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The Land Promised Lesson Plan: African-American Homesteaders
Overview
The narrative, The Western Migration, features African Americans with agricultural backgrounds who migrated west following the Civil War and availed themselves of the opportunity to homestead. The Land Promised is designed for use in conjunction with or as a follow-up to the narrative. Students will examine African-American homesteaders, the challenges they faced from climate and soil, and the communities they created.
Grade Levels:Middle school, grades 6-8
For use with:The Western Migration
Concentration Area:History
Concentration Area:Geography
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
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. Make either a transparency or a copy of the broadside, "Go to Kansas," and show it to the class. Ask students:

    1. Who created this advertisement?
    2. When was it created?
    3. Why was it created?
    4. For what audience was it created?
    5. Where was the broadside printed?
    6. Where was the settlement intended to be made?
    7. How much will it cost? What time payment schedule may be arranged?
    8. How is the colony to be protected?
  2. Ask students to suggest reasons why "choice lands now belonging to the Government" were being sold. If the Homestead Act of 1862 does not come up, introduce it to the class. The actual document is featured at the National Archives website at: http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=31Students can find a synopsis of the main points of the Homestead Act at the website for Homestead National Monument at: http://www.nps.gov/home/homestead_act.html.
  3. Inform students that Nicodemus, Kansas, was, indeed, settled under the provisions of the Homestead Act, and itself now hosts the Nicodemus National Historic Site. The National Park Service website for Nicodemus is http://www.nps.gov/nico/.
Procedures

  1. Explain to students that they will be examining experiences of African-American homesteaders following the Civil War. Direct students to read the narrative The Western Migration.
  2. Ask students to compare the monthly average high and low temperatures for Lexington, Kentucky, and Goodland, Kansas (closest recording center to Nicodemus). They should calculate the difference in temperature for each month.
  3. Ask students to compare the monthly average high and low precipitation for Lexington, Kentucky, and Goodland, Kansas, and to calculate the difference in precipitation for each month.
  4. Ask students these questions: Which area has warmer temperatures? Which area receives more precipitation?
  5. Direct students to locate Lexington, Kentucky, and Nicodemus (near Bogue, Graham County, Kansas, off U.S. 24). Nicodemus is almost due west of Lexington, nine hundred miles away. Based on the climate and/or plant-hardiness information, which area has a longer growing season?
  6. Discuss what problems settlers from Kentucky might have faced as they tried to homestead and create a profitable farm in north-central Kansas.
  7. Ask students to do either of the following:

    1. Conduct research about historic African-American settlements in locations such as Graham County, Kansas; Harlan County, Nebraska; Weld County, Colorado; and Logan County, Oklahoma. Tell students they can find a Graham County health officer's report from 1888 that references weather and climate conditions at: http://skyways.lib.ks.us/genweb/graham/health1888.html. Nebraska has photographs and background information about their African-American settlers at: http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0500/stories/0504_0100.html.
    2. Recreate a homesteader's journal by researching the ways homesteaders filed a claim and "proved" the land, as well as agriculture on the Great Plains in the late nineteenth century. Since George Washington Carver's homestead experience may be useful, students may wish to check in Carver biographies for information. George Washington Carver's homestead site in Beeler, Kansas, is pictured at: http://skyways.lib.ks.us/counties/NS/gwcarver.html, or http://www.kansasphototour.com/carver.htm.
Assessment

1. Research Assignment: You may grade students' work on a 25-point scale and convert to percentages for weighting or letter-grade assignment if multiplied by 4.

Grading Element/Total Points Excellent Good Fair Not Satisfactory No Work
Written Assignment's Historical Research and Accuracy (10) (10) Demonstrates:

  • Extensive research
  • Many details
  • No factual errors or anachronisms
  • (9-8) Demonstrates:

  • Complete research
  • Some details
  • No factual errors or anachronisms
  • (7-6) Shows:

  • Minimal research
  • Generalized information
  • Some errors
  • (5-1) Shows:

  • Little or no research
  • No new information
  • Many factual errors
  • (0)
    Written Assignment's Historical Comprehension (5) (5) Demonstrates excellent:

  • Historical analysis of information
  • Command of facts
  • Synthesis of information
  • Interpretation
  • (4) Demonstrates good:

  • Historical analysis of information
  • Command of facts
  • Synthesis of information
  • Interpretation
  • (3-2) Shows fair:

  • Historical analysis of information
  • Command of facts
  • Synthesis of information
  • Interpretation
  • (1) Shows little:

  • Historical analysis of information
  • Command of facts
  • Synthesis of information
  • Interpretation
  • (0)
    Written Assignment's Technical Writing Skills (10) (10) Shows excellent:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • (9-8) Shows good:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • (7-6) Shows adequate:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • (5-1) Shows inadequate:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • (0)

    2. Creative Writing Assignment: Evaluate students' work on a 25-point scale (which may be multiplied by 4 to convert to a 100-point scale or to letter grades) using the following rubric:

    Grading Element/Total Points Excellent Good Fair Not Satisfactory No Work
    Written Assignment's Historical Research and Accuracy (5) (5) Demonstrates:

  • Extensive research
  • Many details
  • No factual errors or anachronisms
  • (4) Demonstrates:

  • Complete research
  • Some details
  • No factual errors or anachronisms
  • (3-2) Shows:

  • Minimal research
  • Generalized information
  • Some errors
  • (1) Shows:

  • Little or no research
  • No new information
  • Many factual errors
  • (0)
    Written Assignment's Technical Writing Skills (10) (10) Shows excellent:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • (9-8) Shows good:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • (7-5) Shows adequate:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • (4-1) Shows inadequate:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • (0)
    Written Assignment's Felicity of Style and Presentation (10) (10) Composition:

  • Engages reader
  • Shows high originality
  • Shows empathy with historical figures
  • (9-8) Composition is above average in:

  • Engaging reader
  • Showing originality
  • Showing empathy with historical figures
  • (7-5) Composition is adequate in:

  • Holding reader interest
  • Showing originality
  • Showing empathy with historical figures
  • (4-1) Composition demonstrates attempt to fulfill assignment with little or no success (0)

    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 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. The site is under construction, to be completed for the statehood centennial in 2007.
    Interdisciplinary Links

    • 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, they 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 that students either may erect a portion of a wall of a sod homestead or can frame a cabin the size of a homestead. Alternately, a lightweight version constructed of shoeboxes might be considered, in particular if a shoe store or manufacturer will collaborate with the school.
    • Government: Ask students to research when and why the Homestead Act was finally ended in the continental United States, as well as in Hawaii and Alaska.
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