Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

This lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-12, invites students to explore BrainPOP resources to learn about Jim Crow laws that encouraged segregation in schools, transportation, restaurants, etc. in the South, as well promoted violence. Applying what they learn, students will take on the role of Homer Plessy’s lawyer, and argue against segregation to the Supreme Court, making the case that separate isn’t equal. 


Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Imagine what it is like to live with segregation and discuss.
  2. Take notes on the Plessy vs Ferguson case.
  3. Review how to make a public speech.
  4. Take on the role of Homer Plessy’s lawyer and build, then present, an argument against segregation.


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Class set of the Worksheet (If doing Worksheet offline)


intolerable, disenfranchised, discriminatory, curfew, prejudice


    Preview the movie Jim Crow to plan for any adaptations. Make copies of the Worksheet. Write the vocabulary listed below under "Vocabulary" on chart paper and put on display

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Ask students to imagine how they’d feel if those wearing blue shirts could not sit in certain parts of the cafeteria. Have the class discuss how they’d feel and what they think of a rule like this. [NOTE: If students in your school wear uniforms, then use some other example].
  2. After students discuss, explain that today they will watch a movie about Jim Crow laws, which enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States until 1965. Point out that they’ll learn about a case that went before the Supreme Court challenging segregation (Plessy vs Ferguson), but the Court ruled that “separate but equal” didn’t violate the Constitution. The reality was, however, that separate wasn’t always equal.
  3. To make the point that separate was not always equal, show students the two schoolhouses in the Primary Source activity. Ask them to identify which they think was the schoolhouse for white students and which was for black students. Ask if this looks like separate but equal to them.
  4. Show the movie Jim Crow on the whiteboard or other large display to the whole class.
  5. Next, distribute the Worksheet or have students access online. Ask them to imagine that they are the lawyer representing Homer Plessy before the Supreme Court. After, or as, they watch the movie again at their own computers or devices, have them build their argument against segregation by answering the questions. Suggest that they pause the movie to take notes.
  6. When students are finished answering the questions, have them use those notes to write a persuasive argument against segregation. Draw their attention to the vocabulary words (see Preparation) that you’ve listed on chart paper or on the board. Encourage them to use some of these terms in their argument.
  7. Pair students and have them practice their arguments and provide each other with feedback. To prepare for their oral arguments, encourage students to watch the BrainPOP movie Public Speaking.
  8. Finally assign nine students to the role of Supreme Court Justices and have them sit at a table at the front of the class. Rotate the nine so that everyone has a chance to be a justice. Now have each student come to the front of the class and make their argument before the Court. Then have the Justices determine a ruling based on the persuasiveness of the argument.

Extension Activities:

For classes with access to My BrainPOP, have students use Make-a-Movie to create their own BrainPOP-style movies about Jim Crow. It can be a summary  of what they learned or it can highlight an aspect of the topic, such as the Brown vs Board of Education decision or the concept of separate but equal. Encourage students to use a storyboard or plot diagram template available in Make-a-Map to plan their movies.

Invite students to select one of the activists featured in the movie (Ida Wells, W.E.B. DuBois, Harry Truman, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall) and conduct further research about the person. Then have them present their findings to the class.