High School Chapter 4:

Mary S. Peake & Barbara Johns: A Fight For Academic Equality


Throughout the four centuries of history covered in Determined, access to education was at the heart of the African American struggle for equality. While slavery was legal, enslaved Americans were prohibited by law from being taught to read and write, and had no access to formal education. Following emancipation and the 13th Amendment, Black Americans temporarily enjoyed increased access to education, but those rights quickly evaporated under new Jim Crow laws.

Under those provisions, Virginia and other southern states established “separate but equal” schools that segregated students by race, which resulted in unequal conditions for Black and White children. Despite these setbacks, African Americans continued to aggressively pursue their right to an education.



  • VUS.7 The student will apply social science skills to understand the Civil War and Reconstruction eras and their significance as major turning points in American history by:
    • c) evaluating and explaining the impact of the war on Americans, with emphasis on Virginians, African Americans, the common soldier, and the home front
  • VUS.13 The student will apply social science skills to understand the social, political, and cultural movements and changes in the United States during the second half of the twentieth century by:
    • b) evaluating and explaining the impact of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the roles of Thurgood Marshall and Oliver W. Hill, Sr., and how Virginia responded to the decision


  • NSS-USH.5-12.5 Era 5: Civil War And Reconstruction (1850-1877)  
  • NSS-USH.5-12.9 Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)

Key Hook/Question

What academic challenges and successes did Mary S. Peake and Barbara Johns experience throughout their lives?


The slideshow below can be used in this browser-based format, or downloaded as a presentation or PDF outline. You may also use the button below to make a Google Slides copy in order to adapt or edit the presentation.

Suggestions for Adaptations

All of our lesson plans are designed to be adaptable to your needs. After downloading a copy of these Google Slides, feel free to rearrange their order, pick and choose elements that work best for your students, or add content to supplement an area to which you’d like to add extra emphasis.

Additionally, our activities can be uploaded to any platform (such as Google Classroom) and shared with students directly so that they can complete the activity individually on their own devices. You can also project the lesson plan and have students look on as an entire class as you lead them through it.

  • This lesson could be introduced with a specific conversation on resistance and what that term means. Slide 10 (and others) could be taken out and formatted to create a “gallery walk” discussion, where you print out the images and place them on your walls to allow students to walk around and make observations about what they see. 
  • Students could examine selected slides (such as slide 12) to complete the primary source activities within them, and then compare results with another group.
  • This lesson can be broken into chunks for small group work, and then students can gather afterwards for a large class discussion. For example: students can complete slides 6-8 in small groups and regroup to discuss as a class before completing slide 9 as a formative assessment.
  • Student groups could also focus on one clue  (such as slides 6-9) and present their findings to the class. This could help minimize time restraints and address student needs. 
  • Student groups could also focus on one primary source (such as slide 8) and present their findings to the class. This could help minimize time restraints and address student needs. 
  • SOL suggestions: 
    • Teachers can highlight and review key vocabulary terms and concepts that are important for the SOL. For example: as you work through the activity, you could discuss “separate but equal,” sit ins, walk outs, the NAACP, Brown v. Board of Education, and other topics.
    • If short on time, teachers could focus on the Barbara Johns section  rather than the entire presentation.

Additional Reading & Resources