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Transportation and African-American Migration Lesson Plan
Overview
The narrative The Northern Migration discusses transportation as not merely a means of migration but also a stimulus to migration. Mariners and riverboat workers sent messages from free people of color to their southern relatives and friends, and later Pullman porters distributed newspapers like the Chicago Defender, urging African Americans in the South to move to the North. In Transportation and African-American Migration, a lesson to be used with or as a follow-up to the narrative, students will examine an aspect of either railroad or marine transportation (for example: routes, Pullman porters' work routines, or African-American merchant sailors) and evaluate their impact on migration in the United States.
Grade Levels:Middle school, grades 6-8
For use with:The Northern Migration.
Concentration Area:History: U.S.
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 slavery shaped social and economic life in the South after 1800 (e.g., 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).
  • 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).
Time required
One 50-minute class period depending on the amount of outside reading or media center research assigned
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. Ask students to read the narrative, in particular the segments "Free Blacks in the South" and "Adjusting to Life in the North." (Or, they can read the narrative The Great Migration, in particular the segments "Leaving the South," "The Journey North," and "Networks and Media.")
  2. Have students look for answers to the following questions as they read:

    1. What restrictions did African-American mariners or boatmen face?
    2. What types of information did they pass on?
    3. How did this information help free black individuals and families? How did it help fugitives who had already escaped? How did it help those who wished to escape slavery?
Procedures

  1. Ask students, individually or in teams, to research transportation and its impact on African-American migration. Students should select or sign up for a topic and present the information in a project-board display. Tell students they must evaluate the impact of the topic they are studying upon African-American migration. Topics may include:

    1. River trade routes of the first half of the nineteenth century in the United States.
    2. Ocean trade routes of the first half of the nineteenth century in the United States.
    3. Train routes of the first half of the nineteenth century in the United States.
    4. African-American merchant sailors' work.
    5. African-American river boaters' or canal boaters' work.
    6. African-American railway employees' work (non-porter).
    7. Pullman porters' work.
    8. Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), Asa Philip Randolph, the BSCP Ladies Auxiliary, or Halena Wilson.
  2. Have students share their project boards in the classroom, providing a short one- or two-minute summation of their project and answering any questions about it.
  3. If possible, you may wish to select some of the better projects for display in the school media center or other display areas in the school.
Assessment

You can evaluate the project board 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 (10) (10) Demonstrates:

  • Extensive research
  • Many details
  • No factual errors or anachronisms
  • Evaluation of topic's impact on migration
  • (9-8) Demonstrates:

  • Complete research
  • Some details
  • No factual errors or anachronisms
  • Evaluation of topic's impact on migration
  • (7-5) Shows:

  • Minimal research
  • Generalized information
  • Some errors
  • Attempts to evaluate topic's impact on migration
  • (4-1) Shows:

  • Little or no research
  • No new information
  • Many factual errors
  • No evaluation of topic's impact on migration
  • (0)
    Written Assignment's Technical Writing Skills (5) (5) Shows excellent:

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

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • (3-2) Shows adequate:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • (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
  • Is visually interesting (if applies)
  • (9-8) Composition is above average in:

  • Engaging reader
  • Showing originality
  • Showing empathy with historical figures
  • Being visually interesting (if applies)
  • (7-5) Composition is adequate in:

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

    Related Works

    • The Mariner's Museum at Newport News, Virginia, has an online exhibit, Waters of Despair, Waters of Hope – African-Americans and the Chesapeake Bay, at: http://www.mariner.org/exhibits/waters/index.html. For additional maritime resources, teachers may wish to check the Mystic Seaport Museum website or the South Street Seaport Museum website to see what online exhibits are available.
    • Cobblestone Publishing's Footsteps Magazine includes an entire issue on "Blacks and the Railroads" from January/February 2002, Vol. 4, No. 1. Information can be found at http://www.footstepsmagazine.com.
    Interdisciplinary Links

    • Social Studies: Many African-American inventors are associated with the railroad including Elijah McCoy ("the real McCoy"), Andrew J. Beard, Richard B. Spikes, and Granville T. Woods. Students should research these individuals, learn about their inventions, and recreate their patent application, being sure to include the following:

      Declaration of what they have invented;

      Summation of why it is new or different;

      Description in words of the invention;

      Drawing of the invention; and

      Signature and date for the application.
    • Graphic Design/Photography: Students may wish to consider creating an exhibit of the African-American Mariner, images of African-American sailors on the seas, rivers, and canals. They may wish to conduct online research, checking well-known images (such as Mathew Brady's U.S. Navy images during the Civil War) for African-American sailors. They also may choose to create a computer slide-show presentation or to mount a display in a school showcase or hallway.
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