REPLogo (1)

"Own Your History"

A leadership course on the creative edge



Students learn that great leaders come from many backgrounds: Eleanor Roosevelt, a daughter of New York privilege; John Lewis, son of an Alabama sharecropper; Cesar Chavez, a Mexican-American farmworker.Everyone has the potential to change the world.

4. Eleanor Roosevelt — American pioneer: “Leadership from the side”

ccccWe all have family and personal “inheritances” (in family stories, attitudes, position in society, possibly good and bad), family “politics” especially when young, and individual strengths and weaknesses as a person. Eleanor Roosevelt was female; she was orphaned as a child; her family was wealthy and included a former President; she had a forceful charming husband (who became an invalid) and a strongly overbearing mother-in-law.


With all these inheritances, how did Eleanor Roosevelt make herself a leader, indeed the most significant woman leader in US history to that date: she made herself the first First Lady who was an important, leading public figure in her own right? How did she champion women’s rights, African-American rights, and human rights, both in the US and later in the United Nations? Using historical and fictional examples, this module examines development of leadership qualities.


(a) Use a film about a girl taking a leadership role in a traditional society to assess leadership development and qualities and draw comparisons with Eleanor Roosevelt and her development.

(b) Historical role-play: (1) A simulated roundtable discussion about the proposed Marian Anderson concert before a mixed audience in Washington, DC, in 1939. (2) A simulated discussion about A. Philip Randolph’s proposed “march on Washington” by African-Americans in 1941 to protest discrimination in defense hiring and the issuance of an executive order. Roles in the simulations include Eleanor Roosevelt, African-American leaders, labor and business leaders, Administration figures, and members of Congress.

(c) Student team building project–small groups will identify a change or improvement needed at their school and develop a strategy for leading fellow students to advance that goal.

5. John Lewis—Young bold leadership for civil rights.

How a sharecropper’s son took ownership of his history and as a young man became a grassroots leader for nonviolent resistance to Jim Crow.


How did Lewis, the son of an Alabama sharecropper, come to own his history? What leadership qualities helped Lewis become a civil rights leader before he was 20 and play a leading role in the 1960’s Freedom Rides, March on Washington, and Selma-to-Montgomery March? What is his vision for reconciliation and how has he pursued it in his career?


(a) Developing strategies for change: Role playing in a series of meetings of members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at the time of: (1) the Nashville sit-ins and the Freedom Rides in 1960-61; and (2) after the March on Washington; the Selma-to- Montgomery March; and the emergence of advocates of Black Power in SNCC in 1966.

(b) Assess historical and film examples of youth who overcame significant personal and social obstacles to change the direction of their lives.

(c) Small group project. Each group will develop a strategy for addressing prejudice.

6. Cesar Chavez—A Latino leader for migrant rights.

How a poor Mexican-American made the plight of migrant farmworkers and the experience of Latinos more visible to the nation.

c5 (1)Questions:

What experiences and qualities shaped Chavez as a leader? How did his methods and views compare and contrast to those of Dr. Martin Luther King, John Lewis, and other civil rights leaders? How do the social and economic conditions and US experiences of Latino-Americans and Latino immigrants compare to those of African-Americans, Asian-Americans and other minorities. What is unique about the Latino experience, historically and today?


(1) Overview of Latin American immigration into the US—countries of origin, causes, goals, methods, issues, and changes over time.

(2) Role playing roundtable discussing the decision to use the grape strikes of the 1960s, organize the United Farm Workers, and use other tactics, and assessing Chavez’ role as leader.

(3) Student small group projects on citizenship and immigration.