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Karen Hess WebQuest

by Karen Hesse


     The Ku Klux Klan was one of the most powerful groups to emerge after the Civil War in the 1865, in effort to prevent black Southerners from putting Republicans in power in the southern states. The Klan terrorized local white and black Republican leaders as well as blacks whose behaviors violated past ideas of inferior blacks. The members were sworn to secrecy and adopted the symbols of white robes, masks, and burning crosses. Violence became so serious that in 1871 Congress gave President Ullysses S. Grant the authority to use national troops to restore order to chaotic districts. The Klan quickly collapsed as soldiers were given the power to arrest suspects and hold them without any trial.
     The Klan surfaced again in the early 1900s with a more political voice encouraging patriotism during World War I. Middle class white men who saw themselves as making a significant contribution to the future of the United States dominated the Klan. Professing to embrace true "American " values, their mission was to control all people who were identified as inferior or a threat. During the 1920s, the Klan mainly targeted blacks, Jews, and Catholics, and immigrants who competed with native born whites for jobs.
    Witness tells a story of the Ku Klux Klan's attempt to recruit  members in a rural town in Vermont in 1924. As you meet eleven residents of this town, you will learn about the lives of these individuals through their voices; as they are caught up in this historic struggle. Understanding the issues behind the scenes of this poetic play, try to imagine what you might have done in this situation.



    We will be reading the novel Witness by Karen Hesse together in class. This novel is in the form of a poetic play in five acts, and you will become the characters. In order to understand and appreciate who these characters are, understand the inferences that they make to historic events, and their roles within this story, you will need to research and become familiar with the background of the many historic events that affected these town's members. You will work in groups of four to gather information on topics that influenced America in the early 1900s.  Your group will share and teach the class your researched information so that we can all appreciate these eleven characters who speak directly to us as they reveal their human strenghts and weakness through acts of love, hate, violence, peace, terror and kindess.



    You will be randomly placed in groups of four. Each group will be given one of the following topics to research, gather information, complete required study guides, and then present your learned information to the class.  Presentations will implement a variety of technology tools. One group will create an author study on Karen Hesse to appreciate who she is and where she gets her ideas. A required study guide must be completed.



Karen Hesse


 Ku Klux Klan


Birth of a Nation


     Thomas Dixon: The Clansman:

      Thomas Dixon: biography:



Leopold & Loeb Trial / Clarance Darrow  



Types of Poetry






John Phillip Sousa


Calvin Coolidge


Helen Keller

Helen Keller.jpg


Bootleggers/ Rum Runner / Prohibition


Senator Greene



Your group is responsible for downloading one copy of the Oral Presentation Rubric to hand to me on the day of your group presentation. This is your job. Be ready! Don't forget!

You will also be completing a Peer Evaluation Rubric for each of the members in your group. This will be given to you on the last day of our presentations. You may view and print this evaluation to keep for yourself only to use a reference.


    Now, through your reading and research, you have a greater appreciation of the complexity of the times in the 1920s.  Be sure to pay attention to the motives behind the organizations that exclude people, thus establishing the climate of this country as it is revealed through racial problems, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the onset of prohibition, labor problems, immigration issues, and the intolerance of diversity.

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Blanchard Middle School  |  14 West Street, Westford, MA 01886  |  ph: (978) 692-5582  |  fx: (978) 692-5598

Westford Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability or homelessness.