CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Racism and Jazz Music

History, Social Studies
2 to 3 lessons
To gain an understanding of the impact of racism on society and on public figures
Students will prepare a report about racism towards entertainers in Canada and the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, then discuss racism in society today.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Begin a discussion about racial discrimination in Canada and the United States, especially against Blacks, during the 1950s and 1960s. Brainstorm and list any information students have. Ask: What do you think were the main similarities and differences in the two countries, in relation to racial discrimination? What barriers might have existed for Black performers?

Outline the Opportunity

Direct students to the topic Oscar Peterson: A Jazz Giant on the CBC Digital Archives website. Have them explore the site to learn more about racism, discrimination, and segregation in Canada and the United States from post- World War II to the late 1960s. Students should list as many examples as possible of the impact of racism on Oscar Peterson's career. Have them note, as well, Peterson's response to the racist treatment to which he was subjected. Students should then write a report about racism, discrimination, and segregation in Canada and the United States during the 1950s and 1960s, and its impact on Oscar Peterson and other entertainers of colour.

Revisit and Reflect

When students' reports are finished, hold a class discussion. Ask: Why do you think racism was so prevalent in Canadian and American society at that time? How did the two countries' experiences with racism compare? What are Oscar Peterson's views of racism? Do you agree with the ways he tried to overcome it? Why? To what degree has racism in society changed today? To what degree has racism changed for entertainers, sports figures, and politicians today?


Students can search a local newspaper, news magazine, or web-based news source for a current story involving racism. They should record the details and then compare the incident to those experienced by Oscar Peterson. What does their information tell them about racism in society today?


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