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OK in Oklahoma? All-Black Communities Lesson Plan
Overview
In the segment "Migration to Oklahoma," The Western Migration narrative examines African-American migration to Oklahoma and settlement in thirty-two all-black towns. The lesson OK in Oklahoma? is designed for use in conjunction with reading the narrative or as a follow-up activity. Students will be asked to read the narrative, examine the early segregation laws adopted at the time of Oklahoma statehood, and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of single-race communities, focusing on moral, social, security, legal, and economics issues.
Grade Levels:High school, grades 9-12
For use with:The Western Migration
Concentration Area:History: U.S. Government
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

  • The factors that inhibited and fostered African American attempts to improve their lives during Reconstruction (e.g., how foundations were laid for modern black communities, how traditional values inhibited the role of the Freedman's Bureau, the struggle between former masters and former slaves, the role of black churches and schools in providing self-help within the African American community).
  • The role of class, race, gender, and religion in western communities in the late nineteenth century (e.g., hardships faced by settlers, how gender and racial roles were defined, the role of religion in stabilizing communities).
  • The challenges diverse people encountered in late nineteenth century American society (e.g., the role of new laws and the federal judiciary in instituting racial inequality; arguments and methods by which various minority groups sought to acquire equal rights and opportunities; experiences of African American families that migrated from the South).
  • Influences on and perspectives of Native American life in the late nineteenth century.
Time required
One 50-minute class period if students complete work with the narrative and writing papers outside of class. An additional class period will be required if the position statements are made orally.
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  • Make either a transparency or a copy of the photograph of Ben Picket and show it to the class. Rather than immediately identifying the person and date of the image, ask students to look at internal evidence in the photograph and hypothesize the subject and date. To help focus students' examination, ask them for verbs to describe what is happening in the picture and then for details about the person and objects associated with that person. It may be helpful to cover three quadrants of the image so students can concentrate on a single quadrant at a time.
  • In a class discussion, have students arrive at a consensus about their hypotheses for the subject and date of the photograph.
  • Tell students that the subject is Ben Picket, brother to the internationally famous Bill Picket, a cowboy and rodeo star credited with inventing the technique of "bulldogging" in steer-wrestling.
  • Ask students to brainstorm what they know about African Americans in the "Old West."
  • Procedures

    1. Explain to students that they will be examining the settlement of African Americans in Oklahoma following the Civil War. Direct students to read the narrative The Western Migration, focusing on the "Migration to Oklahoma" segment.
    2. Ask students to answer the following questions, either in writing or as part of a class discussion of the narrative:

      1. For what group of people was the area of modern Oklahoma set aside?
      2. What pressures caused the creation of Oklahoma Territory in 1866? Out of whose land was it created? What American Indian nations were displaced in 1891-1893?
      3. What did Oklahoma Territory represent to African Americans?
      4. How did the press, especially the Langston City Herald, promote African-American migration to Oklahoma?
      5. What was the quantity and value of African-American land-ownership in Oklahoma by 1900?
      6. In what ways did African Americans earn a livelihood on the land in Oklahoma?
      7. In what ways did African Americans earn a livelihood as business owners in Oklahoma?
      8. What events in 1907 had disastrous consequences on Oklahoma's all-black towns? What economic opportunities did urban communities offer migrants to the West?
    3. Ask students, as a class, to consider why some towns voluntarily segregated themselves. They should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of single-race communities in Oklahoma in the nineteenth century by considering the following:

      1. Ethical questions.
      2. Social issues (cultural identity and values).
      3. Mutual security (against forces of nature as well as hostile neighbors).
      4. Economic issues (land-ownership, economic opportunity).
      5. Legal questions (promises of the Civil War Amendments in a Plessy v. Ferguson world).
    4. Ask students to formulate their own positions on whether single-race communities were, on balance, more advantageous or disadvantageous at the turn of the twentieth century? You may have students present their positions with supporting arguments in either a two-minute oral statement or a formal paragraph.
    Assessment

    1. Position Paper: You may evaluate students' work 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

    2. Oral Presentations: Assess students' work using the 20-point rubric that follows as a basis, multiplying by 5 to weight the grade or to convert to a letter scale.

    Grading Element/Total Points Excellent (10) Good (9-8) Fair (7-6) Not Satisfactory (5-1) No Work (0)
    Oral Skills (10) Effective

    speaker: tonal;

    variety; speed;

    volume; clarity
    Minor

    problems:

    monotone;

    soft; mumbling;

    too rapid

  • Numerous speaking problems; or
  • Minimal participation
  • Communication lacking;
  • Wanders off topic
  • Does not participate
    Historical Research (10)

  • Locates and uses specific historical arguments and examples
  • Relates examples consistently to topic
  • Has no factual errors
  • Locates and uses general historical arguments and a few examples
  • Relates some examples to topic
  • Has no factual errors
  • Locates and uses general information
  • Shows weak linkage of facts to topic
  • Has some factual errors
  • Shows little research
  • Limited understanding of arguments, not related to the topic
  • Has many factual errors
  • No research

    Related Works

    • The Library of Congress' American Memory Collection features over seven million online digital documents. It is a rich resource for a wide variety of documents about the African-American experience, including the online exhibit African-American Odyssey. American Memory's homepage is: http://memory.loc.gov/ and African-American Odyssey is at: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/aaohtml/. The segment on "Western Migration and Homesteading" can be accessed at: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam009.html. The segment on "Western Migration and Homesteading" can be accessed at: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam009.html.
    • The PBS Series The West has an online archive of key documents and images of the American West broken down chronologically. The section "1877-1887" includes images of the Exodusters and Congressional testimony by Benjamin "Pap" Singleton, while the Oklahoma land rush appears in the 1887-1914 section at: http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/.
    • The Oklahoma Historical Society maintains an online Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History, which provides information about all-black towns at: http://www.ok-history.mus.ok.us/enc/allblack.htm. It also has detailed information about life in territorial and statehood Oklahoma, including Senate Bill One, which institutionalized segregation in Oklahoma. The site is under construction, to be completed for the statehood centennial in 2007. Additional information about the all-black towns may be found at a commercial site at: http://www.soulofamerica.com/towns/oktowns.html.
    Interdisciplinary Links

    • Language Arts: In conjunction with creative writing activities, students will create essays, poems, letters, speeches, articles, or autobiographies written from the point of view of African Americans who migrated to the West. Background information may be found at a number of Internet sites:

      Nicodemus, Kansas, a National Historical Site, is featured at: http://www.nps.gov/nico/.

      Nebraska has photographs and background information about their African-American settlers at: http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0500/stories/0504_0100.html.

      The most famous African-American individual to homestead was the scientist George Washington Carver, whose homestead in Beeler, Kansas, is pictured at: http://skyways.lib.ks.us/counties/NS/gwcarver.html or http://www.kansasphototour.com/carver.htm.
    • Industrial Arts/Woodworking: Students may wish to research what the requirements were for a homestead cabin, including its dimensions. They might determine the different techniques necessary for constructing a sod house as opposed to a frame house. (The reprint of C. P. Dwyer's 1872 classic, The Homestead Builder: Practical Hints for Handy-men, is extremely useful in this activity.) With the permission of the administration, students may wish to use stakes and tape to outline the dimensions of the homestead on a field and determine how to set up the space so a family of four could function. Teachers may work with the school system, parks and recreation department, or a sod/lumber company so students may erect either a portion of a wall of a sod homestead or frame a cabin the size of a homestead.
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