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Colonization and Emigration
American Colonization Society Lesson Plan
The American Colonization Society (ACS) was a major motivator in the emigration to Liberia. Using the narrative Colonization and Emigration and other sources, students will research the motivations of the ACS and then hold a debate as to whether the ACS was consciously attempting to segregate African Americans, or if they were truly trying to give them a better start in their ancestral homeland.
Grade Levels:Middle and high school, grades 7-12
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

  • 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).
Time required
Four class periods
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. After they have read the narrative Colonization and Emigration, have students discuss their ideas on why African Americans supported emigration from the United States, including thoughts on these questions:

    1. What do you think an individual would have to have to convince other African Americans to leave?
    2. Do you think that the African Americans really wanted to go, or did they simply feel it would be the better choice given the level of racism present in their society?

  1. After the discussion, break the class into two groups. One group will research for points supporting the stance that the ACS was simply a tool to promote segregation. The second group will research for points supporting the stance that the ACS worked to give African Americans pride and a place that they could not achieve in America.
  2. Tell students to choose a leader for each group to help keep their team on task. Have students choose a place in the modified debate schedule (link to below). Each team should prepare a three-minute introduction and a three-minute conclusion containing three points with supporting evidence. Instruct students to be prepared to rebut points the opposing team might bring up. The modified debate allows students to control their situation.
  3. Have each group's speaker create an index card with his or her presentation comments on it. Be sure you give the teams sufficient time so they can time themselves to make sure their comments fit (and fill) the time limit. If teams are large enough, have the additional students work as researchers, assisting the students who are chosen for rebuttal, as each will need a number of possibilities to answer from. Tell students that their answers must be on the cards and that they are not to answer unprepared.
  4. Plan on a full period for the formal debate. During the debate, time each speaker and make sure that each speaker hands his or her cards in following the debate.
  5. After finishing the debate, have students discuss what they learned. As a class, ask students to come to a conclusion about the debate: What do they really think the ACS stood for?

Extension Activities

Have students write a short essay discussing what they have learned about the ACS.

Grade students' work according to the following rubric, multiplying the total score by five for a final grade.

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