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African American History Lesson Plans

The African American Experience in NC after Reconstruction
The documents included in this lesson come from "The North Carolina Experience" collection of Documenting the American South and specifically focus on African Americans and race relations in the early 20th century. The lesson juxtaposes accounts that relate to both the positive improvements of black society and arguments against advancement. Combined these primary sources and the accompanying lesson plan could be used as a Document Based Question (DBQ) in an advanced US history or African American history course.

Brown versus Board of Education: Rhetoric and realities
In this lesson, students will listen to three oral histories that shed light on political and personal reactions toward the 1954 Supreme Court ruling Brown versus Board of Education. Though the ruling itself is not mentioned, words like "integration" and "forced busing" refer to the social outcomes as perceived by the speakers.

Busing for Integration vs. Neighborhood Schools
This lesson plan will introduce students to the political, social, and economic issues surrounding school desegregation using oral histories from those who experienced it firsthand. They will learn about the history of the "separate but equal" U.S. school system, the 1971 Swann case which forced Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) to integrate, and the recent decision to discontinue busing for racial integration in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Civil Disobedience and Political Change in the 1960s
Students will compare and contrast "Civil Disobedience" and "Nonviolent resistance" during the Civil Rights era in N.C.. They will analyze changes in North Carolina during the postwar period to the 1970's and assess the political and social impact of the Civil Rights movement on local, state and national levels.

De Facto vs. De Jure Segregation
In this lesson, students will contrast and compare de facto and de jure segregation, listening to oral history examples of each from residents of Charlotte, North Carolina. Students will then brainstorm solutions to each type of segregation, and will discuss why de facto segregation can persist even after de jure segregation is eliminated.

Exploring the Church in the Southern Black Community
Students explore the Documenting the American South Collection titled, the 'Church in the Southern Black Community." Beginning with a historian's interpretation of the primary sources that make up the collection, students search the collection for evidence to describe the experiences of African Americans living in the south during the Antebellum through the Reconstruction Period centering on their community churches. The activity culminates in student presentations of a digital scrap book.

"Forward" to the Great Escape
In this lesson, the students will read a primary source document from Documenting the American South and examine a painting by Jacob Lawrence to illustrate the conditions of the underground railroad before the US Civil War. The students will create a painting and a narrative related to the underground railroad.

Fugitive Slave Law Simulation
Students face the crisis issue of the Fugitive Slave Bill which gave southerners the right to regain their runaway slaves and return them to bondage. It is also considered by many to have contributed to growing sectionalism in the U.S. and eventually the Civil War. In order to take on the roles of historical actors, students will examine primary source documents from the Documenting the American South collection and critique arguments in favor and opposed to the Bill.

An Introduction to Slave Narratives: Harriet Jacobs' Life of a Slave Girl
This lesson is intended to enhance student knowledge about the life experiences of a slaves in America during the 1800's by using the story of a North Carolina slave woman who eventually escaped.

Interracial "harmony" and the Great Awakening
The students will be introduced to two episodes in 19th century American history, around the time of the Great Awakening, that show glipses of some positive and negative consequences of interracial interaction in a religious context. The students will examine primary sources from the Documenting the American South collection to then be able to write a "sermon" from the perspective of a southern itinerant preacher during the Great Awakening arguing for or against religion as a cure for the social ill of racism and slavery.

Lessons for the Children: Creating a Picture Book about Slavery
Using the slave narratives of Harriet Jacobs and Ellen Craft made available through the Documenting the American South on-line collection, students will examine the institution of slavery, and create their own picture books.

Lunsford Lane: A Slave in North Carolina Who Buys His Freedom
Lunsford Lane's story is about a slave who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. Though his master owns as many as three plantations outside of Raleigh, Mr. Lane is not a plantation slave. Rather, he works for his master in the city-dwelling. His story provides an example of an ingenious, determined, and disciplined slave who's vision and creativity affords him the opportunity to earn money and eventually buy his freedom. This is an incredible story.

The Middle Passage According to Olaudah Equiano
Students will learn more about the kidnapping, enslavement, and transport of African slaves to the New World via the infamous Middle Passage and gain insight into the horrifying conditions facing slaves throughout the ordeal.

Plantation Life in the 1840s: A Slave's Description
This lesson introduces students to a description of life on the plantation and the cultivation of cotton from the perspective of a slave. It focuses on the use of slave narratives made available by the Documenting the American South collection.

Recording School Desegregation: Conduct Your Own Oral History Project
In this unit, students will research the history of school desegregation, and bring that history to life by listening to oral histories of North Carolinians who lived through desegregation. Students will then become historians, recording their own oral histories with relatives or community members, and reflecting on the experience through writing. The oral histories will be collected into a final project and placed in the school's library for students and teachers to study in the future.

Religion and Slavery in the American South: Comparing Perspectives
In this lesson plan, students consult a variety of primary sources from the Documenting the American South Collection to uncover the varied impacts of religion in the lives of slaves in the American South. They are encouraged to seek out multiple, and sometimes contradictory, perspectives of this history.

School Desegregation Pioneers
In this lesson, students will learn about the challenges faced by the first students to desegregate Southern schools, such as racism, verbal harassment, and physical threats. They will hear oral histories telling the story of desegregation pioneers in Alabama and North Carolina, and critically analyze images of school desegregation. Students will then write a narrative from the point of view of a black student desegregating a white school, exploring how the student may have felt about the experience.

Selecting Evidence to Support an Argument
This is a strategy lesson to teach students how to select evidence from a text to support an argument for an essay. It was designed to take two class periods and is comprised of three mini-lessons; these lessons include teacher modeling strategy to large group, student practice with strategy in small groups, and student practice with strategy individually on what will ultimately be the essay that they write.

Slave Narratives: A Genre Study
In this lesson, students will read selected excerpts from slave narratives, determining common characteristics of the genre. Students will then write their own slave narratives as a slave from their region of North Carolina, researching for historical accuracy and incorporating elements of the slave narrative genre to demonstrate understanding.

Slave Songs
This lesson plan allows students to learn more about the religious observances of slaves in the United States by presenting hymns from Slave Songs in the US digitized in the Documenting the American South Collection. This is a great lesson to introduce the intersection of religion and slavery in a US history or African American history class.

Slavery and Childhood
This lesson is designed to extend student understanding of the experiences of slaves living in the American, antebellum south. The chosen samples and excerpts from the Documenting the American South collection reflect the childhood of two enslaved people born in America, Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglas, and two people born in Africa, Oloudah Equiano and Omar Bin Said. All four persons relate their experiences with vivid details. Two knew what it was like to be free before being captured and placed into servitude, and longed to be free again; two were born into slavery and like the two native born Africans had aspirations of freedom. Students are invited to compare their childhood memories with the lives of these children in an effort to make history more human.

Slavery Across North Carolina
In this lesson, students will read excerpts from slave narratives written by North Carolinians to better understand the slave experience in different regions across the state.

Spirituals and the Power of Music in Slave Narratives
After reading two brief excerpts about the importance of music in the lives of slaves from slave narratives written by Thomas L. Johnson and William H. Robinson, students will listen to and discuss folk spirituals.

Two Perspectives on Slavery: A Comparison of Personal Narrative
Students will read and analyze personal narratives written by two North Carolinians who grew up on antebellum plantations in New Bern. One, Mary Norcott Bryan, was the daughter of a wealthy slaveholder, while the other author, William Henry Singleton, was a man born into slavery who fought for the Union Army. How do the authors' cultural backgrounds influence the texts?