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Priorities and Power Lesson Plan: Migrants and Voting
Overview
The "Quest for Political Power" segment of the narrative, The Great Migration recounts African-American migrants' eager entry into the political process. Priorities and Power is a lesson plan that may be used with this narrative in history or political science/government classes. Students first will be polled on their plans to get a driver's license and drive, as well as their plans to register to vote and actually to vote. Once students have examined their own attitudes about voting, they will investigate the relationship between the increase in African-American voters and the increase in a) civil rights legislation and b) programs designed to help the African-American community.
Grade Levels:Middle school, grades 6-8
For use with:The Great Migration.
Concentration Area:History
Concentration Area: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 challenges diverse people encountered in the late nineteenth century American society (e.g. understand 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 who migrated from the South to New York City in the 1890s).
  • How racial and ethnic events influenced America during the Progressive Era.
  • Opposition to discrimination in the late nineteenth century.
Time required
One 50-minute class period, if students read the narrative outside of class.
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. Poll students on a yes/no basis, either by show of hand or on a simple ballot, using the following questions:

    1. Are you planning to get a driver's license?
    2. Are you planning to drive once you have the license?
    3. Are you planning to register to vote at the time you get your driver's license, or when you turn 18?
    4. Are you planning to vote, once you are registered to vote?
  2. Tally the answers on the chalkboard, a flipchart, or transparency. Ask students what patterns they see in their answers.
  3. Ask students if they see a personal benefit in driving, and then if they see a personal benefit in voting.
  4. Explain to students that African-American migrants in the early twentieth century seized upon the opportunity to vote as an opportunity to benefit the community and improve their lives personally.
Procedures

  1. Direct students to read the segment, "The Quest for Political Power," in the narrative, The Great Migration As they read the segment, ask them to answer the following questions:

    1. What is "disenfranchisement?"
    2. How were African-American voters prevented from voting in the South?
    3. What was the attitude of many African-American voters toward the Democratic Party?
    4. How did the Republican Party respond in predominantly African-American districts?
    5. What was the impact of African-American voters on the election of African-American politicians? How many African-American politicians served in the House of Representatives between 1928 and 1958?
    6. When did African-Americans allegiance shift from the Republican to the Democratic Party?
  2. Discuss, as a class, what impact students think the increase in numbers of African-American voters and elected officials had on:

    1. Civil rights legislation.
    2. Programs designed to help the African-American community.
    3. The quality of life in the African-American community.
  3. Ask students to write a persuasive essay on why it is important to register and vote.
  4. As follow-up, you could have students research to determine:

    1. What civil rights legislation was passed between 1916 and 1956?
    2. Which court decisions that impacted on civil rights occurred between 1916 and 1956?
    3. What programs benefiting African Americans did the U.S. Congress adopt between 1916 and 1956?
    4. What do statistics reveal about changes, if any, in the quality of life of African Americans between 1916 and 1956 in such areas as income, life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy, and electrical service?
Assessment

Evaluate the persuasive essay on a 20-point scale (which may be multiplied by five to convert to 100-point scale or for conversion to letter grades) using the following rubric:

Grading Element and Total Possible Points (10) Excellent (9-8) Good (7-6) Fair (5-1) Not Satisfactory (0)
Written Assignment:

Historical Comprehension (10)
Demonstrates excellent:

  • Historical analysis of information from both narratives
  • 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:

    Technical Writing Skills (10)
    Shows excellent:

  • Compositional structure
  • Persuasiveness
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • Shows good:

  • Compositional structure
  • Persuasiveness
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • Shows adequate:

  • Compositional structure
  • Persuasiveness
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • Shows inadequate:

  • Compositional structure
  • Persuasiveness
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • No Work

    Related Works

    • The Schomburg Center's Digital Images of African Americans from the 19th Century includes: Reconstruction era images of crowds of African Americans registering to vote in Asheville, North Carolina in 1867; the famous image of "The First Vote" as well as images of voting in Richmond, Virginia; electioneering in the South in 1868, and an 1868 image of members of the Ku Klux Klan. These images help students to put the narrative in historical context. Link to http://digital.nypl.org/schomburg/images_aa19/
    • African-American women did not receive the right to vote at the same time as African-American men. Their experience is reflected in African American Women Writers of the 19th Century at: http://digital.nypl.org/schomburg/images_aa19/.
    • 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/.
    Interdisciplinary Links

    • Government/Political Science: Students may conduct additional research in voting patterns among African-American voters for the entire twentieth century. They may wish to find out about:

      • Changes in percentages of African Americans registered to vote.
      • Changes in African-American voter turnout.
      • The means by which Franklin D. Roosevelt convinced African-American voters to support the Democratic Party and the changing pattern of African-American party affiliation.
      • Current numbers and party affiliation of African Americans in political office at the local, state, and national level compared to earlier periods of the twentieth century.
      • African-American support of specific issues, either contemporary (e.g. prescription drug coverage, abortion, school vouchers) or historic (e.g. New Deal programs, Vietnam War, Watergate).
    • Art/Graphic Design: Students may design illustrated timelines for the period 1916-1956. Each of the following four groups whose timelines will be displayed should coordinate their scales so that when they are displayed parallel to each other they interrelate correctly:

      • The election of African Americans to serve in the House of Representatives.
      • Civil rights legislation and court decisions.
      • Cultural events in the African-American community at this time.
      • General U.S. historical benchmarks for the period.
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