson 5

Here is the fifth lesson plan of the unit plan on the Denzel Washington film The Great Debaters. This lesson addresses the attempts of the Communist Party USA to enlist Americans of African descent in the class struggle in the United States. This is a complex and fraught topic, and I believe an entire academic career might be profitably spent on this topic. A good place to go to get a general sense of it is Richard Wright’s superlative memoir Black Boy. Because of Melvin Tolson’s involvement in labor organizing, and his possible membership in the Communist Party (a fact, I find, very hard to pin down), there are scenes in the film of Tolson (played, once again, by Denzel Washington) organizing farmers and farmworkers), I wanted students to understand the allure of the Communist Party to oppressed Black people.

Unsurprisingly, I open this lesson with this context clues worksheet on the noun socialism. In the event the lesson continues into a second day, here is another on the noun communism. Finally, here is the reading and comprehension worksheet at the center of this lesson.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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