Adelphi Academy of Brooklyn was honored to host Katherine Perrotta, a doctoral candidate in Social Studies Education at Georgia State University, who held a series of special lessons for Adelphi’s Middle and Upper School English/History classes during the week of January 4.
Ms. Perrotta’s lessons focused on Elizabeth Jennings Graham, an African-American resident of New York City during the 19th century, who was removed from a whites-only trolley car owned by the Third Avenue Railroad Company. The lessons were conducted to see if students were able to demonstrate empathy with a historical figure such as Jennings.
According to Ms. Perrotta, Jennings set an important precedent for African Americans to use the legal system to challenge segregation ordinances prior to the Civil War, but she remains a relatively obscure civil rights activist. She wanted to gauge students’ knowledge of historical empathy using Jennings’ case as part of her study.
Ms. Perrotta said that Adelphi was the “perfect place” to teach her lessons, due to its small class sizes and diverse student population. Students in the seventh, eighth, 11th and 12th grades learned the background information about Jennings’ case through the analysis of primary and secondary source documents. Using the information from these materials, they then participated in a series of discussions and debates about how her case tied into future civil rights cases, as well as ongoing civil rights issues in today’s society.
Ms. Perrotta was impressed by the students’ performance during their class discussions and debates, and thought that the students showed a great deal of historical empathy during this portion of the lessons. The debates gave Ms. Perrotta insight into the dynamic between the teachers and students, and she said that the rapport between them resembled that of a family.
During the course of her study at Adelphi, Ms. Perrotta felt like a member of the Adelphi family.
She extended her gratitude to its faculty and administration, particularly Head of School Ms. Iphigenia Romanos. Ms. Perrotta is eager to complete the analysis of her findings and looks forward to sharing them with Adelphi’s staff.