Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Oklahoma and Segregation

Individual Rights and Majority Rule

Chelsee Wilson | Published: November 4th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 11th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course Oklahoma History, U.S. History
  • Time Frame Time Frame 1-2 class period(s)
  • Duration More 90 minutes


This lesson explores the role of segregation in Oklahoma's laws as well as the role Oklahoma played in the desegregation of the United States.

Essential Question(s)

How can individual rights be protected within the context of majority rule? 



Students "vote" on classroom rules while the teacher decides which votes count.


Students watch a video over the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896.


Students review a list of Jim Crow laws passed by the state of Oklahoma between 1890 and 1957.


Students complete an I Notice, I Wonder activity over a video about Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher.


Students write a 2-minute paper over Oklahoma's role in segregation and desegregation.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Ballot (attached; one per student)

  • Jim Crow Laws in Oklahoma (attached; one per student)

  • KWL Chart (attached; one per student)

  • H Chart (attached; one per student)

  • Pens, pencils, highlighter

  • Notebook paper

  • Projector

  • Internet access


Using the attached Lesson Slides, review the Essential Questions (slide 3) and Lesson Objectives (slide 4) to the extent you feel is necessary. Upon entering the classroom, hand each student a Ballot (attached) with new proposals for classroom rules. Have the instructions on slide 5 displayed.

Once students have finished voting, tally up the votes and show the new classroom rules.

Display slide 6. First, ask students how they feel about the new rules and their ability to have a say in the voting process. Were they happy to be able to influence the rules of the classroom?

Then, ask the students how they would feel about the new rules and their ability to have a say in the voting process if you had denied some of them the right to cast their vote. Would they feel excluded? Would they be upset if the rules directly affected them, yet their voice was not heard?

To follow-up, ask students: "Did you know that many African Americans were denied the right to vote? Some were denied the right due to grandfather clauses or poll taxes, but others were denied the right because they couldn't pass an exam. Even though the Fifteenth Amendment guaranteed all men the right to vote, many local and state governments found ways to prevent voting by many minority groups."


Pass out a KWL Chart to each student. Display slide 7 and have students write what they know in the K column. Use slide 8 to introduce students to Plessy v Ferguson. Display slide 9 and allow time for students to copy the question "Did the separate car law violate the rights of the freed people?" into the W column.

Display slide 10 and have students watch "Plessy vs. Ferguson" which discusses the impact of Plessy v. Ferguson on the United States. Display slide 11 and have students complete the L column of the chart.


Explain to students that while literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses were blatant forms of discrimination against minorities, many states had laws that further discriminated against these disenfranchised groups. In the case of Oklahoma, the state passed laws prior to statehood all the way to 1957.

Have students work in small groups to read and discuss the attached Jim Crow Laws in Oklahoma. Have them compare what they have read to what they previously read about the Plessy v. Ferguson case. Do they think the two are related? How do they feel about the extent of this legal segregation?

Display slide 12. Have students (or student groups) use the H Chart handout to organize, compare, and contrast the information between the video and The Oklahoman article. Students should write information from the first article on the left side of the H Chart, information from the second article on the right side of the H Chart and overlapping information from both articles in the connecting leg of the H Chart. Consider having students submit the chart for assessment and grading purposes.


Once students have discussed the impacts of the Jim Crow laws in Oklahoma, have them complete an I Notice, I Wonder activity over the University of Oklahoma School of Law's A Tribute to Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher. The video can be found on slide 13 with instructions on slide 14.

Have students briefly discuss their observations and questions over the video.

Display slide 15. Once students have discussed, have them complete a Two-Minute Paper over their thoughts on segregation and desegregation. A few questions they may choose to answer include:

  • Do you think that all Oklahomans (or Americans) are equal in the eyes of the law? Why or why not?

  • What do you think school would be like today if these cases never happened?

  • Do you think Oklahoma has played a major role in any other important cases? Which ones?

  • Do you think Ada Lois Sipuel's fight was similar to that of Justice Harlan's dissent of Plessy v Ferguson? Why or why not?


Students can turn in their Two-Minute paper for an evaluation-based grade. They could also submit their observations and questions from the video for a participation grade.