*The text used for the lesson contains extremely graphic details that may not be appropriate for certain ages. Use your best judgment on whether to use this text with your students.The history of the Great Leap Forward has been wrongfully minimized by scholars and historians who have failed to uncover the truth behind the deadliest famine inflicted upon millions of people at the hand of communism. Reliable information about the Great Leap Forward is severely limited, but the information in this lesson is based on the book Tombstone by Yang Jisheng, a survivor of the Great Leap Forward and journalist from the Xinhua News Agency who had access to undisclosed data. Jisheng provides the most accurate account of this history that must be heard. Sadly, Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party have been relieved of responsibility for the devastation that swept China from the years 1958 to 1962, but archival records prove that the deaths were not a result of natural causes, but political policies that diminished the food supply. The atrocities committed by communist party elites and those who went mad from starvation makes this history hard to teach, but teachers must face it. As students learn about the murders, the slow death of starvation, cannibalism, the irrational production targets that were impossible to meet, and the exportation of food, they will also analyze the role of communism in this devastating period of China’s history. Mao Zedong demanded loyalty, and anyone speaking out against his success or the success of communism was deemed a “right deviationist” and “counterrevolutionary element” who was only sabotaging the progress of communism and would be killed, often indirectly through struggle sessions. At least thirty-six million people died during the Great Leap Forward. Without a tombstone; without truth; without a memory, their deaths have been ignored and their murderers excused. It is time for their tombstone to be seen, the truth to be heard, and their memory to live.

Download: The Great Leap Forward Lesson Plan

Parent resource coming soon!