Beats of the Antonov

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Lesson Plan: Comparing Civil Wars

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It was a war between North and South in which racism and economic interests played major roles. That could, of course, describe the U.S. Civil War. It also describes the recent war in Sudan that led to the creation of South Sudan as a separate nation. A comparative analysis of these two wars--separated in time and place--provides an opportunity to deepen understanding of both conflicts.

To engage students in that comparison, this lesson uses clips from Beats of the Antonov, a documentary about Sudanese citizens living in the geographic middle of the nation who fought alongside the South, but who, at war's end, found themselves living in territory controlled by the North. Their unique vantage point provides viewers with important insights into the role of race, racism, ethnicity and economic power in the ongoing conflict. Students will use these insights to reconsider what they know about the U.S. Civil War. Note: This lesson assumes that students have already studied the U.S. Civil War.

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By the end of this lesson, students will:

  • Know the "backstory" and outcome of the recent civil war in Sudan
  • Analyze a key event in U.S. history by comparing Sudan's civil war with the U.S. Civil War
  • Read informational text
  • Practice listening skills by using documentary film clips as information sources
  • Write analytical essays



Global Studies (Africa)
U.S. History
English/Language Arts


  • Film clips and equipment on which to show them
  • Comparing Civil Wars handout (see end of lesson plan)


Approximately 75 minutes plus homework


Video clips provided with this lesson are from Beats of the Antonov

Clips 1a and 1b: "Rebel Army Officer Ibrahim Khatir" (1:57 min.)

Clip 1a: (0:55 sec.) The clip begins at 19:55 with Ibrahim Khatir addressing troops. It ends at 20:41 when he says, "I am a commander of a political training division in the SPLA."

Khatir explains the government's "divide and rule" policy based on race, ethnicity and class.

Clip 1b: (1:02 min.) The clip begins at 33:55 with Khatir explaining the meaning of a popular Khartoum hate song. It ends at 34:57 when he says, "Or he is dubbed as non-patriotic, racist, tribal, traitor, rebel, etc."

Khatir says that Khartoum embraced the culture of one group in Sudan and tried to impose it on everyone else.

Clip 2: "Cultural Suppression and Internalized Racism" (5:53 min.)
The clip begins at 10:59 with cultural organizer Tutu Agabna explaining, "We live in a milieu that does not respect our culture and wants to kill it." It ends at 17:04 with musician Musa Kusafa saying, "Khartoum should build me a road."

The clip includes Albaqir Elafeef explaining the role of racial identity and internalized oppression in the Sudanese conflict. It also includes musicians and cultural organizers describing how the government in Khartoum (Sudan's capital) suppresses African culture.

Clip 3: "A Mother's Perspective" (1:09 min.)
The clip begins at 27:25 with Rabha Awad, a Sudanese refugee, saying, "Since his first wars, he used our children, not his." It ends at 26:36 when she says, "We used to be one people."

In the clip, Awad derides Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir for sending black children to fight his wars, but not his own kids.

Clip 4: "Fake Identities" (3:19 min.)
The clip begins at 30:38 with Sarah Mohamed talking about girls who use skin-lightening cream. It ends at 33:55 with Albaqir Elafeef saying, "We want to transform them into what we want them to be like."

The clip explores how internalized inferiority leads people to assume "fake identities" (Elafeef's term).


1. [Optional] Review

To remind students of what they have already learned about the U.S. Civil War, have them discuss brief answers to these questions (on handout):

  • What major issues led to the war?
  • What role did race play?
  • What was the role of economics?
  • Who actually did the fighting?
  • How long did the war last?
  • How was the conflict resolved?
  • How did the government run by the victors treat those who identified with the losing side?
  • How were civilians affected by the war?
  • How did music play a role in coping with the war?

2. Learning about Sudan and South Sudan: General Background

Assign students to read CIA World Factbook Country Profiles for Sudan and South Sudan.
All students should read the material under the Introduction and Economy links (as well as any other sections you deem important).

Depending on the level of your students, you might also assign these texts:

U.S. Department of State U.S. Relations with Countries
South Sudan

U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013
South Sudan

Check for understanding. At a minimum, students should know that:

  • Sudan is controlled by Arab-identified, predominantly Muslim Sudanese with historical ties to Egypt. In contrast, South Sudan is controlled by African-identified, predominantly Christian Sudanese with historical ties to British colonial rulers.
  • South Sudan controls most of the oil fields that have been the primary source of revenue for the Sudanese, but it relies on permission from Sudan to transport the oil to key ports. Revenue from the oil is supposed to be split between the two countries.

Note: It may also be helpful to make sure that students know the definition of ethnicity and understand the difference between race and ethnicity. For a helpful resource to get started, visit

3. Sudan's Civil War

Now that students have a grasp of the basic background for Sudan's civil war, they're ready to hear from some people on the ground. Explain that the clips they are going to see are from a documentary----that shows the ongoing war against Sudanese who fought with South Sudan but who found themselves living within the boundaries of Sudan when the official war ended.

Show all of the clips, pausing briefly after each to check for understanding and invite reactions.

[Optional] If time allows, you might want to share with students this definition of "internalized racism" and discuss how it is manifested in the clips:

Internalized racism is the situation that occurs in a racist system when a racial group oppressed by racism supports the supremacy and dominance of the dominating group by maintaining or participating in the set of attitudes, behaviors, social structures and ideologies that undergird the dominating group's power.

- From Donna Bivens at the Women's Theological Center

4. Comparisons

Depending on the level of your students, have them work individually or in small groups to complete the Comparing Civil Wars Handout. Because students will use their handout notes in the next step, you may want to spend some time in class reviewing results. Advanced-level students can skip the review and go directly to the next step.

5. Synthesis

Assign students (individually) to write essays that transform their notes from the handout into essays that compare and contrast the two wars; each essay should offer at least one insight the student gained about the U.S. Civil War from learning about Sudan's civil war. Adjust the level of detail you require according to the grade and skill level of your students. For students who don't need writing practice, you might offer the option of creating a multimedia presentation rather than an essay.


1. Screen the full film, this time with a focus on the role of music in the community.

2. Do a "deep dive" on the concept of "internalized racism." Invite students to reflect on the role that internalized oppression--and its counterpart, privilege--have played in their own lives and/or historically. You might start by exploring the resources at Another way to open the topic is to investigate the worldwide use and marketing of skin lightening cosmetics.

3. Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted for war crimes. Investigate the case and hold a debate with one side arguing for and the other arguing against conviction.


Beats of the Antonov
You can find links to additional resources at The POV site includes a general discussion guide with additional activity ideas.

POV: Media Literacy Questions for Analyzing POV Films
This list of questions provides a useful starting point for leading rich discussions that challenge students to think critically about documentaries.

United to End Genocide
This group's website provides an overview of the history and current status of conflicts in Sudan.


Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (

  • W.9-10.2d Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic.
  • W.11-12.2d Use precise language, domain-specific vocabulary and techniques such as metaphor, simile and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic.
  • W.9-10.4, 11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to task, purpose and audience.
  • SL. 9-10.1, SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades
    9-12 topics, texts and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally), evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
  • SL.11-12.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.
  • SL.9-10.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated and distorted evidence.
  • SL.11-12.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis and tone used.

Content Knowledge: ( a compilation of content standards and benchmarks for K-12 curriculum by McREL (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning)

  • Language Arts, Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process.
  • Language Arts, Standard 2: Uses the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing.
  • Language Arts, Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes.
  • Language Arts, Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media.

NCSS C3 Social Studies Standards
Dimension 1: Developing Questions and Planning Inquiries

  • D1.2.9-12. Explain points of agreement and disagreement experts have about interpretations and applications of disciplinary concepts and ideas associated with a compelling question.

Dimension 2: Applying Disciplinary Concepts and Tools

  • D2.His.1.9-12. Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.
  • D2.His.4.9-12. Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.
  • D2.His.5.9-12. Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people's perspectives.
  • D2.His.14.9-12. Analyze multiple and complex causes and effects of events in the past.


  • D2.Civ.9.9-12. Use appropriate deliberative processes in multiple settings.
  • D2.Civ.10.9-12. Analyze the impact and the appropriate roles of personal interests and perspectives on the application of civic virtues, democratic principles, constitutional rights and human rights.

Dimension 3: Evaluating Sources and Using Evidence

  • D3.4.9-12. Refine claims and counterclaims attending to precision, significance and knowledge conveyed through the claim while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both.

Dimension 4: Communicating Conclusions and Taking Informed Action

  • D4.1.9-12. Construct arguments using precise and knowledgeable claims, with evidence from multiple sources, while acknowledging counterclaims and evidentiary weaknesses.
  • D4.2.9-12. Construct explanations using sound reasoning, correct sequence (linear or non-linear), examples and details with significant and pertinent information and data, while acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of the explanation given its purpose (e.g., cause and effect, chronological, procedural, technical).


Faith Rogow, Ph.D., is the co-author of The Teacher's Guide to Media Literacy: Critical Thinking in a Multimedia World (Corwin, 2012) and past president of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. She has written discussion guides and lesson plans for more than 250 independent films