Browse By Migrations Geography Timeline Source Materials Education Materials Search
The Western Migration
Voluntary Movement or Not? African-American Movement to the West Lesson Plan
Many times in history, African Americans, by force or choice, moved about. Using information from The Western Migration and other Schomburg narratives, students will form an opinion on how voluntary these moves really were and then write a persuasive composition supporting their opinion.
Grade Levels:Middle and high school, grades 7-12
For use with:The Western Migration
Concentration Area:History
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 the Industrial Revolution, increasing immigration, the rapid expansion of slavery, and the westward movement changed American lives and led to Regional territories.
  • How slavery shaped social and economic life in the South after 1800 (e.g., how 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).
  • 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).
  • 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).
  • 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).
  • Significant religious, cultural, and social changes in the American West (e.g., the degree to which political democracy influenced social and political conditions on the frontier, cultural characteristics of diverse groups, the impact of the Second Great Awakening and religious revivals on Mormon migration to the West, the lives of women in the West).
  • 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
Two class periods
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. In history we learn there are three main reasons (or some mix of the three) people choose to immigrate: political, economic, and familial.
  2. Have students discuss to what degree immigration is really a choice. Brainstorm large immigration waves. What were their reasons for immigrating? Is it really a choice when the other option is persecution or death?

  1. Have students read The Western Migration in class or for homework.
  2. Using the brainstormed list, have students work in pairs to choose one group to compare to the African-American migration movement to the West. (Groups could include Jews who fled Germany prior to WWII, Irish who fled to America during the Great Potato Famine, or people who escaped Eastern Europe when the Soviet Union created the Iron Curtain).
  3. Have students use a Venn diagram to show the results of their comparison. Arrange students so that all pairs who compared the same groups work together to come up with a comprehensive list.
  4. Then, have each of the final groups choose a speaker to explain what they found to the rest of the class. After they have presented their findings, have the class discuss what facts they found that covered all groups and could be considered a global truth.
  5. Using facts they learned from their own research, as well as information they noted during the presentations, instruct students to write a persuasive paper explaining how the African-American movement to the West was either forced or voluntary.

Evaluate students' "Western Migration" persuasive papers according to the rubric below:

0= not evident

1= minimal evidence of mastery

2=adequate evidence of mastery

3=strong evidence of mastery

4=outstanding evidence of mastery

  1. __________ Exhibits proof of research.
  2. __________ Integrates points brought out in class discussion.
  3. __________ Works cooperatively with partner and group.
  4. __________ Demonstrates a strong sense of organization and structure, including an introduction and conclusion.
  5. __________ Follows appropriate rules of grammar, punctuation and spelling.

    __________ (Total points x 5= final score: _____________)
Related Works
Home About Glossary The New York Public Library
Privacy Policy | Rules & Regulations | Using the Internet | Website Terms & Conditions

© The New York Public Library, 2005.