Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




On May 28, 1942, Chicago Public Schools adopted a new curriculum with the rather mundane title Supplementary Units for the Course of Study in Social Studies. Although the title was less than provocative, the content was revolutionary, both for Chicago and for the nation. The Supplementary Units marked one of the first times that a major American public school system had adopted African American history as part of its standard, citywide social studies curriculum. The story of the development, adoption, and implementation of this curriculum intersects issues of race, politics, history, and education. At its center are the efforts of an African American teacher, Madeline R. Morgan, later named Madeline Stratton Morris, whose passionate fight for the inclusion of African American experiences in Chicago's schools resulted in the adoption of a curriculum that was hailed on a national and international level as a pioneering effort in intercultural education. Unfortunately, both the curriculum and the woman who acted as its catalyst have been almost completely ignored by historians of education and curriculum in the years since her efforts first gained notoriety.

This dissertation examines how and why the Supplementary Units were developed, how they were implemented within Chicago classrooms, and what reactions they garnered from educators and students, both black and white, inside of Chicago and in other cities, in the period between 1941 and 1945. Because this curriculum has not, to date, been the subject of major scholarly inquiry, this research contributes greatly to our knowledge of curriculum history, and our perception of the agency of African American educators in challenging mainstream curricular discourses, and in developing their own ideologies and approaches.

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