This open historical game was created through an ALG Pilot Grant for Developing an Open Historical Game. In this type of historical game, students read from specially designed game books that place them in moments of heightened historical tension. The class becomes a public body, or private gathering; students, in role, become particular persons from the period and/or members of factional alliances. Their purpose is to advance an agenda and achieve victory objectives through formal speeches, informal debate, negotiations, vote taking, and conspiracy. After a few preparatory sessions, the game begins, and the students are in charge. The instructor serves as an adviser and arbiter. Outcomes sometimes vary from the history; a debriefing session sets the record straight.
It began, simply enough, with students in a dorm room. Four of them, in Greensboro, North Carolina. They were young, eager to change the world, and were ready to fight against Jim Crow segregation. They were not remarkable. African-American students all over the South were doing the same thing, had been doing the same thing, for some time. But something was different this time. The students decided that they had had enough of waiting around, of polite strategy, and decided to act. They went to the local Woolworth store in downtown Greensboro, and they sat down. They were told they wouldn’t be served, but they stayed put. Simple enough. Within several months, thousands of sit ins were occurring everywhere.
As simple as all this sounds, it was anything but. The students who decided to act had to face their parents, their school administrators, and established civil rights leaders who had their own ideas about how to tackle the indignities of Jim Crow. They faced white businessmen and politicians. They faced the public. And they also faced each other. However united they were in wanting to destroy Jim Crow segregation, they did not always agree on tactics, or even strategy. They had to build consensus. They had to build coalitions. They had to organize and plan and execute. Changing the world, it turns out, required a lot of work.