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Connecting history with headlines

Gordon's social studies curriculum thoughtfully and deliberately connects history to the present day. A Kindergarten discussion of Dr. King sparks conversation about how classmates can help one another. A fourth grade unit on Ellis Island finds parallels with today's immigration debates. Eighth grade's study of the Holocaust allows conversation on contemporary religious intolerance and Islamophobia.

Much of this work culminates in Gordon's eighth grade. The eighth grade study of the American civil rights movement connects directly with present-day social justice movements, and the annual eighth grade trip to Georgia and Alabama includes meetings with local activists, lawyers and citizens alongside visits to historical sites. The eighth grade year concludes with four weeks of full-time, direct service in local agenecies and nonprofits. more on the trip at

This year's Civil Rights Trip is six weeks away, and already, dozens of connections are emerging between the work happening in eighth grade classrooms and larger conversations happening locally and nationally. 

A few of these include:

Providence photographer, and eighth grade parent, Mary Beth Meehan has a recent project featured on the front page of today's New York Times. Her large-scale portraits have been installed throughout Newnan, Georgia, where they have been sparking conversation about race, history and identity for months. Gordon's eighth grade will visit Newnan and meet with residents on the first day of this year's Civil Rights Trip. link

This weekend's New York Times also included an essay on mass incarceration by Michelle Alexander that connects two issues that the eighth grade studies in depth: immigration, which they covered this fall, and the civil rights movement. In the coming weeks, Gordon eighth graders will be writing about the patterns she identifies in this essay. link


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Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow was cited by alumnae Leah Harrison-Lurie '16 and Maddie Lee '16 when they returned to Gordon last fall to talk with faculty about the lasting impact of the Civil Rights Trip. The two students have, in their own words, "never stopped talking about the trip." Leah and Maddie will be back at Gordon on Friday for the Middle School's daylong teach-in on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They will present a workshop on mass incarceration inspired by their eighth grade class's visit to Bryan Stephenson's Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. link

The movie Just Mercy, which premiered in December, is based on the book by Bryan Stevenson, the Montgomery lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative. The EJI has hosted Gordon's eighth grade as part of the Civil Rights Trip since 2016. In 2016, Gordon students met Anthony Ray Hinton, a former death row inmate freed by the EJI's work; Hinton's story is touched on in Just Mercy, where he is portrayed by Oshea Jackson, Jr. Gordon's eighth grade will see the film on Wednesday. link

Brown University just announced that author, educator, and longtime friend of Gordon Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum will return to Rhode Island in February to deliver Brown University's Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture. Dr. Tatum is a psychologist, scholar and researcher who served as president of Spelman College for thirteen years. She has met with Gordon students, faculty and parents several times over the past twenty years, speaking at Gordon in 2010 and 2017 and welcoming Gordon eighth graders to Spelman's campus as part of Gordon's annual Civil Rights Trip to Georgia and Alabama. Her 2017 remarks at Gordon can be found at link

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