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Colonization and Emigration
Effects of African-American Emigration From the Late 1700s-Early 1900s Lesson Plan
As African Americans tried to integrate into U.S. society in the Nineteenth century, they found many barriers to success. Some organizations and people encouraged emigration to other countries as the only way African Americans would ever gain true freedom. In the narrative Colonization and Emigration, many of the key issues in favor of and against emigration are discussed in detail. In this lesson, students will explore the pros and cons of the emigration movement and research major groups and people involved in it.
Grade Levels:High school, grades 9-12
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

  • Understand elements of slavery in both the North and South during the antebellum period (e.g., similarities and differences between African-American and white abolitionists, defense of chattel slavery by slaveholders, growing hostility toward free blacks in the North, how African-American leaders fought for rights).
  • Know how international migrations are shaped by push and pull factors (e.g., political conditions, economic incentives, religious values, family ties).
Time required
Three-six 45-minute class periods
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. Make sure students have read Colonization and Emigration as homework the night before.
  2. In class, refer to the narrative, pointing out that many African Americans emigrated from the United States for various reasons from the late 1700s through the early 1900s. Discuss the fact that some people supported, while others opposed, the idea of emigration to gain freedom. Inform students that this lesson will explore the debate on emigration.
  3. As an opener, ask students to write a short essay answering these questions:

    1. What would cause you to move to another country?
    2. What would you hope to find in a new country?
  4. When students are done writing, briefly discuss their reasons as a class. Point out that African Americans were probably hoping for many of the same things by emigrating.

  1. Using the jigsaw technique, have students work in groups of four. Then, divide the narrative in four equal segments and assign each group member a different part. Tell students that each one will become an expert on his/her assigned section of the reading and share the information with the rest of the group. Explain that, while reading, students should highlight or take notes on the following topics:

    1. Causes of emigration;
    2. People and organizations for or against emigration; and
    3. Results and effects of emigration.
  2. After students are done reading, have them discuss the three topics in their groups.
  3. When all groups are done jigsawing, list the causes of emigration on the overhead or chalkboard. Some of the causes discussed in Colonization and Emigration are voting restrictions; exclusion from the justice system; bottom of economic, political, and social ladders; KKK violence; segregation; little opportunity on the South; and laws limiting their citizenship.
  4. Ask students to examine the list and determine what African Americans hoped to find in another country that they did not have in the United States. Students can give their answers as a class or in small groups.
  5. For homework, assign students a research project on people and organizations involved in the emigration debate. You may also assign students to conduct research in class if time permits. A list of people and organizations taken from Colonization and Emigration is below:

    1. Sierra Leone Company
    2. Paul Cuffee
    3. American Colonization Society
    4. Chief Alfred Sam
    5. New York Colonization Society
    6. Haitian Emigration Society of Coloured People
    7. Nicolas Fabre Geffrard
    8. James Redpath
    9. Negro Convention Movement
    10. James Forten
    11. Bishop Richard Allen
    12. Frederick Douglass
    13. Theodore Holly
    14. Henry Bibb
    15. Mary Ann Shadd
    16. Rev. Henry Highland Garnet
    17. Martin Delany
    18. Edward Wilmot Blyden
    19. Henry McNeal Turner
    20. Peter Williams
    21. Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)
    22. W.E.B. Du Bois and Pan-Africanism

You may use the following rubric to grade the completed essay. The rubric is worth 20 points, which you may multiply to make a score out of 100 percent.

Topic Poor Fair Good Excellent
Details position on emigration (pro or con) 1 2 3 4
States the time period of the person or organization 1 2 3 4
Discusses whether or not he/she/it had the support of the African-American community 1 2 3 4
Details the effect the person or organization had on the emigration movement 1 2 3 4
Information is well organized 1 2 3 4

Extension Activity

  1. After students have completed their research projects, discuss the effects of emigration as a class. Do the results of the emigration match with the pre-emigration expectations? What problems did emigrants face? How did the natives of the countries feel about the immigrants?
  2. After the discussion, have students write a short composition detailing their opinion on the emigration movement. They should include three-four specific reasons to support their opinion.
  3. To assess students' writing assignment, use the following ten-point rubric:
Grading Criteria Points Possible
Opinion is stated clearly and very well supported with specific reasons. Writing is clear and well organized. 9–10
Opinion is stated but supporting reasons are vague or not enough details are given. Writing is clear and well organized. 7–8
Opinion either (1) is stated but is not supported by specific reasons, or (2) is not clear but provides supporting reasons. Writing is not well organized. 4–6
Opinion is unclear and is not supported by reasons. Writing is not well organized. 1–3

Related Works

  • The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has an entire section dedicated to information on migration of African captives and runaway slaves. Maps, including the distribution of slaves in the United States, as well as an advertising broadsheet, can be accessed at

    The Schomburg Center also has a website dedicated to the resistance of Africans and African Americans against slavery and racism, located at This page has links to information on well-known activists, including Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey.
  • For more information on the Pan-African Movement, which developed out of the emigration debates, the website is an excellent resource.
  • For at-home exploration or for use during computer lab time, the website has many links and activities for the social sciences, including famous African Americans and the Civil War.
  • This Library of Congress website features information and documents on the colonization of Liberia:
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 a picture of the person or organization to illustrate their research report. Students should integrate symbols of the beliefs and effects of the person or group into the picture.
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