The Valentine 1955 | Cosmopolitan Productions

"The Valentine 1955": Study Guide

by Venora Rodgers, Rochester NY


"The Valentine 1955" is a two-minute memoir that shows how the racial politics of a moment in time are played out between two little girls.

The video is a tool for teams and groups to use in their exploration of the impact of race, ethnicity, and class in our culture. This exploration is important, and necessary, in order to discover ways our individual perspectives develop, and most importantly, how those perspectives promote or impair cultural competence. We hope that this videotape, and the discussions that follow, will increase cross-cultural understanding. 


After watching and discussing this videotape, participants will: 

... Increase awareness of how their concepts and values related to race, ethnicity, and class developed
... Understand the impact of discrimination, oppression, and mistreatment that is based on race, ethnicity, or class
... Identify a personal goal for increasing their ability to understand and work with groups other than their own

Use of the Videotape

Teams and groups may determine how they use the videotape. However, several suggestions are listed below. 

1. Decide how much time can be devoted to the discussion of the videotape. 

2. Choose a facilitator. It is sometimes helpful if the facilitator is not a member of the group. (The facilitator should watch the videotape prior to the discussion group.)

3. To start discussions, the facilitator explains that the two-minute videotape is a personal recollection of a cultural experience. The facilitator tells participants that they will watch the videotape, then discuss their reactions and share experiences related to race, ethnicity and class for [amount of time allotted]. 

4. The facilitator asks participants to be respectful of the ideas and opinions of others, and to maintain confidentiality. Also, the facilitator tells participants to share only what they wish. 

5. Participants watch the videotape, then reflect for a few moments. Usually someone will begin talking. If no one speaks, the facilitator may ask volunteers to share thoughts, feelings, and reactions. This is usually an effective way to begin discussions. 

6. When discussion time ends, the facilitator summarizes the main discussion points.

7. If discussion has been intense, it might be helpful to ask a question that will lighten the mood, and prepare participants to return to work. Laughter seems to help participants release emotions that may result from the discussions. Example: What's the best or worst meal you have eaten? 

8. The facilitator should ask the group if everyone is O.K., and tell group members that she/he is available if anyone needs to continue processing the videotape. 

Discussion Questions

If a more structured approach is needed, the facilitator may use prepared questions to process the videotape. Listed below are suggestions.

Q. What/how did you feel as you watched the videotape? What were your thoughts? 

Q. What was the status of desegregation in 1955? 

Q. Why has skin color had such a profound impact in the United States? 

Q. Describe the time you first become aware that some people were treated differently because of the color of their skin? 

Q. What were your parents' (or adults who reared you) views about people of racial and ethnic groups that were different from yours? 

Q. Are your current views about race and ethnicity similar to those of your parents and family? 

Q. If you have changed your opinions and attitudes, what caused you to change? 

Q. As a child or teenager, were you, or a family member, ever in a situation where you had to make decisions, related to race, ethnicity or class, that were not accepted by your family, friends, or neighbors? Describe those situations. 

Q. Have you ever had a friendship with a person whose race or ethnicity was different from your own? If yes, describe the friendship. If no, what was the barrier? 

Q. What is the impact of gender on the way race and ethnicity are experienced in our culture? 

Q. Do you think there is there is a class structure in the U.S.? If yes, describe the structure, and how it functions. If no, explain why. 

Q. What are effective ways to promote understanding and communications between racial and ethnic groups? 

Q. The experience that is described in the videotape took place in 1955. After watching this videotape, some participants said this event happened in the past, so it is not relevant today. Does that mean that this kind of experience does not, or could not happen today? Do children today have similar experiences? Is it important to remember our history? 

There was a period during the sixties that many gains were made in the integration of schools. However, recent research and surveys indicate a return to more segregated classrooms. How will this impact children who will need to function in a multicultural world?

Optional Activities

Share personal stories that are related to race, ethnicity or class. 

Share your race or ethnicity, and several cultural beliefs, foods, or practices.


The Valentine 1955 | Cosmopolitan Productions