Reading and Analyzing Texts
Identifying Reading Strategies Activity
When historians analyze sources and artifacts from the past, they do so by considering, among other things, who produced it and when it was produced. By paying attention to these aspects of the source’s origination, historians consider how reliable the source is and how it relates to other pieces of evidence. To teach students to do this, teachers can cognitively “apprentice” students by explicitly stating their thoughts while they read the document and create annotations. This interactive gives you the opportunity to annotate a primary source using three historical reading strategies: sourcing, contextualizing, and close reading.
The primary source for this interactive is excerpts from the majority opinion in Browder v. Gayle (1956), in which a federal district court’s ruling on June 5, 1956, held that bus segregation was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. You can read the entire record of this court case here.
When sourcing, contextualizing, and closely reading a document, historians use their prior knowledge of actors and events to interpret the text. Teachers and students may need to develop such prior knowledge. For this document, here is some background information to assist you:
- As the National Archives website notes, “The case is renowned for its relation to the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery…. Although not a party to the case, Rosa Parks' arrest record and fingerprints are exhibits to the case. The plaintiffs in this case were Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, Claudette Colvin, and Mary Louise Smith, all of whom had been either arrested for refusing to give up their seats to white passengers or harmed by being forced to comply with segregation codes. In this case, the three-judge panel ruled Montgomery segregation codes unconstitutional due to their violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court later affirmed the District Court's judgment.”
- Review a digital copy of the complaint [PDF] that was filed by the plaintiffs, as well as the supporting document regarding the arrest of Rosa Parks.
- Review a digital copy of the judgment (page 1, page 2, page 3 [JPG]) that was delivered to the plaintiffs after the case was heard.
- The author of the majority opinion was judge Richard T. Rives, one of three judges who were specially appointed to decide Browder v. Gayle (1956). At the time, he was a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans and had been appointed by President Truman in 1951. Browder v. Gayle (1956) was the first of many cases in which Rives joined a majority opinion that expanded upon and applied the civil rights protected in Brown v. Board of Education (1954).
Click below to get started.
Reflect: What was easy/difficult about modeling a think-aloud? How did your annotations compare to the sample answers?