LESSON

Juliette Hampton Morgan: Becoming an Ally

This lesson aims to help students examine different points of view to understand the concept and importance of being an ally to people who face discrimination and social injustices.
Grade Level

Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • define the concept of being an ally
  • describe allies across different identity groups
  • position themselves in relation to ally groups
Essential Questions

What dimension does an ally bring to the discussion? Why might some people listen to an ally's voice more than other voices?

Enduring Understandings:

Allies use their voices to support people who face discrimination and expose social injustices to those unwilling to listen or accept the points of views of people different from themselves. 

Materials

Overview

Juliette Hampton Morgan (1914-1957), a librarian from Montgomery, Alabama, challenged racism among her white peers. She was an ally—someone who supports and stands up for the rights and dignity of others—and her story provides a powerful roadmap for today’s students. The lessons in this series explore Morgan’s life and the principles underscoring it in order to deepen students’ connections to social justice issues.This lesson, one in a series, aims to help students examine different points of view to understand the concept and importance of being an ally to people who face discrimination and social injustices.

Vocabulary

ally [a-lī, ə-lī] (noun) someone who supports and stands up for the rights and dignity of individuals and identity groups other than their own

solidarity [sä-lə-da-rə-tē] (noun) a feeling of unity between people who have the same interests, goals, etc.

Arab [a-rəb, er-əb] (noun) a member of a group of people who originated in the Arabian Peninsula and who now live mostly in the Middle East and northern Africa; a member of an Arabic-speaking people

sexism [sek-si-zəm] (noun) attitudes, conditions or behaviors promoting stereotyping of social roles based on gender

 

Suggested Procedure

Share basic facts of Juliette Hampton Morgan’s life with students: She grew up in segregated Alabama and used her voice to challenge racism in society and among her white peers.  Students can also read this article about her life.

Write the following definition of “ally” on the board: An ally is someone who supports and stands up for the rights and dignity of individuals and identity groups other than their own.

Make the connection for students that as a white woman, Morgan was an ally to black people; she supported and stood up for the rights and dignity of others. Point out that there are many social problems that could benefit from an increase in such alliances.

Share the following contemporary ally example: The Gay Straight Alliance Network (GSAN) brought attention to the backlash against Arabs and Arab Americans after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and continues to be relevant today in the wake of expressions of bias against Arab and Muslim Americans. Read aloud the following statement from the GSAN Website:

You don't have to be Arab/Arab American to take a stand against the violence, harassment and discrimination that many Arabs/Arab Americans have suffered following the tragedy of 9.11. Many people who are or are perceived to be Arab/Arab American have also suffered violence, harassment, and discrimination. The GSAN commits itself to a multi-issue agenda, which includes being an ally for Arab/Arab Americans. Even if your group doesn't have Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern or South Asian members, you can promote solidarity and tolerance through being an ally.

The GSAN also listed reasons for being an ally and ways to form such an alliance. Share the five “How the Recent Hostility Toward Arab/Arab Americans Affects Everyone” and “Examples of How to Be an Ally to Arab/Arab Americans” points with students.

 

How the Recent Hostility Toward Arab/Arab Americans Affects Everyone

1. Hostility toward Arabs/Arab Americans can be diverted toward people who aren’t Arab/Arab American but who are perceived to be.

2. When hostility toward Arabs/Arab Americans is not challenged it sends a message that hate and harassment are tolerated. This degrades the potential for a safe and respectful environment for all people.

3. Hostility toward Arabs/Arab Americans puts pressure on people who aren't Arab/Arab American to act aggressively and angrily toward Arabs/Arab Americans.

4. Hostility toward Arabs/Arab Americans can make it hard for Arab/Arab Americans and people who aren't Arab/Arab American to be friends and, thus, strains community relationships.

5. Hostility toward Arabs/Arab Americans makes it hard to appreciate true diversity and the uniqueness of all cultural backgrounds.

 

Examples of How to Be an Ally to Arab/Arab Americans

1. Organize discussion groups in class or after school to talk about how hostility toward Arabs/Arab Americans affects everyone.

2. Bring up the issue of harassment and discrimination against Arabs/Arab Americans in conversations with friends or discussions in class.

3. Interrupt anti-Arab jokes, comments or any other behaviors making prejudice against Arabs/Arab Americans appear OK.

4. Put pro-solidarity/anti-hate posters in the halls and classrooms or wear shirts, buttons, etc., identifying you as an ally and display a message of solidarity with Arabs/Arab Americans.

5. Don't make assumptions about other peoples' ethnic, religious or cultural backgrounds. Assume that there are Muslims, Arabs, Arab Americans, people of Middle Eastern descent and/or South Asians at your school.

Next, brainstorm other ways to show solidarity with Arabs/Arab Americans.

Then conduct a think-aloud about another social injustice: sexism. Frame sexism as attitudes, conditions or behaviors promoting stereotyping of social roles based on gender. Work with students to identify some examples of how sexism operates, e.g. “Sexism promotes the stereotype that women should be passive.” Be sure to elicit one or more examples showing how sexism hurts men. For example: “Sexism promotes the idea men should be ‘strong’ and not express their emotions.” Ask: “How can men work as allies with women to end sexism?” Provide some examples to get students thinking, e.g., “Men can be allies with women by discouraging their peers from telling sexist or inappropriate jokes."”As a class, brainstorm a list of other social problems, such as racism or homophobia. Give a copy of the “I Can Be an Ally” handout to each student to be completed individually. Have students form groups with classmates who select the same social problem.

Once students are in small groups, distribute the “Five Ways” handout. Students should brainstorm ways they can work individually and collectively as allies.

Alignment to Common Core State Standards/ College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards CCSS W.1, W.4, SL.1, RH.4, RH.9

 

Extension Activity

Do Something: Writing as an Ally

Share with students that one of the ways Juliette Hampton Morgan acted as an ally was by writing letters to newspapers and local officials. Encourage students to combine their own writing abilities with their desire to be allies. Have them choose a format—a letter to the local newspaper regarding a civic issue, a letter to a national magazine or Website responding to a specific story, or a letter to an official regarding a specific issue—and write 400 words in the voice of an ally.

Have students conduct the following steps:

Step 1: Identify the issue or story to which you want to respond.

Step 2: Write an ally statement to identify the viewpoint being taken: “As a ______ , I will be an ally for ______.”

Step 3: Outline the main points of the letter. Identify facts and evidence to support your main points.

Step 4: Write a draft of the letter, and work one-on-one with a classmate for feedback on how to make the letter stronger or clearer.

Step 5: Complete a final draft of the letter.

After students have completed their letters, have them read them aloud to the class. Allow students to make edits based on student feedback. Have students mail or email their letters and share any replies or outcomes with the class.