Magazine Feature

Toolkit for "Segregation Forever?"

This toolkit for “Segregation Forever?” provides an activity for students to use statistics and written analysis to express complex ideas about history. 

In “Segregation Forever?” researchers Robert L. Reece and Heather O’Connell report findings from their study, “How the Legacy of Slavery and Racial Composition Shape Public School Enrollment in the American South.” This study shows how the history of slavery shapes present-day patterns of school segregation. To aid readers’ comprehension, Reece and O’Connell use a balance of statistics, analysis and narrative. This toolkit provides an activity to help students practice using statistics and written analysis to express complex ideas. 


Essential Question

  1. How do statistics and written analysis combine to tell a fuller picture of a complicated history?



  1. Have students read this article excerpt:

    Based on enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics, if black and white students were evenly distributed across public schools nationally, each student would attend a school that was about 50 percent white and 15 percent black. But researchers observe a startlingly different reality. According to a report published by the Civil Rights Project, in 2011 the average black student attended a school that was 48.8 percent black and 27.6 percent white. On the flip side, the average white student attended a school that was 72.5 percent white and only 8.3 percent black.

  2. Ask students to consider:
    • What assertion does this paragraph support?
    • How do the statistics support the assertion? How does the written analysis further support it?
    • Would the statistics be meaningful or compelling without the written analysis?
    • Would the written analysis be meaningful or compelling without the statistics?
  3. Give students copies of “How Slavery Still Shapes Racial Inequality,” an article (with a map and infographic) that Reece wrote for Scalawag. Ask students to pay particular attention to the infographic.
  4. Model how to make meaning out of the statistics in the infographic by adding narrative analysis. Take, for instance, the fact that in 1860 the population of enslaved people outnumbered the free population in two states. One could further expound upon this statistic by adding greater context so that it reads:

    Unlike in Haiti, the United States never experienced a complete slave rebellion. Slavery was so entrenched in the American South it survived even in places where slaves made up the majority of the population. For example, in 1860, the slave population outnumbered the free population in both Mississippi and South Carolina.
  5. Assign students to select two to three of the statistics from Reece’s infographic and write a paragraph about each that provides additional context, analysis and meaning.
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