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Case Study: The Media as Storytellers in Carlotta’s Journey

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In this second unit, students will continue to closely examine the case study of the Little Rock Nine in A Mighty Long Way. They will expand their study as they learn about the role of various mediums in telling the story of the Little Rock Nine, including the introduction and reading of another text, Little Rock Girl 1957. As students read both texts, they will focus on the question “How do various mediums shape the story?” This concept will be analyzed through an investigation of the ways in which the press at the time portrayed the Little Rock Nine. As students engage in this investigation, they will work with several primary sources.  Students will continue reading A Mighty Long Way, however for some lessons Carlotta’s story will fade into the background as the focus shifts to other texts and the broader context of the civil rights era. 

In the mid-unit assessment, students will build on the background knowledge they have gained about the civil rights movement and the Little Rock Nine as they analyze various mediums used to convey information about segregation. Students will also evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums to communicate information during this mid-unit assessment.

For the end of unit assessment, students will write an informational essay in which they use the strongest evidence from both texts to show how the various mediums illuminated a story, as well as how, at times, various mediums presented an incomplete or inaccurate picture of events, which also shaped a story.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How does studying diverse sources about the same topic build our understanding?
  • Who shapes the story?
  • How do various mediums shape the story?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums?
  • The story of The Little Rock Nine brought national attention to the struggle to desegregate schools in the United States.
  • The media can shape perceptions and outcomes of events. 

Content Connections

NYS Social Studies Core Curriculum Unifying Themes:                      

  • 1. Individual Development and Cultural Identity 

–   Role of social, political, and cultural interactions in the development of identity 
–   Personal identity is a function of an individual’s culture, time, place, geography, interaction with groups,
     influences from institutions, and lived experiences  

  • 3. Time, Continuity, and Change

–   Reading, reconstructing, and interpreting events
–   Analyzing causes and consequences of events and developments
–   Considering competing interpretations of events

  • 5. Development and Transformation of Social Structures 

–   Role of social class, systems of stratification, social groups, and institutions  
–   Role of gender, race, ethnicity, education, class, age, and religion in defining 
     social structures within a culture  
–   Social and political inequalities  
–   Expansion and access of rights through concepts of justice and human rights 

  • 6. Power, Authority, and Governance 

–   Individual rights and responsibilities as protected and challenged within the context of majority rule 
–   Fundamental principles and values of constitutional democracy 
–   Origins, uses, and abuses of power  

  • 7. Civic Ideals and Practices 

–   Basic freedoms and rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democratic republic 
–   Civic participation and engagement 
–   Respect for diversity 
–   Struggle for rights, access to citizenship rights, and universal human rights 


Texts to buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please refer to Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration
by Shelley Tougas
ISBN: 978-0-756-54512-3
Ripples of Hope: Great American Civil Rights Speeches
by Josh Gottheimer
+ Show Notes – Hide Notes
ISBN: 978-0465027538
A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School
by Carlotta Walls Lanier
ISBN: 978-0-345-51101-0

Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
Plessy v. Ferguson
by U.S. Supreme Court
The Editorial Position of the Arkansas Gazette in the Little Rock School Crisis
by University of Arkansas Libraries,
Brown v. Board of Education
by PBS documentary,
John Chancellor reports on the integration at Central High School
by NBC News,
“What Was Jim Crow?”
by David Pilgrim, 2000
Jim Crow Laws
by National Park Service,
“Video Overview: Plessy v. Ferguson”
by Christian Bryant,
14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
by U.S. Congress
“Life in the South after the Civil War”
by Alexandra Lutz,



ELA G8:M3B:U2:L11

Optional Activities

Invite local journalists into your class to discuss the role of the press and how journalists work to ensure the integrity of the reporting they do. 

Research local civil rights movements and how the press has influenced the direction of those movements.  Possible movements could include the women’s suffrage movement or the American Indian rights movement. 

Ask students to publish a pamphlet or brochure for other students at the school or community members outlining the advantages and disadvantages of different mediums with a goal of encouraging critical thinking about the reporting of the press.   


  • Between Lessons 12 and 13, consider having students watch a video of Martin Luther King delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech and analyze the advantages and disadvantages of reading the text version of the speech and watching the video. 
  • Give students the opportunity to be a member of the press for a school or local event.  Ask them to think about what medium(s) to use to “get the story right” and have them write a reflective piece about why they chose the medium(s) that they did. 

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