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Colonization and Emigration
African-American Participation in Wars and Conflicts Lesson Plan
As discussed in the narrative Colonization and Emigration, African Americans have participated in the U.S. Armed Forces since the Revolutionary War. In this lesson, students will research the enlistment of African Americans, including particular divisions and individuals, in different conflicts.
Grade Levels:Middle and high school, grades 6-12
For use with:Colonization and Emigration
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 ( standards.
Students will understand

  • The goals of different groups of people after the Revolution (e.g., the importance of African-American leaders and institutions in shaping free black communities in the North, the influence of the American victory in advancing or retarding goals of different groups, the degree to which women were able to enter the public realm after 1776).
  • How the Civil War influenced both military personnel and civilians (e.g., the treatment of African-American soldiers in the Union Army and Confederacy, how the war changed gender roles and traditional attitudes toward women in the work force).
Time required
Four-five 45-minute class periods
Materials needed
  • Narrative, Colonization and Emigration
  • Access to research materials, including the Internet
  • Overhead projector or chalkboard
Anticipatory Set

  • This lesson assumes that students have the necessary research and presentation skills. If they do not, you will need extra time to integrate lessons on these skills. You may gather research materials from the school library and public library if students will do research in the classroom.
  • Students should read Colonization and Emigration either as a class or as homework before this lesson.
    1. Discuss with the class that, throughout the narrative, Colonization and Emigration refers to black military enlistment. African-American soldiers have participated in every major conflict in the United States military since the Revolutionary War.
    2. Ask students the following question: What do you think motivated African Americans to enlist in the U.S. military, even though the government denied them equality?

    1. As a class, have students explore African-American participation in the U.S. Armed Forces. Provide some background information to the students, as follows:

      1. Many blacks joined the Loyalists troops during the Revolutionary War, because the British promised them freedom. However, blacks also joined the militias and the Continental Army.
      2. African Americans enlisted in the military often were not accepted by whites. The military during the Civil War refused to accept African-American enlistments until the casualty rates increased to the point that soldiers were greatly needed.
      3. African Americans in the military were segregated from the other troops, usually placed into all African-American units. Often these troops were treated as inferior.
    2. During this project, divide students into research groups of two-three people. Have each group choose to work on topic choices from the list below:

      1. Revolutionary War

        Crispus Attucks
      2. War 1812

        Twenty-sixth U.S. Infantry

        Regiment & Captain William Bezean
      3. Indian Campaigns and Spanish-American War

        Buffalo Soldiers & Augustus Walley
      4. Civil War

        United States Colored Troops

        Fifty-fourth Massachusetts

        Infantry and Sergeant William Carney
      5. World War I

        Harlem Hellfighters

        Ninety-second and Ninety-third divisions
      6. World War II

        Tuskegee Airmen
      7. Individuals Roscoe Robinson, Jr.

        Colin Powell

        Lillian Fishburne
    3. If needed, some other choices could be:

      1. Red Ball Express
      2. USS Mason
      3. 6888 Postal Battalion, composed of African-American women
    4. Some groups will research a specific person or group, while others will research general participation of African Americans in a conflict. Students should discover the push factor for African Americans to enlist in the military, as well as their actions while in service, such as serving in France during World War II.
    5. Provide at least two class periods for research and one for students to create their poster. If preferred, students could complete this at home as a long-term project.

    1. Assign each group to use its research to create a written report and informational poster with illustrations, typed bibliography page, and an oral presentation. Students should use the posters as a visual aid, highlighting the main information about the person or group, during the class presentation.
    2. To assess students' work, use the following rubric of 50 points. You can double the point total for a score out of 100 percent or a letter-grade assignment.
    Grading Criteria Poor Fair Good Excellent
    Written report is accurate with details and grammatically correct 1–5 6–10 11–15 16–20
    Informational poster is well designed with illustrations and facts 1–3 4–6 7–8 9–10
    Bibliography is complete and correct 1–3 4–6 7–8 9–10
    Oral Presentation 1–3 4–6 7–8 9–10

    Related Works
    Interdisciplinary Links

    • Technology: The research project could be extended into a final project using Microsoft PowerPoint®. Students would create a slide show presentation of their research.
    • Art: Coordinating with the art teacher, students could include an artistic component for this project by creating the poster in a particular style, as studied in art.
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