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The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
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Lesson Plan 1: The Economics of Jim Crow
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Learning Activities:

Activity One
(two class periods)

The students will be focusing on the episodes from THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW that treat Edisto Island (1865-66), economic opportunities in the "New South" of the 1880s, and Ned Cobb and the Sharecroppers Union (1930s). Have students access the Timeline on THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW Web site so they can place these events in the history of Jim Crow.

  1. Divide students into groups of four or five. Each group will consider the questions below and take careful notes.
  2. Have students view the segment on Edisto Island from The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. The five-minute segment begins Episode One of the video series. Following the video clip, give students time to discuss among themselves the following questions:
    • Why had General Oliver O. Howard distributed land to former slaves? Why did the black residents of Edisto Island believe they had a right to the land?
    • Why were these lands returned to the former slaveholders?
    • Why was land important to Edisto Island African Americans? Had they been able to own and control this land, what would they likely have done with it?
    • What is the relationship between land ownership and economic independence?
  3. Watch the segment on the Holzclaws from THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW. The 7:30 minute segment begins 12:20 minutes into Episode One of the video series. Following the video clip, give students time to discuss among themselves the following questions:
    • What is meant by the term "relationships of dependency"?
    • How did sharecropping work?
    • How did the Holtzclaw family try to achieve economic independence? What principles did they value?
    • What impressed William Holtzclaw about Tuskegee? How did Tuskegee's program seek to help African Americans achieve economic independence?
  4. Watch the segment on the black migration to cities in the New South and the emergence of a new black middle class from THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW. The 5:10 minute segment begins 24:50 minutes into Episode One of the video series. Following the video clip, give students time to discuss among themselves the following questions:
    • What sort of work did African American men and women do in the cities of the South? How did this work differ from the work in rural areas?
    • What were relations like with white employers? How did "relationships of dependency" continue?
    • What evidence do you find of the development of a new black middle class? How did this challenge white supremacy?
    • Why did whites demand that segregation be legalized during this time?
  5. Have students view the segment on Ned Cobb from Episode Three of THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW. The 7:55 minute segment begins 23:20 minutes into Episode One of the video series. Following the video clip, give students time to discuss among themselves the following questions:
    • How did the plantation economy keep African Americans "trapped in a culture of poverty"?
    • How did the sharecropping system work?
    • Several of the people interviewed remarked on the closeness of white and black tenant farmers and sharecroppers: "We was all like a family." How did shared economic conditions challenge Jim Crow?
    • Why were labor organizations like the Sharecroppers Union considered a threat to the Jim Crow system?
  6. Discuss the following questions with the entire class. As different student groups respond, have them refer to the specific cases studied and talked about during the video series.
    • How does the question of land ownership continue to play an important part in the economics of Jim Crow?
    • What is behind the movement of blacks from rural to urban areas? (Make sure students understand that there are social and economic reasons that push African Americans from rural surroundings as well as opportunities that pull African Americans to the cities.)
    • What role does the black middle class play in the overall economic condition of African Americans?
    • How are "relationships of dependency" maintained during the Jim Crow era? What is the economic impact of these unequal relationships?

Activity Two
(one class period)

  1. Distribute copies of the article "Southern Farm Tenancy, The Way Out of Its Evils," found online at http://newdeal.feri.org/survey/36149.htm, to the student groups formed during Part One. Remind students that the article was originally published in 1936 and suggest that they visit the Timeline on THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW Web site so they can see what else is taking place during this time. Have them consider some of the following questions:
    • How has the Southern system of farm tenancy affected whites?
    • In Paragraph 5 and 6, the author gives some statistics on the numbers of tenants involved in Southern farming. What conclusions can you make, based on these statistics? Is tenancy on the rise? Where is it most prevalent? How has it affected black and white tenants?
    • In paragraph 7, Embree argues that "the system is shot through with the master and slave relationship." What examples does he give to support this conclusion?
    • What is the difference between a tenant farmer and a sharecropper? (See paragraph 8.)
    • During the New Deal the government established the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), which, in order to stabilize agricultural prices, gave payments to farmers not to grow certain crops. Read paragraphs 22 to 24 and describe how this program affected tenant farmers.
    • In paragraphs 25 to 31 Embree offers a plan to transform Southern farming. Describe the elements of his plan. In what ways are they similar to proposals made after the Civil War? Do you think Embree's proposal is realistic? If it had been enacted, would it have challenged the Jim Crow system or left it largely intact?

Culminating Activity/Assessment:
(two class periods)

Before undertaking this activity, students should have viewed THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW video.

Divide your class into three large groups and have them work together on this project. Each group will represent African Americans from a different era: 1865, 1895 and 1940. (Have them visit the Timeline on THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW Web site so they can see what else is taking place during this time.) Their object is to convene as a group and create an "Economic Bill of Rights for African Americans" appropriate to the era they are representing. Their Bill of Rights should consist of two sections, a list of "Grievances," which will list the economic injustices they faced, and a list of "Demands," which will list the actions they want taken to remedy their situations. Have the groups select a spokesperson to present their grievances and demands to the class.

Discuss the following questions with the entire class:

  • In what way have the economic issues facing African Americans changed?
  • What new economic issues emerged in the late nineteenth and twentieth century?
  • Legal Jim Crow was abolished in the 1950s and 1960s. Does the legacy of Jim Crow still affect African Americans economically? If African Americans in 2002 were to create an "Economic Bill of Rights," what might it include?


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