Questions of Courage

6, 7, 8

The purpose of this lesson is to examine how individuals persevere in the face of discrimination and continue on to impact the course of history for the common good.

PrintThree Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • compare the response of Vivien Thomas and that of Hamilton Naki to the discrimination they encountered in the field of medicine.
  • analyze the possible motivates a person might have to persevere in spite of adversity.
  • create a picture book or role-play events describing the life of Vivien Thomas, Hamilton Naki or any of the other African American inventors/scientists (See Lesson Two).


  1. Teacher notes: Prior to beginning this lesson, students should have seen a movie about the story of Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas. They should be familiar with the relationship between these two scientists, as well as a goodunderstanding of segregation in American society.

    Anticipatory Set:

    Ask the totalgroup to think of a time thatthey were in an unfamiliar setting- a new class, a new school, a new neighborhood, and they felt that someone didn't like them without even knowing them? How didthey respond? Did they ever make friends with those people? Have students write their responses individually and then share their answers with a partner. The pairs can share their responses with the total group.

  2. As a total group, generate a list of the words that studentsassociate with discrimination utilizing the Discrimination Graphic Organizer (Handout One). Ask students to explain unfamiliar terms thathave beenlisted. The teacher can ask the students to explain the terms or the teacher can explain the terms.

  3. Following the listing and discussion, ask students to write their own definition of discrimination based on the discussion.

  4. Provide students with reading about the lives of Vivien Thomas and Hamilton Naki or if you have access to a computer direct students to websites that feature on-line for biographies about Hamilton Naki and Vivien Thomas. After the student have readabout the discrimination they faced in the lives and work of each of these men, ask the students to write a new definition of discrimination.

  5. Review incidents in the film and from the on-line biographies that showed discriminationand have the students respond to theQuestions of Courage (Handout Two).

  6. Examine the perseverance of these two individuals in the face of discrimination. Ask the students to write a reflection or journal entry about why they think these two men continued to do this work without recognitionto help promote the common good.

  7. Ask the students to also respond to this question in their journals, "If a philanthropist is someone who gives of his/her time, talent, and/or treasure to promote the common good, might these two men (Hamilton Naki and Vivien Thomas) also be considered philanthropists?""Why? or Why not?"

  8. Distribute asheet of whiteconstruction paper to each student and have them divide their sheet into six equal squares.

  9. Instruct the students as towhat a storyboard isand how to construction one. Often astoryboard is a sequencing of still pictures(usually with captions) that are arranged in such a manner that they represent the important events of a story that is being told or one that is being retold.

  10. Instruct the students that they are to draw a picture in each square thatrepresentsthe selected sequence of events, along with captions, that retells the story ofeither Vivien Thomas or Hamilton Naki and that they are tokeep in mind that these storyboards will be shared shown and read to younger students.

  11. Distribute copies of the Picture Book Research Paper Rubric and review the rubric.


Review the sequence of events from either Vivien Thomas or Hamilton Naki story with students. Model the creation of a storyboard with the students prior to the writing assignment - see Storyboard. Students can create their own storyboards alone or with a partner. The storyboard can be used to role play the sequence of events for a younger audience or to create a picture book, along with captions, that retells the story of either Vivien Thomas or Hamilton Naki which can be shown and read to younger students. Assessment will be based on the Picture Book Research Paper Rubric:

Cross Curriculum 

Investigate a global community that does not respect the rights ofminorities, contact Amnesty International to determine what can be done to petition the government of the country. Investigate anti-bullying and related diversity strategies with the result being the development of a plan for the school community.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Discuss examples of groups denied their rights in history.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.12 Identify the dilemma of minority rights in a pure democracy.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Explain and give examples of enlightened self-interest, egoism, and altruism as they relate to philanthropy.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.