Lesson Plan

American Reckoning


The video segments for this activity come from “American Reckoning,” a PBS Frontline and Retro Report collaboration that examines a little-known story of the civil rights movement. This activity centers on the attempted murder of George Metcalfe and the response by the N.A.A.C.P. and Deacons for Defense chapters of Natchez, Miss.


Students will:

  • Analyze the events following the attempted murder of George Metcalfe in Natchez, Miss.Analyze the events following the attempted murder of George Metcalfe in Natchez, Miss.
  • Compare and contrast the strategies and tactics of different civil rights groups.
  • Examine primary source documents to determine their audience, purpose and historical significance.
  • Social Studies
  • U.S. History
  • AP U.S. History
  • Civil Rights
  • Race in U.S. History
  • 1960s America
  • Black History
  • Criminal Justice
  • The Postwar Era (1945-1980)
For Teachers

Essential Questions

  • How did different groups of African-Americans advocate for change during the civil rights era?
  • What strategies and tactics did civil rights groups use to achieve their goals?

Additional Resources

American Reckoning Education ResourceRetro Report 
American Reckoning: Black Resistance (Excerpt)Retro Report 
American Reckoning: The Boycott (Excerpt)Retro Report 
American Reckoning: The Legacy (Excerpt)Retro Report 
Transcript for "American Reckoning: The Bombing (Excerpt)"Retro Report 
Transcript for "American Reckoning: Black Resistance (Excerpt)"Retro Report 
Transcript for "American Reckoning: The Boycott (Excerpt)"Retro Report 
Transcript for "American Reckoning: The Legacy (Excerpt)"Retro Report 
Mapping American Social Movements Project: N.A.A.C.P. History and Geography 1909-1980University of Washington 
Primary Source document: A Declaration of the Negro Citizens of Natchez, MississippiN.A.A.C.P. 
Primary Source document: The Natchez AgreementN.A.A.C.P. 
Metcalfe, George and Jackson, WharlestMississippi Civil Rights Project 
Justice Department Case File: Wharlest JacksonThe United States Department of Justice 

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.

Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.

Explain how supporting questions contribute to an inquiry and how, through engaging source work, new compelling and supporting questions emerge.

Analyze the role of citizens in the U.S. political system, with attention to various theories of democracy, changes in Americans’ participation over time, and alternative models from other countries, past and present.

Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.

Evaluate social and political systems in different contexts, times, and places, that promote civic virtues and enact democratic principles.

Analyze the impact and the appropriate roles of personal interests and perspectives on the application of civic virtues, democratic principles, constitutional rights, and human rights.

Analyze how people use and challenge local, state, national, and international laws to address a variety of public issues.

Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related consequences.

Analyze historical, contemporary, and emerging means of changing societies, promoting the common good, and protecting rights.

Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.

Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context.

Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.

Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.

Use questions generated about multiple historical sources to pursue further inquiry and investigate additional sources.

Questions? Tips? Concerns? Reach out to our Director of Education, David Olson: dolson@retroreport.com