Digital Exhibitions

Lesson Plan: the Raymond Pace Alexander Years in Girard College Desegregation


a)      Historical Analysis and Skill Development: 8.1.9.C.D:

         i.      Students will be asked to interpret primary source documents handed to them and interpret the opinions and historical context of that time period.

b)      United States History: 8.3.9.D:

          i.      Students will interpret how conflict and cooperation among groups and organizations have impacted the growth and development of the U.S.



Students will apply knowledge of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision and what they have learned of the NAACP in order to analyze the desegregation of Girard College in Philadelphia and its fifteen-year struggle towards removing racial barriers even after segregation was deemed illegal and unconstitutional. Students have already completed a week and a half of the three-week unit on the Civil Rights Movement. This lesson is taught to incorporate the local history aspect of the state and national social studies standards. Students will evaluate the steps and process that the NAACP and the local communities went through while attempting to amend Stephan Girard’s will only allowing admission of “poor white orphan boys.” Students will analyze and interpret primary resources from this event and era. Students will finally synthesize and formulate their own opinions around this particular event revealing how much work and effort went into the fifteen-year social movement. They then will be asked to connect those racial and social issues to parallel issues of today seeing connections to the gay rights movement and other social reforms in present day.





a)      Raymond Pace Alexander Years

                i.      Warm up exercise, instructing students the school will be getting new facilities that none of them will be allowed to use.

                ii.      Show class pictures or protests and pickets as well as the video of Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking in Philadelphia but ask them to infer where these photos and videos were taken and why?

                iii.      Explain how Girard College was segregated due to the donator’s will.

                iv.      Lead discussion on how students felt when they learned of new facilities being available for students other than them, and how the school would have to recruit students from across the country to fill its classrooms.

                v.      Newspaper assignment, group work, and assign presentation for next class.



a)      Show the class video clips and pictures from the archives of the pickets and have them discuss where they believe this took place.

                i.      Pictures,

1.      Civil rights demonstrators at Girard College

2.      Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., attends rally at Girard College

3.      Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., attends rally at Girard College

                 ii.      Videos

1.      The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - Visit to Philadelphia



a)      (10 min Warm Up) Students will be told of the new exciting facilities being built. They will be told of how a gentleman had passed away and donated in his will six million dollars to the school. They will be building new basketball courts, playing fields, and swimming facilities for the students to enjoy. They will then be told how the will had some stipulations and every single one of them would no longer be allowed to attend because they had ten toes and ten fingers, and that the school would only admit people who fit the will’s stipulations. Have students discuss their feelings about this with a partner, and then discuss as a whole group. Discuss how students felt when they heard of new school and facilities and how they would not be allowed to use them. Did they feel wrongfully excluded because of an inherent natural variable?

b)      (15 min) Teacher will then show class a series of photos from the events, particularly those of the assembly outside of Girard College. Teacher will then play the video of Martin Luther King’s speech outside of Girard College and ask the student to identify where this took place. Explaining that this was not in the south and racial issues were just as prevalent in the north as they were in the south.

                  i.      The teacher will play parts of the oral history from Mel Dorn and Bernyce Mills DeVaughn. Explaining to the students that these people were no older then the same age as them and they were actively participating in social movements to invoke change.

                  ii.      Students must be reminded of previous statements by teacher to constantly be thinking critically of information and data they are encountering as well as be aware of author and participants opinions and bias interpretations.

c)      (10 min) The Teacher will then give a mini-lecture on how Stephan Girard donated six millions dollars to the creation of Girard College, and his will stated that only “poor white boys” be admitted.

                   i.      How did the college remain segregated for more than fifteen years after it was deemed illegal and unconstitutional? 

                   ii.      What social, political, or economic forces allowed for this to happen?   


d)     (25 min) Using what the students have learned about civil rights and Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 in previous lessons, they will separate into groups of three or four and read over primary newspaper clippings from the beginning years of the event the Raymond Pace Alexander years. Students as a group should be able to answer the following questions after reading through their primary document and present to the class their findings;

1.      What is the date in which this was published?

2.      Who was the author/creator of this document?

3.      For what audience was this document created?

4.      What has the author said that you think is important list three points?

5.      Why do you think the document was created?

6.      What evidence in the document allows you to know why it was written?

7.      What does this document tell you about life in the United States at the time it was created?

8.      Each group will now ask a question to the author or person of interest from article or event discussed that was left unanswered by the document.

                  ii.      Group 1

1.      Girard urged to drop its racial ban, 1953

2.      Girard faces new court test of racial ban, 1953

3.      Strong reactions to Girard case, 1953

4.      Councilman Alexander argues his case, 1953

                   iii.      Group 2

1.      Council asks court study of Stephen Girard's will, 1954

2.      Girard College faces test suit on racial bar, 1954

3.      Girard bars six Negro boys, 1954

4.      Psychologist favors making will like Girard's illegal, 1955

                   iv.      Group 3

1.      City and state argue Girard's ban on Negroes, 1955

2.      Girard College admissions case argued before court, 1955

3.      Court upholds Girard will, 1956

4.      Girard case to be taken to highest court, 1956

5.      Court rejects Girard appeal, 1956

                    v.      Group 4

1.      200 million dollar question for Attorney General: how to enforce discriminatory trusts?, 1957

2.      Justices say Constitution is violated, 1957

3.      13 Girard trustees named to replace city board, 1957

4.      Private trustees for Girard College approved by State Supreme Court, 1958

5.      Justices' decision is unanimous, 1958 



a)      The class learned through discussion and analysis how to decipher primary source documents.

b)      Class also learned to work together and present as a group their findings after reading newspaper clippings from a historical event.

c)      They also learned how racial tensions and conflict were not just solely in the South as they had learned in previous lessons of the atrocities there as well.

d)     Students will be able to comprehend how the legality of the issue seemed to run on through the court system.

e)      Teacher will use this long process of legal action to introduce the next day’s lesson of Cecil B. Moore, the NAACP, and their more radical movement on the streets in the following decade.

f)       At the very end of the lesson the teacher will propose to the class as they are leaving to write down on a piece of paper one fact they learned today and one question they had about what we discussed and accomplished in class.


VIII.      ASSIGNMENT (in school or homework)

a)      Newspaper analysis assignment and group presentation.

b)      Student will be asked after the Raymond Pace Alexander years, to write a letter to the city council requesting change as if they were living in Philadelphia at that time.

c)      Possible extra-credit or follow up paper,

                   i.      Write an essay constructed around whom Raymond Pace was, what was the issue at hand with Girard College in regards to other schools being desegregated, or a letter as if the students were writing to Raymond Pace as if they were the parents of the children who were just denied from Girard College?