How to discuss the history of white nationalism with your students in the wake of Charlottesville

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

For the sake of time, we recommend stopping the video at 5m:45s.


 #3 News Story of 2017


  • Three people died and multiple people were injured in the chaos of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday.
  • A judge ordered 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. be held without bond on second-degree murder charges. Fields was accused of ramming his car into a crowd of demonstrators who came out against the white nationalist rally to denounce a Charlottesville city decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
  • Thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer of Charlottesville was killed in the attack and nineteen others were injured. Separately, two Virginia state police officers were also killed, when their helicopter, which had been monitoring the protests, crashed.
  • President Donald Trump faced criticism from the left and right alike when he didn’t name neo-Nazi or white supremacist groups for inciting the attacks until two days after the events took place. He instead denounced violence — quote — “on many sides.”
  • On Monday, Trump said, “Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.” However, on Tuesday, Trump once again blamed “both sides” for the events in Charlottesville.
  • White nationalist Matthew Heimbach helped organize the protest. He called the rally a success and says the white nationalist movement is stronger than ever. Heimbach took zero responsibility for the weekend’s events that led to death and injury. “Even just going back since I have been involved in this movement, it used to be a rally of 50 guys was very successful. Now we’re rallying 1,000, 1, 500 people in the streets. Our movement is growing.”
  • The mother of Heather Heyer, Susan Bro, said this about her daughter: “I am extremely proud of my daughter. I am extremely proud that she stood for what she believed in, that she not only gave mouth to it, but she gave heart to it, she gave her soul to it, and now she’s given her life to it.”


  1. Essential question: Why does racism continue to be a serious problem in the United States?
  2. How should President Trump have addressed the events in Charlottesville over the weekend?
  3. What do you know about the history of white nationalism in the U.S.? Images of white supremacy groups taking part in protests and rallies are understandably unsettling for people, particularly young people. What kinds of conversations would you like to see take place in your school that would help address rallies involving white nationalists and the emotions they generate?
  4. Who are people in your life you could speak with when you hear events in the news that are sad and disturbing?

Key Terms

confederacy:  “the body formed by persons, states, or nations united by a league; specificallycapitalized:  the 11 southern states seceding from the U.S. in 1860 and 1861″ (

alt-right: “a political movement originating on social media and online forums, composed of a segment of conservatives who support extreme right-wing ideologies, including white nationalism and anti-Semitism” (

neo-Nazi: a member of an organization that is similar to the German Nazi Party of Adolf Hitler


Visit PBS NewsHour Extra for more education resources designed to help teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.  @NewsHourExtra

For more resources and information, please visit our #Charlottesville Curriculum page