Racial Injustice, Apartheid and the Power of the Individual

9, 10, 11, 12

This lesson will provide the learners with a global look at racial injustice, specifically as it relates to Apartheid in South Africa.  It will also show how an individual can use his or her own power to effect positive change in society.

PrintFour Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods (If using the Alternative Activities- Three Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods)

The Learner will:

  • recognize the power of individual people in creating positive social change.
  • understand that racial injustice exists in other parts of the world as it does in the United States.
  • describe South African Apartheid including information on its history, how it worked, and how resistance from inside and outside of South Africa brought it to an end.
  • Copy of videocassette "The Power of One" (see Bibliography)
  • Handout One: Reflective Essay "The Power of One"
  • Handout Two: Outline of Lecture Material "Apartheid"
  • White board and markers, overhead projector and transparencies, and/or Power point presentation with projection, etc.
Home Connection 




  1. Anticipatory set:

    To begin the lesson, the teacher will ask the learners to share what they know about the concepts of 'social justice' and 'the common good'. Following the discussion, place the definition of ''social justice' and 'the common good' on the display board for all to see. (Social Justice (n) Justice applied to the framework of social existence; consideration of the requirements of justice applied to the benefits and burdens of a common existence. The Common Good (n) Involves individual citizens having the commitment and motivation to promote the welfare of the community --even if they must sacrifice their own time, personal preferences or money-- to work together with other members for the greater benefit of all. Then on a piece of paper have learnerslist the names of three individuals--one at the local level, one at the national level, and one at the international level --whose actions in some way helped to overcome social injustice toward individuals or groups and promote the common good. Have the learners share the names of these individuals and their reasons for their selecting them. Have the learners discuss and share why the phrase, "the power on one," might be appropriate in describing these individuals.

    Activities: Days One-Three

  2. Show the movie "The Power of One" (127 minutes) dividing the showing of the film into three equal segments of 45 minutes each. Time should be given at the end of each 45-minutesegment for students to reflect on what happened in the segment they just viewed. Between segments two and three have the learners take five minutes before showing the new segment to reflect on what has happened so far. Teacher Note: This is the story of a young English boy in South Africa and his passion for changing the world. Growing up he suffered from discrimination as the only English boy in an Afrikaans school. Soon orphaned, he was placed in the care of a German national named Professor von Vollensteen, a friend of his grandfather. The professor develops P.K.'s piano talent. WWII begins and the Professor is placed in prison for failure to register with the English government as a foreigner. P.K. makes frequent visits and meets Geel Piet, an inmate, who teaches him to box. Geel Piet spreads the myth of the Rainmaker, the one who brings peace to all the tribes. P.K. is cast in the light of this myth. After the war P.K. attends an English private school where he continues to box. He meets a young girl and falls in love, her father is a leader of the Nationalist Party of South Africa (This party created the system of Apartheid). P.K. and the girl Maria fight to teach English to the natives, this is prohibited by the Nationalist Party government. As their work progresses P.K.'s popularity grows via the myth of the Rainmaker. Maria is killed and P.K. loses focus until he sees the success of his language school among the tribes. He and a man named Guideon Duma continue the work in hope of building a better future for South Africa.

  3. Following the viewing of the final segment lead the learners in a group reflection of the concepts of social justice and the common good as discussed and defined in the anticipatory set.

  4. Assign the reflective essay (minimum one and a half pages typed double spaced or two and a half pages hand written in ink.) Handout One

  5. Alternative Activities: Days One and Two

  6. Following the Anticipatory Set as outlined above and assuming the availability of a computer lab/lab-tops with accessibility to the Internet, assign the learners to groups of two or three to investigate one of the following web sites (or other 'Googled' sites) in order to report back to the class at least four things they were able to discover about Apartheid in South Africa from their site and share these with the rest of the class: As this information is being shared, record what is being shared on the display board for all to see and instruct the learners to take notes.

  7. www.un.org/av/photo/subjects/apartheid.htm


  8. Following the group sharing, lead the learners in a group reflection of the concepts of social justice and the common good as discussed and defined in the anticipatory set.

  9. Assign the learners an essay, to be written based on their group's findings and the class discussions. The essay should reflect their reaction to what they have read and discussed and to determine what contemporary events in the world or in their life today would point to a social injustice. The essay should also reflect how as an individual they might act to impact this social injustice and promote the common good; to be a "power of one.". (Teacher Note: Use the scoring rubric found in Handout One.)

  10. Teacher Note: Should neither the Video or having the learners utilize the Internet to research their information regarding the South African Apartheid be an option, it is suggested that the instructor go on these sites, and/or other 'Googled' sites and download information from three or four different sources assigning the learners to groups of two or three to read their assigned reading and report back to the classat least four things they were able to discover about the Apartheid in South Africa from their reading and share these with the rest of the class: As this information is being shared, record what is being shared on the display board for all to see.

    Activities: Day Four (Alternative Activities: Day Three)

  11. Collect the essays and discuss the theme of the movie(readings); Can one person make a difference?

  12. Present information on South African Apartheid including: Historical background, how the system worked, the resistance movementand how it came to an end-Handout Two.Teacher note: This material can be presented most efficiently in a lecture fashion utilizing white board and markers, overheads, and/or power point.

  13. Following the 'lecture' lead the learners in a discussion of what they learned that was different from or added to what they had discovered in their own viewing (readings).

  14. Revisit the names the learners identified in the Anticipatory Set as individuals who acted in some way to help overcome a social injustice toward individuals or groups and to promote the common good.

  15. Have the learners brainstorm some additional contemporary areas where intervention by an individual or groups might be necessary to overcome a social injustice and/or to promote a common good.

  16. List these ideas on the display board to be revisited in Lesson Five.


The learners will be assessed on their Reflective essay based on the rubric requirements, as well as the learners involvement and understanding as reflected in the class discussions of the movie (readings) and the apartheid lecture

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Identify and discuss examples of philanthropy and charity in modern culture.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss and give examples of why some humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Give examples from history of how intolerance of ideas, religion, and minorities contributed to social disintegration.
    3. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Describe how the common good was served in an historical event as a result of action by a civil society sector organization.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Give an example of individual philanthropic action that influenced national or world history.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.
      2. Benchmark HS.10 Identify reasons why historic figures acted for the common good.
      3. Benchmark HS.4 Cite historical examples of citizen actions that affected the common good.
      4. Benchmark HS.5 Compare and contrast opportunities for students to improve the common good to the opportunities available to students in other countries.