Beautiful Agitators Lesson Plan: Scene One
LESSON: Introducing Mrs. Vera Mae Pigee
VERA: I told them when we were in the process of getting started, and again when I was elected secretary, that the only thing I knew about the NAACP was that it is something that is supposed to make these Mississippi white folks act like human beings AND I want to be a part of that monster.
- Before watching and reading the play, “Beautiful Agitators,” had you ever heard of Vera Mae Pigee?
- Who is Vera Mae Pigee?
- Explore the title of the play, “Beautiful Agitators”
- How has the word agitator been used as a pejorative when referring to civil rights activists?
- What is the significance of using this word in the title?
- What might the use of the word beautiful imply?
- How does the use of Vera Mae’s beauty salon as a clandestine location for civil rights work and citizenship training demonstrate the way in which women were able to occupy spaces and organize under the radar?
- What does this say about the expectations of women’s roles during the civil rights movement?
- How has the story of Vera Mae Pigee been preserved by the play "Beautiful Agitators"?
LESSON: Role of Women in the Civil Rights Movement
Vera Mae Pigee is the heart of our Beautiful Agitators play. The first scene depicts the many hats Vera Mae Pigee wore in her role as an organizer and activist. While we proudly celebrate her unique and valuable contributions, Mrs. Pigee is not an outlier in the civil rights movement. She is one of many women who led the charge and carried and sustained the movement within their communities across the South. These women made great sacrifices for the movement and were themselves the targets of intimidation and violence.
Students will be able to answer the following questions:
- Discuss the varied roles that women played in the civil rights movement.
- Identify multiple key leaders that are too often left unmentioned.
- Evaluate why women were often excluded from the narrative.
- Articulate the critical importance of women in the civil rights movement.
ACTIVITY: Research Project
Students will uncover the unsung voices of the women of the civil rights movement. Assign each student a name from the list provided and ask them to create a digital collage representing the life of their leader which they will present to the class. Students will be required to to answer the following questions about their historical figure and her contributions to the movement:
- What is the name of your historical figure?
- Where and when was she born?
- What role did she play in the civil rights movement?
- Was she a part of a specific organization?
- Has this person been memorialized? If so, how?
EXTENSION: Monument Proposal
[See above image of Vera Mae Pigee mural in downtown Clarksdale, MS artist Charles Coleman]
Have your students work individually or in groups to submit a monument proposal.
- What type of monument would they design ex: plaque, sculpture, painting, statue, etc.?
- What artistic style would be used as inspiration- realistic, abstract, etc
- What words and images would be important to include in the monument? Ex: Personal quote, poetry, song lyric, etc
- Where would the monument be placed?
- Who would they invite to support the funding of this monument?
- Who would they invite to the dedication of this monument?
- Why is this monument important to understanding the history of the civil rights movement?
- How would this monument serve to mobilize future generations to work for civic change?