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6-8 > U.S. History
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: U.S. History Duration: Three class periods
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Students will understand the following:
1. The United States conducts a census every 10 years.
2. The percentage of African Americans in different parts of the United States changed in the course of the last century.
3. There are economic, educational, and lifestyle reasons that African Americans moved from one part of the country to another.

For this lesson, you will need:
Access, in print or online, to U.S. population statistics from 1900 to the present

1. Explain to students that they are going to track the population of African Americans in the South and in the North of the United States during the course of the 20th century. Ask students what resources they can use in this assignment. This question should lead to identifying for students books of statistical data in your school library, public library, or nearby university library as well as Web sites such ascensus.
2. Even casually reviewing the data, students should be able to tell you the frequency with which the U.S. population is counted. With that information they should be able to set up a chart for recording data from their sources.
3. Specify for students that their research should yield the following pieces of informationfor each decade:
  1. The total U.S. population
  2. The total number of African Americans in the national population (also expressed as a percentage of the total U.S. population)
  3. The total population in the states that the class categorizes as southern states and in the remaining states (total in remaining states equals total U.S. population minus total population of southern states)
  4. The total number of African Americans in the states that the class categorizes as southern states (also expressed as a percentage of the total southern population) and in the remaining states
  5. The percentage change between decades in the number of African Americans in the southern states and in the rest of the country
4. Once students have collected the data, discuss with them how to present the data visually other than on the chart used to collect them. Elicit from students what type of graph—pie, line, and bar—will work best for which part of the data. Often percentages are best shown on pie charts, change over time on line graphs, and relative sizes on bar graphs.
5. Once the various graphs have been completed, open a discussion on what they show, covering the following questions:
  • When did a significant proportion of African Americans move out of southern states?
  • Did the flight from southern states continue, level off, or reverse with time?
6. Finally, ask students for the reasons behind the shifts they have noted in the African American population. Continue the discussion until students have identified at least the following reasons: job and school opportunities, family ties, missing the land, and wanting to escape urban ills.
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Add to the assignment two other sets of figures for older students to find and work into their graphs:
  • The total number of African American professionals located in southern states and in the rest of the country decade by decade
  • The percentage change in the number of African American professionals, between decades, for southern states and for the rest of the country

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Discussion Questions

1. Analyze the opening phrase of the program: “The lazy laughing South with blood on its mouth and I who am Black, would love her.” What would this statement mean to a person leaving the South for good?
2. Compare and contrast the sharecropping experiences of Euliss Carter, Florida Denton and Erlene Lindsey.
3. Explain how the sharecropping and tenant systems had simply created another form of slavery.
4. Discuss the appeal of the boxer, Joe Louis, and the importance of his victory against Max Schmeling within the African American community.
5. Explain the importance of the train to the lives of Southern African Americans and discuss its symbolism.
6. Explain how the Pullman Porters and The Chicago Defender newspaper “helped define Black Chicago.”
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Have groups check each other’s graphs to verify that they have been plotted accurately. The goal of this review should be cooperation and assistance, not competition.
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The Messenger
A. Philip Randolph was a constant advocate of civil rights and equality. Require students to prepare and present reports on the contributions of Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Tell students to conclude their reports with research and statements on current leaders and organizations whose purpose is to lobby for equal rights and better working conditions.

Dramatization: North toward Home?
Have members of the class play the roles of members of a family trying to decide whether to move from Mississippi to Chicago in the 1920s or the 1940s. Make sure the students don’t all hold the same opinion about moving north. Suggest that students consider the following in determining whether to stay in Mississippi or to move to Chicago:
  • Geography (including climate)
  • Economic opportunities
  • Schools
  • Social and political opportunities

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Suggested Readings

Oh, Freedom! Kids Talk About the Civil Rights Movement With the People Who Made it Happen
Casey King and Linda Barrett Osborne; foreword by Rosa Parks; portraits by Joe Brooks, Alfred A. Knopf, 1997
Interviews by young people with participants in the civil rights movement accompany essays that describe the history of efforts to make equality a reality for African Americans.

The New African American Urban History
Kenneth W. Goings and Raymond A. Mohl [editors], Sage Publications, 1996
This collection of essays covers: 1) the transplanted social customs of rural blacks to the North, 2) the experience of newly urbanized blacks as household wage laborers, 3) black working-class opposition in the Jim Crow South, and 4) overviews of Black Americans as city dwellers from the early-to-late 20th century.

Farewell to Jim Crow: The Rise and Fall of Segregation in America
R. Kent Rasmussen, Facts on File, 1997
This volume in the Facts on File “Library of African American History” series is a treatment of the de facto segregation imposed on black Americans, as well as the fall of Jim Crow brought on by the civil rights movement.

Under Sentence of Death: Lynching in the South
W. Fitzhugh Brundage (editor), University of North Carolina Press, 1997
The most atrocious of violent acts that were targeted specifically toward black Americans is covered in this work, which treats the specific phenomenon of Southern racism.

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The Internet African American History Challenge
Take a quiz to see what you know about the pioneers who paved the way to The Promised Land.

Black Chicago: Community News Project
Eighty years after the Great Migration from the South and nearly a decade after the 1987 death of Chicago’s first black mayor, Chicago’s African American community is moving in many directions.

Chicago: Destination for the Great Migration
This is one part of the Library of Congress African American Mosaic.

A Deeper Shade of History: Welcome to the Black History Database
This site offers both a searchable database and a 365 day calendar of black history.

African American History
This is a general African American history site, which is a great starting point, since it offers numerous additional links.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    migration
Definition:The movement from one country, place, or locality to another.
Context:It was the greatest peacetime migration in American history.

speaker    plantation
Definition:An agricultural estate usually worked by resident labor.
Context:Uless Carter, the grandson of a slave, was born on Quinn’s cotton plantation in 1916.

speaker    sharecropper
Definition:A tenant farmer who is provided with credit for seed, tools, living quarters, and food, who works the land, and who receives an agreed share of the value of the crop minus charges.
Context:As sharecroppers, Euliss Carter and his family were never paid a wage; instead they were promised a share of the cotton profits at the end of the year.

speaker    lynching
Definition:To put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal sanction.
Context:Well, they always say a lynching, you know. Whether they lynched him or beat him to death they always said that he got lynched.

speaker    demeanor
Definition:Behavior toward others; outward manner.
Context:Your demeanor, the way you walked, the way you held your head, could be offensive to a white person.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:9-12
Subject area:U.S. history
Understands how the United States changed between the post-World War I years and the eve of the Great Depression.
Understands issues associated with urban growth in the late 19th century (e.g., demographic, economic, and spatial expansion of cities; how city residents dealt with urban problems; how urban bosses gained power).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:U.S. history
Understands how the United States changed between the post-World War I years and the eve of the Great Depression.
Understands impacts on economic conditions in various regions of the country (e.g., the extension of railroad lines, increased agricultural productivity and improved transportation facilities on commodity prices, grievances and solutions of farm organizations, the crop lien system in the South, transportation and storage costs for farmers, and the price of staples).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:civics
Understands issues concerning the disparities between ideals and reality in political and social life.
Knows discrepancies between American ideals and the realities of American social and political life (e.g., the ideal of equal opportunity and the reality of unfair discrimination).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:geography
Understands the nature, distribution, and migration of human populations on the Earth’s surface.
Understands the impact of human migration on physical and human systems (e.g., impact of rural-to-urban migration on suburban development and the resulting lack of adequate housing and stress on the infrastructure, effects of population gains or losses on socioeconomic conditions).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:geography
Understands that culture and experience influence people’s perceptions of places and regions.
Understands how individuals view places and regions on the basis of their ethnicity, social class and belief system.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:geography
Understands that culture and experience influence people’s perceptions of places and regions.
Knows ways in which people’s changing views of places and regions reflect cultural change.

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Winona Morrissette-Johnson, social studies teacher, T.C. Williams High School, Alexandria, Virginia.
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