This piece is to accompany the Juliette Hampton Morgan lesson series.
- Participants will define Juliette Hampton Morgan's identity groups and their related societal advantages or privileges.
- Participants will develop an understanding of their own advantages or privileges.
Time and Materials
- One hour, in a staff meeting, in-service workshop or other professional development setting
- Copies of Morgan's story for each participant should be given to participants to read before the lesson.
Step One: Introducing Morgan's Privilege
NOTE: The group facilitator may choose to use the term "advantage" instead of "privilege" for this activity. The term "privilege" often makes people uncomfortable, and the interchange of ideas can quickly turn into a terminology debate. Using the term "advantage" allows participants to be more open to discussion and more focused.
Begin the discussion by asking, "What were some of Juliette Hampton Morgan's advantages?" Discussion topics might include:
- She was considered upper-class
- She had educated parents with powerful high-profile friends like aristocrat and author couple Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hollywood personality Tallulah Bankhead.
- She was highly educated and went to "Montgomery's finest schools."
- She had degrees in English literature and political science from the University of Alabama.
- She was welcomed in the city's finest shops, restaurants and concert halls.
- She was a school teacher and a public librarian.
Step Two: Small Group Work
Have participants break into groups of no more than three people. Read the following instructions:
"Juliette Hampton Morgan had many societal advantages. Among them were: white skin, education, upper-class wealth and gainful employment. In your small group, list how these and other factors benefited Juliette Hampton Morgan."
The small size of the group will encourage interaction. After 15 to 20 minutes, have each small group share their thoughts.
Step Three: Summarizing Statement
Each small group should write a summary statement (one sentence only) about Morgan's advantages, using the following prompts:
- Are some advantages more valuable than others?
- How does an unequal distribution of societal advantages affect a society?
Step Four: Making it Personal
Move away from Juliette Hampton Morgan's story to the story of each participant. The goal is to have participants identify ways they have or receive societal advantages. You can read the following instructions or copy them as a handout.
Now that you have discussed aspects of Juliette Hampton Morgan's privilege, identify situations in which you receive societal privileges over others. Your facilitator will ask for volunteers who might want to share. No one will be forced to share answers with the larger group.
In White Antiracist Activism: A Personal Roadmap, Jennifer Holladay lists some perks, advantages and societal benefits she receives as a white woman living in the United States:
- A perk: I can purchase travel-sized bottles of my hair care products at most grocery or drug stores.
- An advantage: Store security personnel or law enforcement officers do not harass me, pull me over or follow me because of my race
- Societal benefit: The schools I attended used standard textbooks, which widely reflected people of my color and their contributions to the world.
Think about the identity groups to which you belong. Refer back to Morgan's privileges (white skin, education, upper-class wealth and gainful employment) to help you brainstorm. List some of the perks or advantages you receive because of your group membership(s).
After about 10 minutes ask for volunteers to share their thoughts and emotions about recognizing aspects of their advantage.
Members of majority groups often assume everyone experiences the world the way they do. As this activity demonstrates, people experience "reality" in different ways, based on their identity characteristics. Educators, in particular, have an obligation to explore their privileges and assumptions, which may conflict with those of students and limit educators' ability to teach for multiple points of view. Ask participants to commit to one or both of the following lesson extensions:
Start a reading group. Select books or articles from the Recommended Reading list on page 30. Commit to reading the selection(s) individually, or as a group.
Keep "privilege journals." For one week, one month or longer, use journals to track individual encounters with privilege. If identifying encounters with privilege proves difficult, ask participants to imagine how their days might have been different if they did not belong to the group(s) affording them privilege.
Reconvene as a group to explore what you've learned and how those lessons relate to your roles as educators and as human beings.
Source: Jennifer Holladay's "White Antiracist Activism: A Personal Roadmap," The Center for the Study of White American Culture, 2000.
Note on the Lesson for Teachers
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards emphasizes cultural competence as one of its five core propositions.
Accomplished teachers are models of educated persons, exemplifying the virtues they seek to inspire in students -- curiosity, tolerance, honesty, fairness, respect for diversity and appreciation of cultural differences -- and the capacities that are prerequisites for intellectual growth: the ability to reason and take multiple perspectives to be creative and take risks, and to adopt an experimental and problem-solving orientation.