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Researching black history
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Students in Georgia generally complete their first research project during their fourth grade year, and West Newton Elementary fourth grade teacher Jeannelle Carlisle thought Black History Month posed the perfect opportunity for the research.

Carlisle had her students chose a person or organization to profile - creating an individual project, writing a five paragraph essay and giving an oral presentation.

There was one stipulation about who could be profiled.

"No one was allowed to do Martin Luther King Jr. because we wanted it to be an authentic assessment of research and they already knew a lot about him," Carlisle said.

Students had to use three different sources such as an encyclopedia, book, Web site or newspaper article.

Tashera Camacho researched Mary Bethune.

"I learned Mary Bethune was very famous for helping young black kids go to school," Camacho said. "Most kids were working in the cotton fields picking cotton, so they couldn't learn to read or write."

Born in 1875 in South Carolina to former slaves, Bethune founded a school for black children in 1904 which eventually became Bethune-Cookman University.

"Mary Bethune said, 'we've got our freedom, now we need an education,'" Carlisle said.

She also served as an administrator for the National Association of Colored Women, National Council of Negro Women, and National Youth Administration and was a member of President Franklin Roosevelt's "Black Cabinet."

Several students picked sports figures to profile.

Thajuana Mitchell learned about Jackie Robinson, a Georgia native who became the first black major league baseball player. He played for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

"He was important because he was the first black person to be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame," Mitchell said.

Jesse Owens, 1939 Berlin Olympic gold medalist in running, was profiled by Allyson Bentley. Bentley created a time clock of Owen's life and told the class about his awards and Carlisle explained the significance of his win in Nazi Germany.

"Adolf Hitler thought everyone that wasn't like him was inferior, so he was upset when Jesse won," Carlisle said. "Not only did the black American beat a German, but he beat a German in Germany on his home ground."

Some students did projects about groups involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

Savannah Bray made a scrapbook and told the class about the "Little Rock Nine," or the nine black students who first attended the integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. in 1957.

"I think they felt a little nervous and scared because some of the white people wanted to hurt them," Bray said.

John Sylvester researched the Southern Christian Leadership Conference whose first president was Martin Luther King Jr.

"The reason they're so important is they were deeply involved in the civil rights movement because they helped start the Montgomery bus boycotts," Sylvester said.

John Lewis, current U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district and former chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was profiled by Eduardo Contreras.

"Eduardo is from the Philippines, which doesn't have much diversity of culture," Carlisle said, "so he doesn't know a lot about this, but he's doing very well."

Contreras crafted a diorama depicting police beating protestors on the Selma to Montgomery March as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

"Lewis was one of the key organizers of the march from Selma to Montgomery," Contreras said.

Carlisle said she graded the students on not only accuracy, but also creativity and thought put into their projects. Other students profiled the NAACP, Jesse Jackson, Medgar Evers, Thurgood Marshall, Julian Bond, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Andrew Young, Negro League Baseball, Shirley Chisolm, Coretta Scott King, Ruby Bridges, Daisy and L.C. Bates and John Kennedy.

She asked her class if anyone learned what the term "civil rights" meant during their research.

"Civil Rights means blacks and whites and all races can come together," said Shemaiah McCray.