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Unsung Military Heroes Lesson Plan
Students reading the narrative Haitian Immigration: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries will learn of Colonel Savary and his bravery in leading a large force of Haitian veterans. Without this rather large force, The Battle of New Orleans likely would have ended much differently. Students will research a variety of other African-American military heroes, their backgrounds, and their unique contributions.
Grade Levels:High school, grades 10-12
For use with:Haitian Immigration: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
Concentration Area:History: U.S. Government
National Curriculum Standards met by this lesson
The standards for this lesson conform to those set by the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McRel).
Students will understand

  • 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).
  • 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
Three class periods
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. Ask students to read the sections about soldiers, rebels and pirates and The War of 1812 in the Haitian Immigration: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries narrative. Ask students the following:

    1. Have you previously heard of Colonel Savary?
    2. Were you aware that African Americans fought in the War of 1812?
    3. Do you think these heroes were treated as such in their own time?
  2. Have students examine the image showing the death of Major General Packham, which signified the end of the Battle of New Orleans, at the website, By most accounts given, Savary is the soldier that fired the shot that killed the Major General, and his troops were at the forefront of the fighting.
  3. Lead students to notice that there is no image of African-American soldiers anywhere in the piece. Using this image as a jumping point, see how many military heroes students can name and how many of them are African American.

Note to Teachers Regarding Images:

Whenever there is a direction within the lesson to use a specific type of image or historic text, look first at this web site's collection of over 25,000 files electronically housed exclusively for the African-American Migrations project. These files will remain accessible online for at least ten years. In an easily navigable database, these files can be accessed by typing key words into the search box to find any and all images/texts that have to do with that particular subject. To use the database, click here. {link to the database page)


  1. Break up the class into pairs of students or individual students and assign each pair or student one of the individuals or groups from the following list to research:

    1. Thomas N. Barnes
    2. Roscoe Robinson
    3. Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
    4. Benjamin O. Davis Sr.
    5. Henry Ossian Flipper
    6. Daniel "Chappie" James Jr.
    7. Frank E. Petersen
    8. Lillian Fishburne
    9. Mary L. Saunders
    10. Corporal Freddie Stowers
    11. Jessie LeRoy Brown
    12. Mae C. Jemison
    13. William Cathay
    14. William Carney
    15. Tuskegee Airmen
    16. Buffalo Soldiers
  2. Have students write a short biography, one page should be sufficient, using the links provided under "Materials" , including what made their particular careers special, and any obstacles they had to overcome.
  3. Once students have completed their papers, they will compare their findings as a class. Have them answer the following questions:

    1. Was there any commonality in the obstacles these people faced?
    2. Was there anything in their backgrounds that might cause them to reach such levels of success?
    3. What made their successes different? The same?
    4. Do you notice differences between eras in time?
    5. Why do you suppose there are no listed African Americans from earlier American wars?
  4. Have students discuss the correlations they come up with and what they believe they mean.
  5. Assign students to write a speech thanking a war hero for his service. Students should address the speech to heroes from earlier wars for which their deeds and accomplishments were not recognized.

  1. Assess on students on their biographies (a page should be sufficient).
  2. Also, assess students on a response they should write to the classroom discussion using what they learned from their own biography compared with what they heard in class. Additionally, they should suggest whether they believe there are still obstacles that African Americans in the military face, and if there is any way that these obstacles can be overcome. Students also can suggest ideas to honor those African Americans who have been overlooked in the past.
  3. Lastly, assess students on their speeches. You may decide to correct the written speeches or have students give them orally to the class.
Interdisciplinary Links

  • Presidential Address for African American History Month, 2003:
  • African Americans in the Army:
  • Department of the U.S. Navy: Recruiting posters featuring African Americans:
  • Department of the U.S. Navy: Naval Historical Center: African Americans:
  • Library of Congress: African American Odyssey:
  • Library of Congress: From Slavery to Civil Rights; a Timeline of African-American History:
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