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The Caste Society Lesson Plan
Overview
In the beginning, New Orleans social structure under French and Spanish rule consisted of a three-caste system. By 1830, the Louisiana lawmakers created some of the harshest slave codes in the American South, leading to a new two-caste system. Students will look at how these new codes affected African Americans.
Grade Levels:Middle and high school, grades 6-12
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
One class period (with homework)
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. After they have read the homework assignment Haitian Immigration: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, ask students these questions:

    1. Why did the lawmakers change the laws so completely as to cut out a huge portion of their population?
    2. What was their motivation?
    3. What did they think they would achieve by it?
Procedures

  1. Instruct students to re-read the narrative section "The Black Republic and Louisiana."
  2. Using the facts provided in the section, have students split into the three groups (roughly equal thirds of the class) reflecting the three-caste society. Discuss the rights of each group.
  3. Have students vote on something, for instance class issues, national politics, or whatever might be of interest at the time. They may choose to vote on more than one topic, in order to have more information for the later discussion. Record the choices of the class on the board.
  4. Redistribute the groups to reflect the changes in the laws regarding caste. (Sixty-three percent of New Orleans was black.) Students in the Mulatto group should now be in the African-American group and, therefore, now have the same rights, such as they were. Have the students vote once again.
  5. Have students discuss the difference (if any) in the results of their voting. Ask these questions:

    1. Were you expecting the results to be the same? Were they?
    2. How much of a difference was there?
    3. The rights of Mulattos and free African Americans were rather quickly stripped away. How did the students in the Mulatto group feel about losing their voice? (Teachers should voice that they expect more to the answer than just "It was unfair.")
    4. What made it unfair?
    5. What made the governing bodies change their stances?
    6. Did historic events contribute to these changes?
  6. Once discussion has been completed, assign students to write a two-page fictional narrative, for instance as a letter to someone, a diary entry, or the like, from the perspective of their particular group. Tell students they should include thoughts that were discussed in class, as well as information from the narrative. You may assign this as homework.
Assessment

Assess students' work according to the following rubric:

"The Caste in Which I Reside" Historical Fiction Narrative

0= not evident

1= minimal evidence of mastery

2=adequate evidence of mastery

3=strong evidence of mastery

4=outstanding evidence of mastery

  1. __________ Exhibits imagination and voice of a character.
  2. __________ Integrates points brought out in class discussion.
  3. __________ Assimilates historical information from the narrative and personal knowledge of the appropriate time.
  4. __________ Writes authentically to the time period; does not include comments relating to modern life. (For example, no telephones, zippers, etc.)
  5. __________ Follows appropriate rules of grammar, punctuation and spelling, including organization and structure.
  6. __________ (total points x 5= final score: _____________)
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: http://www.nypl.org/research/sc/WEBEXHIB/legacy/imgtxt7.htm.
  • The Library of Congress' American Memory Collection features over seven million online digital documents. American Memory's homepage is http://memory.loc.gov/ and contains many famous images of immigrants at Ellis and Angel Islands.
Interdisciplinary Links

  • Foreign Language: Because Haiti was a colony of France before its independence, most documents must be translated from French to English. Students may collaborate with the French teacher to translate the banking document above at: http://www.nypl.org/research/sc/WEBEXHIB/legacy/imgtxt7.htm.
  • Sociology: As part of their studies of the migrant and immigrant experience, students will look at continuity and change down the generations from the original immigrants. They will examine the role of the following in perpetuating cultural heritage: language, religion, food, traditional songs and dances, and distinctions in the roles of men and women. Students also may wish to look more closely at the Haitian example or look at other recent immigrants or immigrants from an earlier era (Chinese, Greeks, European Jews, Italians, Irish, Germans, or Scandinavians). Alternately, they may wish to analyze the conflicts and compromises between the generations in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
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