Lesson Introduction and Overview (Instructor)

This project is an example asynchronous classroom lesson informed by AudiAnnotate’s “An Introduction to Annotating and Presenting Sensitive Audio Using AudiAnnotate” lesson, both created by Bethany Radcliff and Kylie Warkentin. Students will work with the “‘Criminal Syndicalism’ Case, McComb, Mississippi (Side 1)” recording from the John Beecher Sound Recordings Collection at the University of Texas’s Harry Ransom Center throughout the course of the lesson.

To use this project as a lesson, students will navigate to the project page and, starting with “1. Considering ‘Criminal Syndicalism’ Audio,” complete each step and the activities listed therein chronologically. Instructors should complete all the steps listed in the “Before the Lesson” and read through the full outline of the lesson below. Though this introduction has been written with the instructor(s) in mind, each activity is written to prompt students firectly. After students complete all the steps in this project, instructors will upload student annotations to AudiAnnotate in their own project (see “Adding Student Work to AudiAnnotate” for steps on how to do so).

For additional resources regarding working with sensitive audio in the classroom, see “Additional Resources” at the bottom of the page.

Before the Lesson

About the Audio

In this lesson, students will be working with the “‘Criminal Syndicalism’ case, McComb, Mississippi (Side 1)” from the John Beecher Sound Recordings Collection at the University of Texas’s Harry Ransom Center.

Though this information is reproduced above the lesson clip in this project, we recommend instructor(s) share the following information about the audio with students in advance of the lesson so students may be better prepared to work with the sensitive material or express any discomfort that may prevent them from engaging with the lesson.

Recording Description: This recording was recorded October 19, 1964 by John Beecher and his wife, Barbara. The recording begins with John Beecher and members of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) meeting with Black high school students and their parents after these students were released from jail in McComb, Mississippi on charges of criminal syndicalism, in which it seems the students have been falsely accused of damaging property by throwing a brick. Beecher speaks with the group about the importance of voting and fighting for equal treatment in the voting process. A white arrested member of COFO discusses how his experience in jail was different than that of the Black students, how he was released without bond, and that his release was sooner. The students discuss the conditions in the jail and the treatment by policemen and guards. The parents of the students discuss how they were given limited interaction with their children, and how officers made visits a challenge.

Description of Clip Used in Lesson: The clip we will discuss in class is 14:07-15:37. In this portion of the recording, Beecher asks the students if they had recreational privileges while in jail, to which the students reply they could not even leave the cell. Beecher asks about food given to them in prison, which the students say was often cold pork and beans from the can, and that they were denied coffee, and given a small breakfast. The students also discuss how the guards/officers were dismissive of their singing and would threaten to drag their mattresses out and make the students sleep on the concrete if they continued sleeping.

Audio Content Warning: In this recording, a racial slur is used at 16:06 by a student quoting the language said to them by a police officer while in jail. There is also explicit language used at 15:49, 16:30, and 16:39 by students quoting white police officers. Listening to the second side of the recording is not necessary for this lesson and will not be discussed in this lesson, but as a warning, it includes multiple racial slurs, at 4:58, said by a white man; at 5:48 by a man quoting a police officer; at 7:00, 7:04, 7:08, 7:09, by a woman quoting a police officer; at 9:15 by a man quoting a police officer; at 11:42, 11:57, and 12:32 by a woman quoting a police officer. Explicit language is also used by a woman quoting a police officer at 10:48.

Be sure to provide your students with the link to the “Lesson Clip from “‘Criminal Syndicalism’ case, McComb, Mississippi (Side 1)” for students to listen to before class. You may also choose to share with students this fully fleshed out Beecher recording project, created by Bethany Radcliff and Kylie Warkentin.

Adding Student Work to AudiAnnotate

Access AudiAnnotate’s documentation to:

Sample Lesson Plan: Beecher Criminal Syndicalism Case, McComb, Mississippi (1 hour)


Students will understand the processes and philosophy behind audio annotations, with the possibility of presenting annotations using AudiAnnotate. Students will learn about the annotation process, and instructors will be provided with documentation on how to create an AudiAnnotate project.

Note: Instructors may choose to either focus lesson on thinking through the annotation process and reserve uploading annotations to AudiAnnotate themselves, or they may have students create GitHub accounts and work on presenting their annotations in a project in AudiAnnotate themselves – this lesson plan includes both options. We have also included a potential extension activity using Hypothesis to workshop and comment on student annotations (see “Extension Activity: Commenting Using Hypothesis”).

Targeted Lesson Guidelines

(Modified from Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy) Interpret, Analyze, and Evaluate

Lesson Goals

Instructors will: Students will:
Introduce students to thinking through audio and the annotation process using primary source materials. Understand the unique challenges and opportunities that accompany working with audio, particularly that of a sensitive or challenging nature.
Discuss the context of the chosen audio and provide a content warning, emphasizing the challenges and opportunities that accompany working with challenging or sensitive audio. Apply what they’ve learned about using audio by generating annotations for the Beecher clip, preferably in groups.

Key Questions

Helpful Resources for Lesson

Lesson Plan Agenda

1. Considering ‘Criminal Syndicalism’ Audio (6min)

How do I think critically about and work with audio? Where do I listen for and make meaning in audio?

  1. Reiterate content Warning.
  2. General experiences listening to audio.
  3. What do you want to know more about?

2. Analysis and Potential Annotation Routes (20min)

How do we discuss and annotate this audio? What are some potential annotation routes?

If it is necessary to break the lesson up into multiple days, this activity would be a good stopping point.

  1. Social/Historical Context of Recording.
  2. Relisten to the Lesson Clip and Note Observations.
  3. Consider Potential Annotation Routes.

3. Further Analysis and Annotation in Groups (8-10min)

  1. Relisten to the clip.
  2. Decide on categories for annotation and begin generating annotations.

4. Presentation (8min)

Here, instructors should offer evaluative comments.

Extension Activity: Commenting Using Hypothesis (10min or homework)

Additional Resources

Working with Sensitive Archival Material:

Classroom/Education Resources (Emphasis on Trauma-informed Pedagogy):

Social Annotation: