How should the United States respond to genocide?
Eighth edition. October 2022.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. The preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS. Additional unit descriptions for the Current Issues Series that summarize the historical context, student readings, and skill development are available on this MIRO BOARD.

Genocide is one of the tragic repeating features of history. It elicits feelings of horror and revulsion throughout the world. Yet both the international community and the United States have struggled to respond to this recurring problem. Confronting Genocide: Never Again? allows students to wrestle with the reasons why local actors, the international community, and the United States responded as they have to various cases of genocide over the past century. 

Please Note: Teaching about genocide may require special sensitivity. Activities may be especially intense for students with a personal connection to the events. Please be advised that the text and lessons include descriptions of conflict, violence, terrorism, torture, sexual violence and other human rights abuses, racism, and other challenging topics. It is important to be sensitive to your students and the ways in which these might be difficult topics to study. Trigger warnings are included for students in the readings and videos. 

The unit is divided into two parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop skills and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

This unit also includes an Options Role Play as the key lesson and additional synthesis lessons that allow students to synthesize new knowledge for assessment. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“This unit provides readable and interesting content that adds depth to most students’ understanding of genocide. I like having the students go through the Genocide Convention and then revisiting it throughout the unit. The role-playing activity helps my students engage in public policy, while recognizing the challenges, politics, and obstacles that may lead to a nation like the United States not taking more serious action, or choosing to avoid labeling something a genocide. Overall, my students are really engaged and take to heart the concept of ‘Never, Again?’” – Anonymous, History Teacher, Michigan

Part I: Defining Genocide

Part I traces the development of the Genocide Convention, the International Criminal Court, and instances of cooperation and antagonism in the United Nations. There are two lessons aligned with Part I: 1) Orientation and Compelling Questions, and 2) The Genocide Convention: Testing the Definition.

Part II: Seven Case Studies

Part II examines seven case studies of genocides from the past: the OvaHerero-Nama Genocide, the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, and the genocide in Sudan. There are two lessons aligned with Part II: 1) Atrocity Risk and Prevention, and 2) Survivors’ Voices: Experiences of Genocide.


Orientation and Compelling Questions

Students view a slideshow which helps them to gain familiarity with the problem of genocide. They learn about and construct open-ended “compelling questions” which prepare them to work thoughtfully on this challenging topic.

The Genocide Convention: Testing the Definition

Students analyze the Genocide Convention and consider the challenges of defining "genocide." Students then apply the standards of the Genocide Convention to five historical events: The Trail of Tears, Colonial Congo, the Ukrainian Famine, Tibet, and the Conquest of the Desert in Argentina.

Atrocity Risk and Prevention

Students view a video outlining one framework of risk factors for genocide. Students then work through the reading to locate evidence of the risk factors in each of the genocides. They also consider prevention strategies.

Survivors' Voices: Experiences of Genocide

Students watch video testimonies of genocide survivors and consider the benefits and limitations of using personal stories to learn about history.

The Options Role Play

The Options Role Play is the key lesson in the unit, and it asks students to examine four distinct options for U.S. policy on genocide in preparation for writing their own option.

Expressing Your Views

Synthesis Lesson: Armed with historical knowledge and a sense of their own values, students articulate recommendations for U.S. policy and apply them to the current situation involving the Uighurs in Xinjiang, China.

Historical Memory: Constructing a Memorial to Genocide

Synthesis Lesson: This hands-on and uplifting lesson challenges students to use diverse forms of expression to memorialize a genocide. Students explore the purpose of memorials and consider the idea of historical memory.

Synthesis Lesson: After watching videos and viewing a slide show of cultural belongings from Namibia, students assess and understand the value of objects as sources for studying history and cultures. Through writing and recording an audio guide for their own mini-museum using the cultural belongings, students understand the role the historian or museum curator plays in the telling of a specific story.

Synthesis Lesson: Students learn to analyze a fashion piece as an historical object by watching a video from a museum curator. They view a slideshow of past and present OvaHerero fashion styles, consider the role of fashion as a political or cultural statement, and sketch their own fashion piece using symbolism.

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