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Mixing Races in New Orleans Lesson Plan
Overview
After reading the narrative Haitian Immigration: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, students will discuss the changes in the legal, social, and political status of African Americans and those of mixed ethnicity, considering these questions: What were the lines of division? How could they expect to be treated? Students then will read the short story The Quadroons by Lydia Maria Child. With guiding questions that use quotes from the story, students will correlate the information from the narrative and the personal voice from the story to create a well-rounded picture of the plight of those from mixed backgrounds.
Grade Levels:High school, grades 10-12
For use with:Haitian Immigration: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
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 the Industrial Revolution, increasing immigration, the rapid expansion of slavery, and the westward movement changed American lives and led to Regional territories.
  • 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).
  • Slavery prior to the Civil War (e.g., the importance of slavery as a principal cause of the Civil War, the growing influence of abolitionists, children's roles and family life under slavery).
Time required
Two class periods
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. As a class, discuss these questions: What is a caste society? Is caste always related to ethnicity?
  2. Then, ask students if they think that the "Three-Caste System" that emerged in Louisiana in the late 1700s and early 1800s was a positive thing? What changed?
  3. Have students read the narrative Haitian Immigration: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.
Procedures

  1. Introduce students to the short story The Quadroons. The story takes place in Georgia and was published in 1843. Note: you will likely need to explain the term quadroon to students.
  2. In class or as homework, have students answer the questions in the Reading Handout. Remind students to include what they have learned in the narrative in their answers.
  3. Using the Reading Handout as a guide, discuss as a class the realities of the southern laws on African Americans and those of mixed heritage. Does the story fit within the knowledge they've learned? Is it something that actually could have happened? How does that make students feel?
  4. After finishing the discussion, have students read the biography of Lydia Maria Child. While the story gives light to a real problem of that time, ask students to consider whether they should trust the source?
  5. Then, have students choose a character from the story and write a letter describing how they feel about the politics of his or her situation.
Assessment

Assess students according to:

  1. How completely and thoughtfully they answer the Reading Handout questions; and
  2. How they relate this information to the class discussion on the caste system.

New Orleans and the Mulatto Culture Lesson



Reading Handout for The Quadroons by Lydia Maria Child

Directions: Read each of the quotes below from the short story, The Quadroons, and then answer the questions provided.

  1. "...though she well knew that a union with her proscribed race was unrecognized by law, and therefore the ceremony gave her no legal hold on Edward's constancy. But her high, poetic nature regarded the reality rather than the semblance of things...."

    What does Rosalie mean by this? How does she view a marriage unrecognized by the law?
  2. "This excited his vanity, and awakened thoughts of the great worldly advantages connected with a union. Reminiscences of his first love kept these vague ideas in check for several months; but Rosalie's image at last became an unwelcome intruder; for with it was associated the idea of restraint."

    Why would a man consider union with another woman when he was already married?
  3. "At length the news of his approaching marriage met her [Rosalie's] ear."

    What does this tell of Charlotte's feelings toward Rosalie? What does this tell of her social expectations?
  4. "Trusting to the yielding tenderness of her character, he ventured, in the most soothing accents, to suggest that as he still loved her better than all the world, she would ever be his real wife, and they might see each other frequently."

    What does this tell you of his character? Why would he expect her to continue their relationship when he is married to someone else?
  5. "At that moment he would have given worlds to have disengaged himself from Charlotte; but he had gone so far, that blame, disgrace, and duels with angry relatives, would now attend any effort to obtain his freedom."

    Do you think that he would have pursued Charlotte if he thought that Rosalie would leave him? Do you think that his taking Rosalie for granted was due to his character, or did it reflect society's expectations?
  6. "There were points of resemblance in the child, that seemed to account for his sudden emotion. Suspicion was awakened, and she soon learned that the mother of that lovely girl bore the name of Rosalie; with this information came recollections of the "dear Rosalie," murmured in uneasy slumbers."

    Do you think Charlotte would have married him if she knew that he was already in a relationship with Rosalie? Do you think the fact she was a quadroon would have any import on her decision?
  7. "She pitied his fair young bride, and would not be tempted to bring sorrow into her household by any fault of hers."

    What does this say about Rosalie's character?
  8. "What would be the destiny of this fascinating young creature, so radiant with life and beauty?"

    Given what you already know about the caste society, what do you believe will be her destiny?
  9. "Rosalie, though she knew it not, had been the daughter of a slave; whose wealthy master, though he remained attached to her to the end of her days, had carelessly omitted to have papers of manumission recorded. His heirs had lately failed, under circumstances, which greatly exasperated their creditors...."

    Why would this affect Xarifa?
  10. "The slave agreed to drug his master's wine; a ladder of ropes was prepared, and a swift boat was in readiness. But the slave, to obtain a double reward, was treacherous."

    Why would the slave agree to help only to sell Xarifa out?
  11. "For some months, he sought to win her smiles by lavish presents, and delicate attentions. He bought glittering chains of gold, and costly bands of pearl. His victim scarcely glanced at them, and the slave laid them away, unheeded and forgotten. He purchased the furniture of the cottage at Sand-Hills, and one morning Xarifa found her harp at the bed-side, and the room filled with her own books, pictures, and flowers. She gazed upon them with a pang unutterable, and burst into an agony of tears; but she gave her master no thanks, and her gloom deepened."

    Xarifa's owner attempts to win her heart through bribery. What does that say of his character? What were his expectations of her? Does she fulfill them? Why or why not?
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