Teaching #Ferguson: Current events in the Classroom


The purpose of this document is to gather resources for learning about the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. Original creation & development of this document was by host/facilitator @dankrutka & the participants in #sschat at 7pm EST on August 20, 2014 (archive of chat).

Please do not remove this historical information about the genesis of this document.

To share this document, use the link http://bit.ly/FergusonSyllabus

#FergusonSyllabus hashtag)


This document includes three sections: resources for learning about Ferguson,

 resources for learning about the historical backdrop to Ferguson.

NOTE: After numerous attacks on this document, an old version was restored and the “share” settings were changed to “view” so as to preserve this document. Best, - @dankrutka, 07.15.15

(1) Learning about Ferguson:

Please share links and brief summaries of how/why to use resources (text or video or news stories, opinion pieces, blogs, infographs, tweets, etc.) so teachers and students can learn about the events in Ferguson.

Hyperlink to resource

(Use “Insert” tab then    “Link” to title, and shorten, hyperlinks)


How/Why can it be used:

Contributor (Name, Twitter handle, e-mail, etc.)

Timeline of Events

Brief timeline with description of events.

This timeline might be helpful to place how events unfolded, but also to critique/add what events the press is including/not including.


Black Kids Don’t Have to be College-Bound  to Be for Their Deaths to Be Tragic 

Black Kids Don’t Have to Be College-Bound for Their Deaths to Be Tragic

Helpful reminder how words and how ideas are communicated help or impede growth mindset for our students. All our students’ lives have value.


Helping Students Make Sense Of A Young Black Man's Death in Missouri

Helping Students Make Sense Of A Young Black Man's Death In Missouri


What Happened in Ferguson````````` and Why

A lesson plan for high school students, offered by Marieke von Woerkom & published by the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility

@pammoran, on behalf of the @MorningsideCtr  



Lesson Plan on how to teach Ferguson



Being the Change, curriculum unit for grades 9-12

Unit opens with an introduction to the Civil Rights Movement and life work of Dr. MLK Jr. and transitions into a focus on his peaceful protest against segregation. Next, Mohandas Gandhi's life and Satyagraha movement during the time of India's Independence Movement is explored so that the unit can culminate with students creating their own messages of change to the world, inspired by these peaceful heroes.  



Picture comparing Ferguson to Boston Tea Party with discussion questions

Get students to think about white privilege and institutional racism. Help students see how media bias and historical bias affect our perspective of events.


Today’s Front Pages, Front Pages from August 15, 2014 & Lesson Plan

Through a special agreement with more than 800 newspapers worldwide, the Newseum displays these front pages each day on its website. The front pages are in their original, unedited form, and some may contain material that is deemed objectionable to some visitors

Compare/contrast how the press is covering the events in Ferguson, MO through the front pages.


Media and Missouri: What the heck is going on?

A column written by Gene Policinski,  chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute and senior vice president of the Institute’s First Amendment Center. The article takes a look at the role of the media and restrictions on the free press in Ferguson, MO.

How has the media been treated in Ferguson? Where does the First Amendment come in? Are the police violating the First Amendment?


Ferguson Teachers Use Day Off As Opportunity For A Civics Lesson

Classes cancelled, how some teachers are helping out and turning events into a civics lesson.

Gives FARMS rate and background on Ferguson area students, also shows how some teachers are addressing.


Race as a Social Construct

This is a powerpoint discussing the concept of race.

Students enter our classes with many ideas/misconceptions about race.



A Huffington Post blog post with ideas for starting the school year with Ferguson.  

For educators, one way to establish norms with young people and set the appropriate tone for the school year is to focus instruction on events and issues that mean something to students.

  1. @johnsonmaryj


Free learning/tehttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-emdin/5-ways-to-teach-about-michael-brown-and-ferguson-in-the-new-sschool-year_b_5690171.htmlaching materials that promote understanding and goodwill


In Ferguson, Black Town, White Power

article on racial divide in Ferguson - politically. A-A make up ⅔ of pop but not represented in gov’t.

Address importance of political participation. How does a democracy get to this point?



From NPR - helping students make sense of a young black man’s death in Ferguson



How the Fed. Gov’t can force a municipal police dept to reform using a law passed after Rodney King beating trial in LA.

Discussion of police, excessive force, profiling, etc


The Song of Ferguson

Re: J. Cole’s song  “Be Free”

song written for Ferguson

#udl - music as a varied form of both representation and engagement


http://billmoyers.com/2014/08/14/all-eyes-are-on-ferguson-after-the-police-shooting-of-an-unarmed-teen-heres-our- essential-reader/ 

All Eyes are on Ferguson… An Essential Reader by Joshua Holland

Some key articles about Ferguson and the militarization of American policing



Managing Hot Moments in the Classroom by Lee Warren

excellent resource for teachers at all levels for improving how students engage with charged topics such as racism



Zotero Group: #Ferguson (Zotero is a FOSS online bibliographic service, this group is open to join and add commentary; membership not necessary to access and use it; admin rights required to add new content)

Large selection of social media, blogs, and citizen journalism that begins to represent the global Internet response to the events of August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, United States. Items on human rights, governance, and information and communication technologies.

Feel free to reuse this list at will - CC Zero Public Domain


Dignity in Schools Campaign Statement on #Ferguson

The Dignity in Schools Campaign advocates for the human right of every child to a quality education and to be treated with dignity.


@butwait via @mdawriter

Beloved Illustrator Blasted By Fans Over Ferguson Artwork

St. Louis artist Mary Englebreit creates an image in response to the death of Michael Brown and dedicates all the proceeds to the foundation supporting his family.

How do we use art to make sense of what happens in our world?

@butwait (HT @Jessifer)

“Black Rage”

Musician Lauryn Hill shares a song, “Black Rage” in response to events in Ferguson, MO.


5 Ways To Teach About Michael Brown and Ferguson in the New School Year

Professor Christopher Emdin shares perspective & strategies for connecting with students on these topics.

@butwait (via  @chrisemdin)

Killer Mike CNN Interview

Killer Mike expounds onhttp://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.com%2Fchristopher-emdin%2F5-ways-to-teach-about-michael-brown-and-ferguson-in-the-new-school-year_b_5690171.html&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNHRGziY6MDdppK4KG47LQZRbUhv2A his Billboard Magazine op-ed about Ferguson. He also talks about his father’s experience as a cop.

“Whatever this country is willing to do to the least of us, it will one day do to us all.” A powerful interview full of wisdom and nuance.

christine.gentry@gmail.com (via @jsmooth995)

Reactions to Ferguson by Race Article

Article describes poll results about Ferguson by race.

For a diverse classroom, a good starting point for how experiences frame many people’s reaction to the situation.  Recommend to discuss the accuracy of the idea of “self-segregation” in the title.


Suggested Discussion Protocol

Article that suggests steps and questions to discuss Ferguson.

Use the “Listen to Learn / Learn to Listen” protocol, possibly with this article on St. Louis middle schoolers’ reaction to the killing and protests.


What We Know About Who Police Kill

Article exploring FBI data on who is killed in U.S. by police (AKA: Officer-Involved Homicides)

Of the data that exist, this report looks at the race/age breakdown as well as whether individuals were killed by shotgun/ handgun


When Youthful Mistakes Turn Deadly

Opinion article by Eugene Robinson on disparate outcomes of police interactions based on race.d


Preparing to Discuss Michael Brown in the Classroom: from DC Public Schools.

Downloadable Teacher’s Guide

Helpful for teachers to plan discussion


Using Hip-Hop Music to Teach about Ferguson

Using Poetry/Lyrics to teach Literary Elements  


New Yorker article and interview with Don Suggs Publisher of local Black newspaper

added perspective from

Black local leader and media exec


Nine Network StayTuned interviews with Young leaders

on the ground perspectives


Washington Post

a different perspective on Ferguson black/white relations


Article about white privilege

additional perspective on white privilege


How to Teach Beyond Ferguson

More and more, people are willingly having these conversations in order to help end the violence and to help our students (and our country) progress.”

José Vilson discusses strategies for addressing charged topics in a classroom setting


Wondering How To Teach A Controversial Topic in Class?

As all teachers know, controversial topics can be very tricky to handle in class. Here’s a process I used in my International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge classes this past week they went far better than I had expected, and I think this series of lessons might be able to be applied to other classes.”

Larry Ferlazzo talks about some steps he took to help prepare his students to tackle controversial topics.

Reflections After Ferguson October

“Until my experience in Ferguson, I understood systemic and structural racism as intellectual concepts, constructs presented at workshops, and all based on modern and historical examples of institutional patterns of oppression.  But unlike 10 years ago, I now have people of color in my life.”

Quaker Liz Oppenheimer reflects on her time “on the ground” in Ferguson, MO.

Hey White People

Video by FCKH8 Campaign that came out right after the shooting of Michael Brown. It addresses several issues centering modern racism.

Show how racism still impacts people today.


Ferguson Raises Questions re: Media Criminalization of Blacks

Coverage of the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag campaign


Collection of Ferguson resources by Ohio educators

Variety of resources similar to this document.

Todd Hawley


One Perfect Tweet Calls Out the Hypocrisy of How the Media Talks About Black Violence - Mic 

Role of media

To add more rows to the table just “Right click” on the last row and choose “Insert row below”

(2) Learning about the historical backdrop to Ferguson:

In this section, please share links and brief summaries of how/why to use resources (historical speeches, primary documents, stories, events) so teachers and students are better able to understand the events in Ferguson in a historical context.

Hyperlink to resource, idea

(Use “Insert” tab then “Link” to title, and shorten, hyperlinks)


How/Why can it be used:

Contributor (Name, Twitter handle, e-mail, etc.)

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Text of MLK’s letter

MLK’s letter could be used to initiate a dialogue about issues related to Ferguson: including just/unjust laws, protest, role of white moderates, etc.


Echoes of Michael Brown’s Death in St. Louis’ Racially Charged Past

Echoes of Michael Brown’s Death in St. Louis’ Racially Charged Past


The Mindless Menace of Violence

The Mindless Menace of Violence

Robert F. Kennedy, 1968


I, Too by Langston Hughes

I, Too by Langston Hughes

Racial inequality from the Harlem Renaissance period, still applicable today


Playing the Violence Card

Opinion piece briefly discussing early 20th progressivism as a response to “white-on-white” violence in contrast to pathologizing black violence.

“black-on-black” crime may come up in class discussion and this provides some context.


The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action

What does it mean to be silent? Written by African American lesbian poet Audre Lorde about race, cancer, voice, vulnerability

let's talk about why and when we talk. what it means when we don't


St. Louis: A city divided

Generations of racist laws and practices shattered a metropolitan region into fractured, segregated pieces

Gives background of policy actions that caused socioeconomic conditions.


What Is Happening In Ferguson (high school lesson)

HS curriculum guide on what’s happening in Ferguson--background information and teaching strategies

For teaching purposes and discussions with young people


Bibliography on Race in American History

bibliography on race in American History

Background info for teachers.  Includes a definition of race



Timeline of whiteness in US History

Timeline on history of whiteness with resistance included (to 1950s).  

Background for students and teachers.  



Institutional Racism in Ferguson?

Interview with former superintendent of Ferguson-Florissant School District

Gives context to the history of education system in region, racial conflict over time

@dontworryteach via @rafranzdavis


Dr. Marcia Chatelain was the initiator of this #hashtag, encouraging folks to share background information related to Ferguson

Many resources to draw from, many of them collected here in this document

@dontworryteach via @drmchatelain

First Amendment and Social Change: Letter from Birmingham Jail (Lesson Plan)

A lesson plan using Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and “A Call for Unity” to illustrate how the First Amendment was used to promote non-violent social change.

A historic example of nonviolent social change that can be used to compare/contrast the events happening in Ferguson, MO.



The Modern Prophetic Acts of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. by Randall K. Bush


Clip from “The Andersonville Trial” http://youtu.be/LD6np4h-G2Q “When are we obligated to fight our government?”

At my school, US History II for 11th grade begins with Reconstruction (not sure if this is typical). This would make a great essential question, and a way to frame the topic within a larger historical context.

Activator/Hook/How to begin or frame a lesson on Ferguson

@msbuell (clip posted to Twitter by @irasocol)

SHEG’s Reading Like A Historian Lesson on Chicago Race Riots of 1919

The essential questions could be modified to apply more directly to Ferguson, but in both cases the “spark” was a boy’s death--but the resulting riot had roots than ran much deeper. Students could also problem solve solutions, using Chicago as a guide for St. Louis.

Compare the use of “riot” as a strategy to attain rights, as well as compare the roots of racial tension using case study of Ferguson 2014 and Chicago 1919.

@msbuell (lesson from @SHEG_Stanford)

How Ferguson became Ferguson: Urgent Doc Spanish Lake Tracks a St. Louis Suburb's Shift from White to Black

“How did Ferguson become Ferguson” an article discussing a recent documentary on neighboring Spanish Lake.

Until the documentary itself is released in digital/DVD format, this offers students a quick background into the economic and racial history of the North St Louis County area that the film’s subject and Ferguson share.


“Spanish Lake” documentary film by Philip Andrew Morton

While this film is not quite yet available in digital or DVD format, its release this summer and focus on a town within walking distance from Ferguson might help with understanding the historical contexts of race and economics for the area

*NOTE* Language may be an issue.  Not appropriate for younger students, but might be helpful in developing background for teachers.

Link to trailer (language warning): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yw38xwWu3r4


Civil Rights Module: Red Summer Race Riots (1919) & Race Riots in Watts (1965), Detroit (1967) (Historical Timeline)

Timeline Entries: Red Summer (1919),  Detroit,   Watts

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In Detroit, police often physically and verbally abuse black residents, arresting them for infractions as minor as failing to carry identification. On July 23, 1967, police raid an illegal after-hours club in a black community, sparking a riot that lasts five days. Michigan Gov. George Romney asks President Lyndon B. Johnson to send 2,000 federal troops to restore peace. When the riots are over, 43 people are dead, 7,000 have been arrested and more than 1,300 buildings are destroyed.

Primary sources, including news

 footage from the events.


Courageous Conversations About Race (video)

In this 22 min. video, Glenn Singleton of the Pacific Educational Group addresses a possible framework for productive conversations about race.



African-American Identity in the Gilded Age

(Library of Congress)

For middle- to high-school students

Primary sources from the time after Reconstruction to the end of World War I’s Great Migration when many African-Americans left the South for industrial citis north.

The central question posed by the primary sources is how African-Americans were able to form a meaningful identity for themselves, reject the inferior images fastened upon them, and still maintain the strength to keep "from being torn asunder."


Making a Change: Media Literacy Lesson

Compares coverage of Civil Rights events across the country. Includes a video of our archivist discussing a front page covering the Chicago race riots in 1919.

Primary sources, including historic front pages.


Don’t Be Fooled: A Citizen’s Guide to News and Information in the Digital Age

John McManus’ marvelous look at evaluating news media, written for secondary students.


A Tugging String: A Novel About Growing Up in the Civll Rights Era, by David Greenberg

Blending facts, speeches, memories, and conjecture, this inspiring novel portrays the emotions and events surrounding the Selma-Montgomery Voting Rights March, as it tells the story of a 12-year-old boy whose eyes are opened to the reality of racial inequality.

Twelve year-old narrator helps make this text particularly accessible to middle school students.



PRI’s The Takeaway devotes an hour to looking deeper into issues raised in Ferguson.



Frontline’s one hour documentary on the seminal elementary classroom lesson on race.



News360.com’s Ferguson page



Kiese Laymon - How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America (racial politics and gun violence)



Racist policing in America



Studying Civil Rights Leaders at Their Moment of Glory

Grade 8 English/Language Arts curriculum unit



Maya Angelou on Facing Evil

Video from Bill Moyers



The Case for Reparations article, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Article does an excellent job explaining the racial discrimination that resulted from the New Deal housing programs; which explains the racial segregation we see it cities like Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, etc.



Reparations for Ferguson

Total police control over black bodies has echoes in American history.

Great follow up to the above piece, is a bit shorter, and Ferguson specific.  Talks also about policing and bodies.  


Shira C, in Philly.


The History of White People by Nell Iwvin Painter

Readable introduction to concepts of race and privilege with a special focus on the US. Useful primarily for teachers but excerpts may be appropriate for high school students.



Mike Davis, “The HAMMER and the Rock,” from City of Quartz

early 90s perspective on the militarization of the LAPD in the context of the War on Drugs; puts “gang scare” in context of other “scares in U.S. history, and highlights rhetorical connections drawn by police from War on Drugs to Vietnam War



Ida B. Wells, “The Red Record”

Gives longer historical context for racial policing practices through Wells’ investigation into the practice of lynching in the Reconstruction South


Prosecuting Officer Wilson Won’t Bring Justice to Ferguson

Criminal Justice professor Candace McCoy talks about the difference b/t criminal and civil prosecution.

In Cincinnati, political activists from minority neighborhoods, representatives of religious communities, the police union, and city officials signed a “collaborative agreement” to work together to change their police department. What should we be hoping for in Ferguson?

@butwait, for Candace McCoy

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (available on Netflix)

Documentary footage on the Black Power movement, particularly on the BPP

This can be used in it’s entirety or selected clips from years that relevant for historical context. Especially useful for teaching about social movements and mutual aid.



Collected images and documents about the Black Panther Party.

Particularly interesting is the COINTELPRO document about spreading misinformation about the BPP


I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me.

Sunil Dutta, a professor of homeland security at Colorado Tech University, has been an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department for 17 years. The views presented here are his own and do not represent the LAPD or CTU. -- Washington Post

Whatever you think of this, it’s a perspective that needs to be examined as part of the conversation so that all voices are part of the dialogue. It’s helpful for guarding against  simple answers to a complex problem. In fact, this editorial raises more questions than it answers. For example, are police officers more frightened of some groups than others? Does one’s group affect whether police interpret one’s behavior as uncooperative?



Article on Malcolm X that recounts the 1957 Johnson X Hinton incident, where Hinton was beaten by police. X led a Fruits of Islam March on the police station to demand medical treatment for Hinton.

Useful for showing how police violence against African-Americans is often a flash point for revolutionary change, but also for the way that those who push back are seen as threatening to the status quo. As one police official noted of Malcolm X, “No one man should have that power.” After this event police started surveillance of X.



Book : “Our Enemies in Blue” by Kristian Williams

Gives historical context and analysis to police brutality in the United States, including statistics on violence against police vs violence committed by police. Includes a chapter on the history of police collaboration with the KKK, ends with a chapter on community based alternatives to police.



High school journalists cover Michael Brown's funeral after addressing legal, safety concerns

Allowing high school student journalists permission to cover the story and discuss ethics, mainstream sensationalism, and real-world journalism application.

@dgoble2001 teacher adviser


article author


Child-friendly version of the UN Declaration of Human Rights

Children from later elementary and up can read and identify violations. Would go well with a reading of the Black Panther Party’s 10 Point Platform



5th Grade Teacher

Sociologists for Justice’ Ferguson Syllabus 

List of articles and books that can  help interested readers understand the social and historical context surrounding the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and allow readers to see how these events fit within larger patterns of racial profiling, systemic racism, and police brutality.

via @nickilisacole

“The Rodney King Verdict,” by Barbara Smith

Short article in response to the Rodney King Verdict that reaches back to consider earlier moments of police violence, as well.

Historical context, position piece, black feminist perspective


The Messenger King: Michael Jackson and the Politics of #BlackLivesMatter by D.B. Anderson

Article in response to Ferguson & Rodney King, and discussing the risks of speaking up about police brutality

Historical context, opinion piece,


To add more rows to the table just “Right click” on the last row and choose “Insert row below”

Please keep on scrolling down if you have taught

using some of these resources

and can share a post-class reflection.

(3) How Did It Go?:

Please share links and brief summaries of how/why you or someone you know led a class or other activity that helped build engagement and understanding about Ferguson:

Hyperlink to resource, idea

(Use “Insert” tab then “Link” to title, and shorten, hyperlinks)


Reflections on how it went:

Contributor (Name, Twitter handle, e-mail, etc.)

Update on Talking About Race: Start With Questions

Holly Chesser teaches high school English in an independent school in Atlanta, GA where the students are predominantly upper class and white. She decided that she wanted to support her students’ desire to talk about Mike Brown’s death.

Starting from a premise of “Start with Questions,” Holly goes on, in the linked post, to describe her students’ responses. For more background on her planning process, see her Start with Questions post.


American Skin

Students will explore their ideas about fairness

in the American criminal justice system and the

role of race and ethnicity by analyzing the

depiction of the Amadou Diallo shooting in

Bruce Springsteen’s song “American Skin (41


Used this lesson with a PD workshop for teachers.  Would suggest using the song / lesson in a HS class w/ smaller groups, and using the Amadou Diallo and Trayvon Martin cases as examples. This was a follow up to the Rule of Law Project  http://ruleoflaw-vba.org/


Duke’s Faculty in Africa and African-American Studies teach Ferguson

Oppression, racism, unconscious bias and the impact of social media were among the topics discussed by faculty at a Monday night town hall forum on the shooting death of an unarmed African-American teenager in Ferguson, Mo.”

Link is to a story in Duke Today about their “Ferguson Town Hall”

There is also a blog post by Mark Anthony Neal (@NewBlackMan) about this event here.

via @DukeAAAS and @NewBlackMan

Ferguson v. Boston

What are the similarities between the events?

What are the differences?

What are the issues that each side is upset about?

Why did the people in Boston dress up as Native Americans?”

Teacher created a split-screen image of Ferguson & Boston Tea Party and asked students to ask questions, compare & contrast.

via @mikekaechele

This Teacher Taught His Class A Powerful Lesson About Privilege

Brief description of a possible lesson plan around the concept of privilege


@GregoryMichie, please add your reflection here once you write it up!

Updated #sschat Chat questions (as of 08.20 at 4:15pm CST): I used the recommendations of contributors below to craft these questions that I hope will allow for an inclusive, dynamic, and productive dialogue.

Q1: What conditions are necessary to discuss current events like Ferguson? Is it different for homogeneous or diverse settings?  #sschat

Q2: How have you learned about events in Ferguson? How should we approach sources (ex: mainstream press, Twitter) with students? #sschat

Q3: How has media bias influenced understandings of Ferguson? How can we address this with students? #sschat

Q4: How might my positionality (race, class, gender) influence how I participate in conversations around Ferguson & related issues? #sschat

Q5: What historical/civic issues could help provide context for the events in Ferguson? #sschat

Q6: How can teachers address social justice issues (police brutality, racial/economic discrimination, etc) related to Ferguson? #sschat

Q7: What can educators and students actually do to affect change in Ferguson? #sschat

Suggested questions:

Suggested question

Contributor (Name, Twitter handle, e-mail, etc.)

 How can teachers/students/schools have sensitive and constructive discussions about race when the school is rather homogenous and not diverse?


How can we work to eliminate hatred, injustice, and both physical and institutional violence?


How or should Ts involve parents in this discussion?


How has media bias influenced understanding of the events in Ferguson?  How can we address this with students?  


How might my positionality (race, class, gender) influence the way I participate in a conversation around Ferguson and the broader issues of racism inherent in that conversation?


The idea of race has a history. It is a social construct. Some ways to unpack this idea with Ss?


Though race is social construct,racism is a social reality tied to power, privilege,+ social institutions. Where/how to begin teaching this?


How can Math teachers relate Ferguson to their curriculum?

What can literature classes uniquely do to end racial profiling?