African American History

Standing on the Shoulders of the Ancestors

Teaching about the TRAYVON MARTIN case


Teaching about the TRAYVON MARTIN case

For the year 2012 March madness includes the public anger surrounding the Trayvon Martin case. As educators we recognize that Spring is the season for standardized testing of our students. But we should not ignore "teachable moments" when they arise. As many people have stated and what MSNBC television host and political commentator Ed Shultz acknowledged is that "the Trayvon Martin killing could be the Emmett Till moment of our time."

When an event as controversial as the shooting of Trayvon Martin grips the nation the classroom can be an excellent forum for a civil examination and civil discussions of the case. Teaching about current controversial topics like the Trayvon Martin case engages young people and helps them better understand foundational elements of our democracy such as "rule of law" and "due process". Indeed engaging young people in such teachable moments is the reason many of us became educators.


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The resources below are useful for educators, parents, and individuals who desire to be better informed about the issues surrounding the Trayvon Martin case.

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I introduced a lesson on the Trayvon Martin case to my high school classes with the following resources:

1. A KLW Chart: What I Know, What I Learned, What I Want to Know More. (See ATTACHMENT)

2.  A listing of facts about the Trayvon Martin case from the THINK PROGRESS website

3.  A news-clip from the MSNBC Ed Shultz Show that aired on March 22, 2012.

I teach high school juniors and seniors in a Maryland school district south of Washington DC.  While most of my students are African American, I was surprised that only a few knew anything about the Trayvon Martin case. Especially since the vast majority of them have either earplugs almost permanently attached to their heads, or they are speed texting inside their handbags. 

Because I decided to take advantage of "the teachable moment" the day following my Trayvon Martin lesson several students were able to share with the class additional facts and updates about the controversy. And I was better able to maintain their interest when I related the facts in the Trayvon Martin case to social studies curriculum topics such as "rule of law", "due process", and "government transparency". 


Below are additional resources and links to supplement a lesson on the Trayvon Martin case.



VIEW: Slain Black Youth that Galvanized the Nation:A SLIDESHOW that places Trayvon Martin's death in a historic context.

VIEW: Melissa Harris-Perry's interview with young African American males.

READ: A Timeline of the Trayvon Martin case from ABC News.

VIEW: A SLIDESHOW at www.csmonitor.comof public protests related to the Trayvon Martin case

ACCESS: News sites with updates on the Trayvon Martin case.( and

LISTEN: To radio podcasts from Democracy Now

VIEW: The Murder of Emmett Till from The American Experience on PBS

JOIN: CIVIC VOICES  and have your students contribute to the Student Voices database on international democracy issues.

A preliminary list of classic books with topics related to the Trayvon Martin incident:

"Big Boy Leaves Home" in Uncle Tom's Children, by Richard Wright
Native Son,  by Richard Wright
"Notes of a Native Son" in Notes of a Native Son, by James Baldwin
Manchild in the Promised Land, by Claude Brown
Makes Me Wanna Holler: A young Black man in America, by Nathan McCall
Saving Our Sons: Raising Black Children in a Turbulent World, by Marita Golden

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Muhammad 

Teaching About Lynching in America
Depending on the age of your students you might consider expanding classroom discussions on the Trayvon Martin case by teaching about the history of lynching in United States. Below are website links that provide lessons and instructional resources for teaching about lynching. 

Jazz is About Freedom: Billie Holiday's Anti-lynching Song Strange Fruit

The Murder of Emmett Till from The American Experience on PBS

Lynching and Race Riots in the United States,1880-1950. Readings and Lesson Plans from the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute

NAACP's Anti-Lynching Campaigns – Two lesson plans from EDSITEment!

Without Sanctuary: Photographs and Postcards of Lynchings in America

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Please share this BLOG post with friends, family, and associates. If you are the parent of a school age student you may consider sharing this post with your child's teacher.  Also let us know about other useful sites that will help put the Trayvon Martin case in a social and historic context.

African American Posters and Presentations | P.O. Box 146 | Bryans Road | MD | 20616

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