Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

An Uphill Battle: Fighting Injustice on the Home Front During WWI
Darren Griffin
Time Frame:
1-2 class periods
World War I

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Students will rotate through four learning centers where they will read primary and secondary sources about injustices during World War I.  This will culminate in brainstorming solutions to each type of injustice.

  • Most of what is taught about World War I centers on the battle front.  It is important for students to know that there were battles against injustice on the home front during the war as well.  The courageous people fighting these battles should inspire us to stand up for democracy, civil liberties, and justice for all people.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

  • History: Continuity and Change Theme 1: E. Analyze the causes and consequences of a specific problem in United States history post c. 1870 as well as the challenges and opportunities faced by those trying to address the problem. (Missouri Grade Level Expectations)
  • People, Groups, and Cultures Theme 3: D. Assess the impact of WWI related events, on the formation of “patriotic” groups, pacifist organizations, and the struggles for and against racial equality, and diverging women’s roles in the United States. (Missouri Grade Level Expectations)

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Full description of activity or assignment.
  • Begin the lesson by asking if anyone has ever felt like they were treated unfairly.  Have students share appropriate examples as time allows.  Ask students what they would do if they felt they were being treated unfairly by the U.S. government.  Let students know that they will be looking at people during World War I who felt they were being treated unfairly by the government and what they did to fight injustice.
  • Students will rotate through four learning centers.  Center 1 includes readings on the treatment of African-Americans during the World War I era.  Center 2 focuses on women’s issues during the war.  Center 3 addresses the treatment of conscientious objectors during the war.  Center 4 asks students to investigate the treatment of “radicals” and anti-war activists during WWI.
  • Students should be divided into four groups.  Each group will start at one of the four centers and then advance through the other three centers one at a time.  They should read the secondary and primary readings for each center carefully so that they have a clear understanding of the injustices as well as the issues contributing to the injustice.
  • After completing the readings at each center, students should complete the following:

1.)  Give a detailed description of the injustices described.

2.)  Analyze and explain the factors contributing to the injustice.

3.)  Brainstorm some solutions that the government could have implemented to help alleviate the problems.  (These could include solutions that the government eventually implemented or other solutions that you would have recommended.)


Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • Scoring Guide for assignments will be based as follows for each expectation listed below:

4—Exemplary           3—Above average               2—Barely Adequate                        1—Lacking


Teachers should feel free to translate the scoring guide above to points or letter grades as desired.  Each expectation can be weighted according to the teacher’s preferences.


1.)  At each center, students should write out a detailed summary of the injustices described.

2.)  At each center, students should analyze and explain several background factors contributing to the injustices.

At each center, students should suggest appropriate governmental action to address and alleviate the injustices.