Commencement Level Lessons | Black Marines "Walk and Talk" 

One-to-two class periods 

Program Segments
Summer 1814 The American Capital Burns (10 ½ minutes)

NCSS Themes

IV. Individual Development and Identity
X. Civic Ideals and Practices

Canadian (Ontario) Concepts

  • Systems and Structures
  • Interactions and Interdependence
  • Culture

Canadian (Ontario) Specific Expectations – Seventh Grade

  • Describe the major causes and personalities of the War of 1812
  • Explain key characteristics of life in English Canada from a variety of perspectives
  • Describe the different groups of people

Students will be able to:

  • describe the plight of “refugee slaves” in the early days of the American nation
  • discuss the history of the Colonial Black Marines

Focus Questions

  • What part did racism play in the War of 1812?
  • Can we see the impact of racism in the military and society today?

Key Concepts
Racism, Slavery, “By any means necessary,” Hypocrisy

Instructional Resources

The War of 1812 DVD
Icon Walk and Talk Guiding Questions (338.1 KB)  
Newspaper articles, blogs, online news sources, news magazines (electronic and hard copy), textbooks where appropriate

Program Segment for Lesson Plan. 10 1/2 minutes.


  1. After viewing the program segment on the Black Marines, the teacher will escort the students out into the hallway or other suitable area.
  2. Students will be instructed to form two lines, parallel and facing each other. Students who are opposite each other become a working pair.
  3. If there are an odd number of students in the class, there can be a “triad” to work together, instead of a pair.
  4. The teacher checks the time and gives the students 20-30 (time can be shortened to15-20 minutes depending on the size of the class) minutes to “walk and talk” about the guiding questions given by the teacher. There are very few rules with the “Walk and Talk,” but they must be strictly followed.
  5. Students must continue to walk continuously, no sitting, no stopping.
  6. Voices must be kept appropriate and other classes and the rest of the school must not be interrupted or annoyed.
  7. Partners must listen attentively to each other as they share ideas and opinions.
  8. All students must be back in the classroom at the required time.
  9. Once the students have all returned to the classroom, the teacher will call upon each pair to share the main ideas from their discussion and any conclusions they have been able to reach. The teacher should encourage the students to report out what their partner had to share, as this encourages active listening and cooperation.
  10. While the pairs are reporting out, the teacher may choose to capture some of the important ideas on the board, overhead, or chart paper. These can form the basis for the teacher summary at the end of the class.

Guiding Questions

  1. In the program it said, “Royal Navy Captains were more than happy to help slaves escape.” Why do you think enslaved blacks would put on the uniform of a foreign nation and fight against the country where they lived? What would have prompted them to do this? Can you see yourself risking your life in this way?
  2. During this time period what examples can you describe that demonstrate that “America was really a hypocrite?” as it says in the program? What examples can you describe that demonstrate ways that America is hypocritical today in regard to race relations?
  3. Connect the following quote from The War of 1812, "there was a long legacy of slaves trying to find any means necessary to have freedom..." to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement quote below, 

“We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society on this earth in this day which we intend to bring into existence via any means necessary.” (Malcolm X)

4. Is there anything that you can do in your own life to combat racism?

Assessment Tasks

Appropriate participation in the actual “Walk and Talk,” with students obeying the rules and addressing the task will indicate proficiency.
Students will be able to use the program and their background knowledge of U.S. History to answer the guiding questions through a thoughtful discussion with a peer.
Time permitting, the teacher may wish to assign, as homework, a student investigation of current events relating to racism in the military or society in general. Students should read 3-4 different articles and be prepared to present their ideas as a brief oral report to the class. Students may also be given class time the day after the “Walk and Talk” to tackle this task with their original partner. The teacher should be prepared with various news magazines, newspapers, texts, and access to a computer.

Additional Resources

Black Soldiers and Sailors in the War of 1812

Related PBS Resources

Double V
Examine how African Americans furthered their quest for equal rights during World War II. Discover how they used the Double V campaign to resolve their inherent conflict of fighting for a country that did not grant them full rights of citizenship.

The Freedom to Fight
Explore the experience of African American soldiers in the Civil War. Analyze discrimination against African Americans in the U.S. military through the end of World War II and how desegregation of the armed forces set a precedent for U.S. society.

Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts
Investigate the experiences of black troops during the Civil War by reading personal letters from black soldiers. Explore the ethics of the Union Army's treatment of civilians witnessed by Colonel Robert Shaw at one Union raid.

Eyes on the Prize: Right Makes Might
Role play Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X and debate the use of violence in civil rights demonstrations from both moral and practical viewpoints. Select a contemporary issue and examine the possible role for non-violence in addressing it.


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Icon Black Marines "Walk and Talk" Lesson Plan (338.1 KB)

Black soldiers and sailors in the War of 1812.

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