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Lesson Plans - The Great Migration: Why African-American Southerners Came North

NAME OF LESSON:

The Great Migration: Why African-American Southerners Came North

GRADE(S) DESIGNED FOR: 4
TIME REQUIRED: Four-Five  45 minute class periods

NAME OF AUTHOR:

Mary L. Cura
PRIMARY SALEM in History CORE THEME ADDRESSED:

The Peopling of America: Migration and Immigration

ADDITIONAL SALEM in History CORE THEME(S) ADDRESSED:  
SALEM in History Topic Addressed:

The Great Migration: African Americans and the Growth of the Urban North

Lesson Summary | Frameworks | Essential Question(s) | Lesson Objectives
Historical Background Essay | Materials List and Pre-Arrangements/Preparations Needed
Vocabulary | Lesson Activities | Student Product or Performance
Assessment Criteria | Possible Modifications | Possible Extension Activities
Cross Curricular/Interdisciplinary Links/Activities | Sources and Resources
Additional Resources for Students and Teachers


LESSON SUMMARY:

Around the time of World War One, Southern African-Americans began to migrate to northern cities.  They were in search of a better life.  Unfortunately, the textbooks for elementary school children do not cover the injustices these Americans endured in the South, nor does it cover their exodus or life in the North.  In this lesson children will explore and discuss basic American freedoms and how African-Americans were locked out of and deprived of basic rights in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Children will learn what Southern blacks did to try to gain rights in America. They will consider the following essential questions: Why did Southern African-Americans migrate north in the early years of the twentieth century?  As citizens of the United States, what rights were they deprived of?  Did life change in the north for them?  How or how not? Do you think they would have migrated if they were treated with dignity in the South?  Why or why not?  Within this study children will observe, discuss, and interpret paintings by Norman Rockwell and Jacob Lawrence for their social and historical significance.

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PRIMARY SOURCES & SOURCE TYPES USED in LESSON:

Images in: Lawrence, Jacob. The Great Migration: An American Story. New York: Harper Collins, Trophy, 1995. 

Rockwell, Norman.The Four Freedoms (Freedom From Fear, Freedom of Speech, Freedom From Want, Freedom of Worship), Oil on canvas, 1942.

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ESSENTIAL QUESTION(S):

Why did Southern African-Americans migrate north in the early years of the twentieth century?  As citizens of the United States, what rights were they deprived of?  Did life change in the north for them?  How or how not?  Do you think they would have migrated if they were treated with dignity in the South?  Why or why not?  

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LESSON OBJECTIVES

LEARNING/CONTENT OBJECTIVES:

  • Students will list major rights of citizens of the United States
  • Students will explain why Southern African-Americans migrated north in the early twentieth century
  • Students will list rights (as United States citizens) that the Southern African-Americans were deprived of in the Post-Reconstruction Jim Crow South
  • Students will describe how life was the same/different for migrants in the North as compared to the lives they left in the South

CONCEPT/SKILLS OBJECTIVES:

  • Students will observe, discuss, and interpret paintings for their social and historical significance
  • Students will explain how the cause and effect relationship among people can alter lives and the course of history 
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CORRELATION WITH HISTORY STANDARDS FROM the 2003 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORY AND SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK

MA FRAMEWORK STRAND: Grade 4

MA FRAMEWORK UNIT/THEME ADDRESSED:

Civics and Government

MA FRAMEWORK LEARNING STANDARD(S) ADDRESSED:

4.15 Describe the diverse nature of the American people by identifying the distinctive contributions of:

B.  African Americans, including an explanation of their early concentration in the South because of slavery and the Great Migration to northern cities in the 20th century

MA FRAMEWORK CONCEPT AND SKILLS STANDARD(S) ADDRESSED

GRADE AND SUBJECT: Grade 4 History

NUMBER(S) AND DESCRIPTION(S): 

4.Give examples of the major rights that immigrants have acquired as citizens of the United States (e.g. the right to vote, and freedom of religion, speech, assembly, and petition).

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HISTORICAL BACKGROUND/CONTEXT ESSAY: 

After the Civil War, African-American Southerners were not enjoying the rights and freedoms that all Americans are entitled to have.  From the 1880’s to the 1920’s African-Americans living in the South endured and lived in fear of physical abuse that included beatings, rape and lynching. More often than not they were not protected by law enforcement and were often mistreated by law enforcement officials.  African-Americans who were living in areas not heavily populated by African-Americans were often driven off their land in a practice known as ‘whitecapping’.1

Schools for black children in southern counties were either under funded or not funded at all.  These schools were often one-room buildings with no chalkboards or desks.  Class size was high.  Classes in two African-American schools in Jackson, Mississippi ranged from seventy-five to one hundred twenty-five students.2 

World War One created a need for factory workers in the North.  At the same time northern factory jobs were opening up, farming in the South became difficult.  Boll weevils, storms, and floods were destroying southern crops.  Many Southern African-Americans saw northern factory jobs as an opportunity for a better life.  African-Americans began migrating north.3

Southern whites, seeing their labor force depleting, tried stopping the migrating blacks.  They were often stopped at railroad stations by white authorities.  Police sometimes dragged people off trains.  Many sharecroppers in perpetual debt to landlords had to escape the plantation.  Many other African-Americans walked off the jobs without warning or gave only a few hours notice.  These people feared that if they spoke of plans, their employers might give authorities warning as to where there may be a mass departure.  African-Americans who were fortunate enough to own a home, often had to abandon it.  Whites trying to stop migration refused to buy property from blacks.4 

Despite white resistance, African-Americans were able to get out of the South.  During the war years, half a million African-Americans migrated to northern cities.5

What was life like for the blacks in northern cities?  Though racial discrimination plagued the northern cities, the absence of Jim Crow laws meant much to Southern African-Americans who lived day-to-day indignation in the south.  They no longer had to give up their seats on buses, they no longer were forced to answer whites with ‘yes ma’am’ or ‘yes sir’, nor did they fear walking the streets at night. The Great Migration provided African-Americans with the right to vote, and participate in community affairs.  As the African-American population grew in northern cities, racial tensions increased.  Competition for jobs in Chicago’s packinghouses led to racial confrontation and race riots.  Public parks and white neighborhoods became unsafe for African-Americans. 

The migrants knew their hope for a better future was in the schools.  Many had  dreams of their children having the education they were denied. Discrimination plagued northern schools.  African-American children did not receive the same education as white children.  Yet, the worst African-American school was better than the school they left behind in the south.

The southern African-Americans' migration north was neither a complete success nor failure. Though the African-Americans left the Jim Crow laws behind and were outwardly treated better in everyday life, they still faced racial discrimination and racial confrontation.

  1. James R. Grossman Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration. (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1989), 17.
  2. Grossman, 247.
  3. Grossman, 14.
  4.  Grossman, 105
  5. Jacqueline Jones, et al. Created Equal A Social and Political History of the United States.  (New York: Pearson Longman, 2005), 475.
  6. Grossman, 167.
  7. Grossman, 247.

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MATERIALS LIST AND PRE-ARRANGEMENTS/PREPARATION NEEDED

MATERIALS LIST:

Lawrence, Jacob. The Great Migration: An American Story. New York: Harper Collins,Trophy,1995.

Xerox transparencies of the following paintings from Jacob Lawrence’s book: 1,10, 19,45, 49, 58, 59

Xerox copies of the following paintings from Jacob Lawrence’s book: 24, 12, 46-48

Rockwell, Norman, The Four Freedoms (Freedom From Fear, Freedom of Speech, Freedom From Want, Freedom of Worship), prints of which may be obtained at the Norman Rockwell Museum Store at www.nrm.org.  These paintings, executed in 1942, depict everyday Americans enjoying and exercising their lawful rights.

Assessment: The Great Migration: A Written Primary Source Analysis

Rubric for assessment

Overhead projector

PREPARATION:

This lesson should be taught after children have competed the unit on immigration. In the immigration unit, children should learn about the forced immigration of Africans.

  • Teach the following background information about Norman Rockwell: Norman Rockwell was born on February 3, 1894 in New York City.  He was a painter who loved to paint ordinary people doing ordinary things. During World War Two (1942) Norman Rockwell painted a series of paintings he named the Four FreedomsFreedom of Speech, Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Worship, and Freedom from Want. He was inspired by a speech he heard President Franklin D. Roosevelt give in 1941.  In his speech, the President spoke about those four freedoms.

    [For more on these paintings, see: Jennifer Rozines Roy and Gregory Roy, Norman Rockwell The life of an Artist (Berkeley Heights N.J.: Enslow Publishers, Inc. 2002), 7, 24-30. For a transcript or audio version of Franklin D. Roosevelt's "The Four Freedoms" Annual Address to Congress, see the FDR Library website.]

  • Preteach Vocabulary
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VOCABULARY:

primary source, guiding questions, migration, lynching, segregation, industry, industrial center, recruits, ravage, abolish, tenant farmer, labor agent, riots, worship, liberty, democracy, preserved.

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LESSON ACTIVITIES:

Lesson One

The first lesson asks the students to view prints of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms. The students will observe the Four Freedoms and deduce the meaning and significance of each.  This will be done as a whole class discussion.

Goal:  Children will understand and be able to articulate the freedoms every American is entitled to have.

The teacher will lead the discussion using the following sets of guiding questions:

Display the image, Freedom of Speech. Ask the following questions:  What are these people doing?  What is the man standing doing?  What could he be talking about? Why do you think Norman Rockwell named this painting Freedom of Speech?

Display the image, Freedom From Want. Ask the following questions:  What are these people doing?  What do you think this occasion is? Why do you think Norman Rockwell named this painting Freedom from Want?

Display the image, Freedom From Fear. Ask the following questions:  What is going on in this picture? Why do you think Norman Rockwell named this painting Freedom from Fear?  Who keeps us free from fear?

Display the image, Freedom of Worship.  Ask the following questions:  What are these people doing?  How are they alike? How are they different?  Why do you think Norman Rockwell named this painting Freedom of Worship? Read the words across the top of the painting: “Each according to the dictates of his own conscience” Ask: What could this mean?  Why do you think Norman Rockwell chose to put those words into the painting?

End lesson with the following question:  Do we as Americans have these freedoms?  Give some examples.  What are some other freedoms and rights we have? (If right to vote is not mentioned, include that right for the children.)  On chart paper make a list of freedoms the children share with the group and hang up this list in the classroom. (This lesson may need to be done in two sessions.)

Lesson Two

Children will look at transparencies of paintings by Jacob Lawrence from The Great Migration.  Children will observe pictures that depict life in the South, people fleeing the South and what life was like in the North.  The teacher will guide their discussion using the following set of guiding questions. As the children respond to the guiding questions, record their responses on a large poster board. (Section the poster board into seven sections.  At the top of each section have a scaled down copy of each painting.  Record the children’s responses under each painting on the poster board as each is discussed.)

Goal:  Children will observe, describe, and discuss the paintings depicting the Great Migration. 

Display the paintings in the following order:

Life in the South:

#10  What do you see in this picture?  How do you think these people are feeling? What makes you say that?  Do you think they are rich or poor?  Why?  Where do you think they live?

#19   What is happening in this picture?  How are these people separated?  Why do you think the artist chose to separate them this way?  What is the artist trying to tell us? Where do you think they live?  What clues tell you this?

African-Americans fleeing the South:

Image #1 What is happening in this picture?  Where do you think these people are going?  How are these people alike?  Could this picture have anything to do with the first two pictures?

Image #45 What is happening in this picture?  Where are these people?  How can you tell?  How are they feeling?  How does the artist depict their faces differently than the faces in the picture we just looked at?  (Show picture one again.)  Why do you think he chose to do this? 

Life in the North:

Image #49 What is happening in this picture?  How is it different or the same from this painting? (Show picture nineteen again.)

Image #58 What is happening in this picture?  Does this picture seem happy or sad? Why?

Image #59  What are these people doing?  How are the people alike in this picture? 

Lesson Three

This is an activity for the whole class.  The children will listen to the teacher read The Great Migration by Jacob Lawrence.  They will then discuss The Great Migration and relate it to  what they have learned in the first two lessons. 

Goal: Children will state why African-American Southerners migrated north.  They will explain how African-Americans were deprived of basic rights and in some cases feared for their lives.   They will tell how or how not life improved in the north.  

The following are the guiding questions for the discussion after reading:

What was the Great Migration?  Why did it occur? Think about the freedoms Americans should expect. What rights were American-Americans denied in the South?  Did life get better in the North?  Why or why not?

After completing the book and answering these questions, have the children look at the images from Lesson Two again.  Ask them to add new information learned from the book to add to their chart (that they started in Lesson Two) and/or delete any information that may have been a misinterpretation in the second lesson.   

Lesson Four (Assessment)

After completing the first three activities, children will be given worksheets with Jacob Lawrence’s paintings (#24,12,46-48) from The Great Migration.  They will be given a set of guiding questions and asked to tell what these paintings tell us about the Great Migration.

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ASSESSMENT/STUDENT PRODUCT or PERFORMANCE:

After completing the first three activities, children will be given worksheets with Jacob Lawrence’s paintings (#24,12,46-48) from The Great Migration.  They will be given a set of guiding questions and asked to tell what these paintings tell us about the Great Migration.

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ASSESSMENT CRITERIA:

Students will be assessed on their written analysis of the above assessment product.  They will be assessed on this written assignment with a rubric.

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POSSIBLE MODIFICATIONS:

  • Students may use computer for written assignment
  • Information can be scribed to a teacher
  • Children may be given a list of vocabulary words to assist with written assignment
  • Introduce vocabulary to students with language/learning difficulties prior to introducing vocabulary to the class

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POSSIBLE EXTENSION ACTIVITIES:

  • Children may make a Venn diagram comparing migrants to second wave immigrants.
  • Children may make a timeline of African-Americans in America from arrival of slave ships through the Great Migration. This can be added to throughout the year as further study takes place (i.e. Underground Railroad, Emancipation Proclamation, African-American entering major league baseball, I Have a Dream Speech).
  • Children may draw their own pictures of freedoms they experience in America.
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CROSS CURRICULAR/INTERDISCIPLINARY LINKS/ACTIVITIES:

  • When doing a biography unit, encourage children to read (or read in small groups with them) the biographies of individuals who have helped African-Americans with their struggle toward equality (i.e. Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King).
  • Have children write biographies about people who have made a difference in the world.  When writing the biographies, encourage children to write biographies about people who were part of the Underground Railroad or people who have made a difference in the equality struggle.
  • After children have completed their written biographies and a related project, let them share these projects (i.e.diaramas, posters, maps, timelines etc.) with other classes in a Profiles In Courage Wax Museum.  Children can dress up as the person they studied and wrote about and give a brief 2-3 sentence statement about why this person was important and how he/she made a difference in the lives of people.  The children become a wax figure, sharing this person’s accomplishments with class visitors.

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SOURCES AND RESOURCES

PRIMARY SOURCES USED USED IN LESSON:

Images in: Lawrence, Jacob. The Great Migration: An American Story. New York: Harper Collins, Trophy, 1995. 

Publication featuring sixty of Jacob Lawrence’s paintings depicting why and how African- Americans left the South in the early 20th century. Secondary source text accompanies the paintings.

Rockwell, Norman.The Four Freedoms (Freedom From Fear, Freedom of Speech, Freedom From Want, Freedom of Worship), Oil on canvas, 1942.

Prints of these paintings may be obtained at the Norman Rockwell Museum Store at www.nrm.org.  These paintings depict everyday citizens enjoying and exercising American rights.

SECONDARY (PRINT) SOURCES USED IN LESSON:

Text from: Lawrence, Jacob. The Great Migration: An American Story. New York: Harper Collins,Trophy,1995.

SECONDARY (PRINT) SOURCES USED TO CREATE LESSON:

 Grossman James R. Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Well-written text for teacher background information.  This book gives a fine history of the Great Migration.  It details what life was like for blacks as they made the decision to migrate, the journey north and life in the North.

Jones, Jacqueline, et. al. Created Equal: A Social and Political History of the United States.  New York: Pearson Longman, 2005.

This is a high quality text that gives an excellent overview of American history.

Roy, Jennifer Rozines and Gregory Roy. Norman Rockwell: The Life of an Artist. Berkeley Heights N.J.: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2002.

This is a well-written children’s book that highlights the life and some of the important works of Norman Rockwell. 

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS AND/OR STUDENTS:

(none suggested)

 
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