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Little America in Liberia Lesson Plan
Overview
The Colonization and Emigration narrative states that, "the colonists made concerted efforts to create a sort of 'little America' in their new surroundings." Students will study the history of Liberia prior to and after the influx of immigrants of African Americans. Once they have investigated the cultural differences between the African Americans newly arrived and Liberians, they will then simulate an exchange between a newly arrived African American and an indigenous Liberian in search of common ground.
Grade Levels:High school, grades 9-12
For use with:Colonization and Emigration
Concentration Area:History
Concentration Area:World Civilizations
Concentration Area:Sociology
National Curriculum Standards met by this lesson
The following standards have been taken from the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (http://www.mcrel.org) standards.
Students will understand

  • How slavery shaped social and economic life in the South after 1800 (e.g., how 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).
  • Different economic, cultural, and social characteristics of slavery after 1800 (e.g., the influence of the Haitian Revolution and the ending of the Atlantic slave trade, how slaves forged their own culture in the face of oppression, the role of the plantation system in shaping slaveholders and the enslaved, the experiences of escaped slaves).
  • How slavery influenced economic and social elements of Southern society (e.g., how slavery hindered the emergence of capitalist institutions and values, the influence of slavery on the development of the middle class, the influence of slave revolts on the lives of slaves and freed slaves).
  • The social and cultural influence of former slaves in cities of the North (e.g., their leadership of African American communities, how they advanced the rights and interests of African Americans).
Time required
One to two class periods
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. After reading the narrative, Colonization and Emigration, specifically the section on Liberia, ask students to consider the cultural differences between African Americans and the indigenous Liberians. African Americans had spent nearly two hundred years in another culture. How did that impact their relationships with indigenous Liberians?
Procedures

  1. Give students time to research the background of the founding of Liberia and its evolution after the wave of immigration. Use the links provided below in Related Works for a thorough examination of the history of Liberia.
  2. As a class, share facts learned, recording the most salient points on the board or overhead. Be certain to focus not only on the immigrant population, but the legacy of the indigenous population as well.
  3. Blindly assign students to be either African Americans newly immigrated or indigenous Liberians and have students role play how each group would treat the other. Have them consider what they have learned; what traditions and customs did the African Americans bring? Which groups held the political power? Which made changes? Did the indigenous adopt the customs of the African Americans, or did the African Americans embrace Liberian culture? What common ground do these people share?
  4. Have students discuss what they learned from their experiment. Now having a more thorough understanding of Liberia's history, ask students if they think that the ACS was right in pushing for emigration of African Americans.
Assessment

This lesson should be informally assessed, but if necessary, students could write a response to their simulated role-play.

Related Works
Interdisciplinary Links

  • Contemporary Issues: Ask students to examine the current government, economy, religious background, ethnic background, and development issues facing Liberia. Online, the 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 Africans of Liberia.
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