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Retain or Abandon, Adapt or Convert? The Immigrant's Dilemma Lesson Plan
Overview
The narrative Colonization and Emigration examines the experiences of African Americans who emigrated to Haiti, Liberia, and other countries to discover that their religious, capitalistic, and westernized values clashed with the prevailing cultures into which they had entered. Retain or Abandon, Adapt or Convert? examines the dilemma faced by emigrants, whether they should retain and promote the values of their homeland or adapt and assimilate to those of their new land. This lesson may be used in conjunction with or as a follow-up to reading the narrative. Students will examine the problems and options facing immigrants and formulate a position paper based on the reading and their familiarity with immigration issues in the United States about how immigrants can best balance heritage and adaptation.
Grade Levels:Middle school, grades 6-8
For use with:Colonization and Emigration
Concentration Area:Social Studies
Concentration Area:World Religion
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 slavery shaped social and economic life in the South after 1800 (e.g., the cotton gin and the opening of new lands in the South and West led to increased demands for slaves; differences in the lives of plantation owners, poor free black and white families and slaves; methods of passive and active resistance to slavery; escaped slaves and the Underground Railroad).
  • The elements of slavery in both the North and South during the antebellum period (e.g., similarities and differences between African-American and white abolitionists, defense of chattel slavery by slaveholders, growing hostility toward free blacks in the North, how African-American leaders fought for rights).
Time required
One 50-minute class period if the narrative and paper are assigned outside of class
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. Show the Liberian flag to students and ask them:

    • If they recognize what it represents.
    • How it resembles the flag of the United States.
    • How it differs from the flag of the United States.
  2. Direct students to read the narrative Colonization and Emigration, focusing on the segments "The Colonization of Liberia" and "Consequences of Colonization and Emigration."
  3. Provide students the guide questions below as the basis for class discussion:

    • What was the primary destination of African-American immigrants to Africa?
    • Approximately how many migrants did the American Colonization Society (ACS) transport to Liberia?
    • What was the predominant age and sex of colonists?
    • What African populations already lived in the area that became the country of Liberia at the beginning of the nineteenth century?
    • What were the main reasons black Americans colonized Liberia?
    • Name at least five things the colonists did to create a "little America" in Liberia.
    • How did the people living in the area of Liberia feel about the colonists?
    • How did the colonists treat the indigenous people regarding religion, equality as fellow human beings, and trade partners?
    • What was one positive effect of the colonization to Africa?
    • What was the most enduring consequence of colonization for African Americans?
Procedures

  1. After students have read the narrative, have them discuss the core questions of this lesson:

    1. When people leave their homeland and move to another, should they retain their language, religion, social customs, political values, and economic practices?
    2. When people leave their homeland and move to another, should they abandon their language, religion, social customs, political values, and economic practices?
    3. When people leave their homeland and move to another, should they adapt to their new homeland's prevailing language, religion, social customs, political values, and economic practices?
    4. When people leave their homeland and move to another, should they attempt to convert the people in their new land to their language, religion, social customs, political values, and economic practices?
  2. In the course of discussion, ask students to consider the problems and options facing immigrants to Africa, the era's evangelistic bent of Christianity, and the dualistic view of the world as being either 'civilized' or 'savage' that prevailed during the nineteenth century. Challenge students to consider how Americans living abroad should behave in a host culture. How should, for example, soldiers posted abroad or business representatives working overseas behave? How is it similar or different to immigrants' experience? If students wish to draw parallels to either earlier debates over immigration in U.S. history (Nativism) or contemporary debates over immigration, it would be appropriate to the discussion, although these should not become the focus.
  3. Explain to students that they will be writing a position paper based on the narrative, their class discussion, and their general familiarity with immigration issues in U.S. history. They should consider the following: How is the best way for immigrants to balance the preservation of their heritage with adaptation to the country they have adopted?
Assessment

You may evaluate the position paper on a 20-point scale (which may be multiplied by 5 to convert to a 100-point scale or to letter grades) using the following rubric:

Grading Element/Total Points Excellent (10) Good (9-8) Fair (7-6) Not Satisfactory (5-1) No Work (0)
Written Assignment's Historical Comprehension (10) Demonstrates excellent:

  • Historical analysis of information
  • Command of facts
  • Synthesis of information
  • Interpretation
  • Demonstrates good:

  • Historical analysis of information
  • Command of facts
  • Synthesis of information
  • Interpretation
  • Shows fair:

  • Historical analysis of information
  • Command of facts
  • Synthesis of information
  • Interpretation
  • Shows little:

  • Historical analysis of information
  • Command of facts
  • Synthesis of information
  • Interpretation
  • No work
    Written Assignment's Technical Writing Skills (10) Shows excellent:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • Shows good:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • Shows adequate:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • Shows inadequate:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • No work

    Related Works

    • The Schomburg Center also has numerous links to sites related to the experiences of African-American colonists in Africa at: http://www.pressroom.com/~afrimale/aahr.htm.
    • The Library of Congress has an online African-American Mosaic exhibit, which has additional information and images associated with colonization, such as a map for prospective immigrants, guidelines for prospective immigrants, ACS documents, a treaty between the ACS and African Kings, and illustrations of colonial era Liberia at: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam002.html.
    Interdisciplinary Links

    • Contemporary Issues: Ask students to examine the current government, economy, religious background, ethnic background, and development issues facing Liberia. Online, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has its World Factbook with the most current information about a nation that has been subject to many changes in recent decades; it also has an image of the flag of Liberia. The web site is: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/li.html.
    • Language Arts: The experiences of immigrants to Liberia lend themselves to creative writing activities. Collaborate with the English teachers so students may use historical information to write narratives, poems, or illustrated children's stories about the experience of a particular immigrant or immigrant family. Students could write about these topics: the decision to migrate, the difficulties of the sea voyage, the challenges of starting a new home and community from scratch, and interactions with the indigenous people of Liberia.
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