Lesson Plan

Dreyfus Accused

Read through a translation of the famous text J’Accuse! and answer questions based off of the text. Students will learn about bias, perspective, and the construction of history.

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Enduring Understanding

Antisemitic racism was alive and well in Europe well before the Nazis came to power.

Essential Questions

  • 1How does racism affect situations that should otherwise be fair?
  • 2What impact do biases have on a person's ability to get a fair trial?


5 Min

Provide students with a brief overview of the Dreyfus Affair. A presentation with important dates and facts can be found here. Go over this with your students if you feel it necessary and time permits.

In brief, explain to students that Alfred Dreyfus was accused of stealing military secrets with weak evidence and was sentenced to prison. Tell students that the document they will be reading is a newspaper article written by a Dreyfus supporter, Emile Zola, who accused the French military of a conspiracy against Dreyfus.


20 Min

Read through the translation of J’Accuse! provided by the University of Pennsylvania Library as a class.

As you read together collectively, ask students to take notes utilizing the 3Ps Method; taking note of things they find a) Powerful b) Puzzling and c) Propelling.

Once you’ve finished reading, attempt to clarify the sections that students found puzzling.

In order to familiarize yourself, and your class with this model, please look over this guide: 3Ps: A Critical Reading Guide.


25 Min

Divide students into pairs or groups of three before directing them to the Reading Road Map questions at the bottom of the reading. Give students approximately 10-15 minutes to jot down their answers.

After everyone has had a chance to write down their answers, go over the questions as a class. Finally, address the essential questions directly to the class and open up a class discussion on whether biases still exist in justice systems today.

Teacher Primer

Know Before You Go

Before you teach, use our teacher primer to freshen up on your content knowledge.