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Haitian Immigration: Twentieth Century Lesson Plan
This lesson is designed for students to use with the narrative Haitian Immigration: Twentieth Century. Students also will use the site's maps and image resources in studying this migration. Appropriate for middle school and high school students, the lesson's goal is to facilitate students' understanding of the causes of this migration, the impact it had on destination communities, and how Haitians have adapted to life in their new home.
Grade Levels:Middle and high school, grades 9-12
For use with:Haitian Immigration: Twentieth Century
Concentration Area:History
National Curriculum Standards met by this lesson
The following standards have been taken from the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McRel) standards.
Students will understand

  • How international migrations are shaped by push-and-pull factors (e.g., political and economic incentives, religious values, family ties).
  • Examples of conflicts stemming from diversity, how some conflicts are managed, and why some of them have not yet been successfully resolved.
  • The effects that significant American political developments have on other immigration policies; opposition to communism; promotion of human rights; foreign trade, military, and humanitarian aid.
  • How recent immigration and migration patterns impacted social and political issues that affect immigrants and resulting conflicts; changes in the size and composition of the traditional American family; demographic and residential mobility since 1970.
Time required
Anywhere from two traditional class periods to two weeks, depending on depth and breadth of student research
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. Ask students to write in their journal the word "American" in the middle of the page with a circle around it.
  2. Then, give them three minutes to write down all of the things that come to mind when they think of things that are considered American (for example, ice cream, July Fourth, baseball games, Norman Rockwell paintings, nursery rhymes, "The Star Spangled Banner," hamburgers, and Levi's).
  3. After the time is up, ask a few volunteers to share what they wrote.
  4. Then, discuss with students the fact that other countries also have items that make them unique. Ask students if they know of any item that would pertain particularly to another country (for example, a lei in Hawaii, chopsticks in Japan, chocolate in Switzerland, etc).
  5. Ask students if they know of any items that would pertain to Haiti. If they do, write them on the board and ask the student to explain them if possible. If students don't know any, tell them that it is fine—they are about to learn about the heritage of Haiti. (Part of this discussion should include the issue that as a largely egocentric society, many Americans know very little about the heritage and culture of other countries.)

  1. Have the map of the migration on the overhead projector or on students' computer screens. (link to map of this migration)
  2. Hand out copies of the narrative; or, if students are online, they can read it on their screens. If the reading level of the class is low, you may opt to read and stop at intervals to check for understanding.
  3. Once the students have read through the narrative, have them start filling in any information that they can based on the following series of springboard questions:

    1. What dates, from beginning to end, frame this migration? Where is the point (or where are the points) of origin of the people?
    2. What was their existing circumstance in that location? How did conditions differ from the city to country plantations and estates?
    3. Why did they leave? Why did some choose not to leave?
    4. How many left?
    5. Where did they go?
    6. Were they treated as other immigrants were treated?
    7. What economic hardships did they endure in their new destinations?
    8. How did they choose their destination(s)? Were the destinations chosen before they embarked upon their journeys, or were they arbitrary in nature?
    9. What event or circumstance ended this migration?
    10. What is the legacy today of this migration in both the points of origin and destination?
    11. How does this migration fit in with the other migrations (can only be done if studying a group of migrations)? Are there any connections between migrations?
  4. For any unanswered questions, direct students to other resources, such as the gateway, other areas of the site, and library resources.
  5. For further study, have students investigate part of the cultural heritage of Haiti. Instruct them to find a piece of artwork, music, writing, cuisine, or other culturally pertinent item from Haiti's culture to present to the class. Students should also turn in a written description of the piece illustrating how it is related to Haitian culture. Students may need to research Haitian artists, musicians, writers, or chefs to find something they can share with the group. The purpose of this is to share the rich Haitian culture, as well as to try to dispel some of the misconceptions mentioned in the narrative regarding perceptions of Haitian immigrants.

  1. Grade the descriptions based on the traits of the Six-Trait Writing Model using correct conventions, word choice, organization, voice, sentence fluency, and ideas and content. More information about how to use the Six-Trait Writing Rubric can be found at the following link:
  2. Besides grading students on the content and quality of their writing, you also should grade them on the quality of the item they are sharing and how closely it relates to Haitian culture.
Related Works

  • The Schomburg Center has an excellent collection of documents pertaining to Haiti. Online, it features a bank document transferring money from the National Bank of Haiti to New York's National City Company, 1920, at:
  • The Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage provides both ideas for festival organization and material collected by participants in past folk festivals. It also has online exhibitions and teacher materials. The website is at:
  • The Library of Congress' American Memory Collection features over seven million online digital documents. It is a rich resource for a wide variety of documents about the African-American experience, including the online exhibit African-American Odyssey. American Memory's homepage, and African-American Odyssey is at:
Interdisciplinary Links

  • Foreign Language: Because some immigrants may not speak English fluently, some teachers, language students, or bilingual students may assist with translations during interviews or presentations.
  • Art, Industrial Arts, and Domestic Arts: Teachers of art, cooking, sewing, or wood- or metal-working may team students in their classes with student presenters to assist them in creating their projects. Alternately, they may team their students with community presenters as apprentices to observe techniques and attempt to produce the demonstrated craft on their own.
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