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The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
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Lesson Plan 3: Black Pioneers: Building African American Communities during Jim Crow
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Introductory Activity:
(half a class period)

    Introduce the following proposition: "An oppressed group of people leaves their native land seeking refuge in an unfamiliar, far-away place, where they will be free to live as they see fit."

    Have your students respond to the following questions:
    • Give examples from history and literature of groups who fit this description. In each case, what was the source of oppression and where was the land of their deliverance?
    • How has this description been used to define the promise of America? How important is this proposition to how we've come to view ourselves as a nation?

Learning Activities:

Activity One
(two class periods)

    1. Have students view the segment on Pap Singleton and the Kansas exodus from THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW. The four-minute segment is approximately 8 minutes and 45 seconds into Episode One of the video series. Have students access the Timeline on THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW Web site so they can situate this event in the chronology of the imposition of, and struggle against, Jim Crow. Students should be encouraged to consider the following questions and take careful notes.
      2. When (approximately) did the exodus to Kansas take place? Why did Kansas seem like an especially appropriate destination?
    • What events might have impelled blacks to consider leaving the South during these years?
    • Why did Frederick Douglass disagree with emigration from the South?
    • How did the emigrants support themselves in their new homes?
    • The narrator refers to some Exodusters who were murdered while leaving for Kansas. Why would some Southern whites use violence to prevent blacks from leaving the South?
  1. After viewing the video, discuss the preceding set of questions. Let the students know that they may not have enough information yet to answer all of these questions fully.
  2. Have your students view the seven-minute segment on Isaiah Montgomery, which is about 38 minutes and 30 seconds into Episode One of THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW. Have students access the Timeline on THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW to determine what other events were occurring at the time of the establishment of Mound Bayou. Have them write down any relationships they see between those events and the founding of Mound Bayou.
  3. Having taken careful notes, the students should break into small groups of 4 to 5 students to discuss the following questions:
    • What prompted the creation of all black communities in the South?
    • When was Mound Bayou founded?
    • Describe the Mound Bayou community. How were Mound Bayou residents selected?
    • What did the community have? How did residents think about Mound Bayou?
    • What was the response of local whites to Mound Bayou? Why do you think they may have been more tolerant of Isaiah Montgomery's community than other all-black communities in the South?
    • Why did Montgomery support disenfranchisement of blacks? What seems to be his philosophy concerning race relations?

Activity Two
(two class periods)

  1. Primary documents will help to enrich your students' understanding of the Kansas emigration movement and the establishment of all-black communities such as Mound Bayou. Divide the class into groups of four or five students and assign each group a selection of documents from the above list of bookmarked online resources. Some of these documents are longer than others, so try to make sure that the materials are evenly assigned among the groups. Here is one suggestion for dividing these documents into 6 groups:
    1. Testimony of Henry Adams regarding the Negro Exodus
      http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1129.htm
    2. Testimony of John H. Burch regarding the Negro Exodus
      http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1130.htm

      Testimony of John H. Johnson regarding the Negro Exodus
      http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1131.htm

      Affidavit of Daniel Parker regarding the Negro Exodus
      http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1132.htm
    3. Louisiana Negro Convention, 1879
      http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1128.htm

      Proceedings of the National Conference of Colored Men of the United States (Selections)
      http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1133.htm

      Frederick Douglass and Richard T. Greener on the Negro Exodus, 1879
      http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1134.htm
    4. Testimony of Benjamin Singleton, Washington, D. C., April 17, 1880, before the Senate Select Committee Investigating the "Negro Exodus from the Southern States"
      http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/
      seven/w67singl.htm
    5. Thompson, Isabel and Louise T. Clarke, "Ghost Town--Almost: The Depression Hits a Negro Town," Opportunity, Journal of Negro Life v. 13, n. 9 (September, 1935), p 277.
      http://newdeal.feri.org/opp/opp35277.htm

      Nicodemus, Kansas: African-American Mosaic Exhibition (Library of Congress)
      http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam010.html

      Western Migration and Homesteading: African-American Mosaic Exhibition (Library of Congress)
      http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/west.html
    6. Booker T. Washington, "A Town Owned by Negroes: Mound Bayou, Miss., An Example of Thrift and Self-Government," The Booker T. Washington Papers, v. 9, p. 307. July 1907.
      http://stills.nap.edu/btw/Vol.9/html/307.html

      Mound Bayou, "Jewel of the Delta," by Caneidra Chambers
      http://ocean.otr.usm.edu/~aloung/mbayou.html
  2. Give students a good 25 to 30 minutes to read and discuss their documents among their group. Students should read their primary documents to see how they might inform their understanding of some of the questions raised in Activity One of this lesson. Have students take notes on what types of information they find that add to their understanding of these episodes and whether it differs from what they saw in the documentary. Students should consider the sources of these documents. Who is saying or writing this, and when?
  3. With the entire class, revisit the questions covered during Activity One of this lesson. Ask the students if they have uncovered more information that sheds additional light on these questions. In presenting their information, students should supply information regarding their source of information. Who said or wrote what the students are reporting, and when?
  4. Have students summarize the research they've done on the Kansas emigration movement and the establishment of Mound Bayou. What did these movements share in common? How did they differ? What criticisms did Frederick Douglass and others have [or make] about these movements?

Culminating Activity/Assessment:
(one class period)

Organize a classroom debate on the subject of separate black communities. Have students debate the following questions:

  • Considering conditions in the South at the end of the nineteenth century, were separate black communities a good idea? Why or why not?
  • Are they still important today? Are they a good idea in general and are they necessary?


  little girl

The JIM CROW
Intergenerational Discussion Guide
presents ideas and facts on the Jim Crow era.
  To download the Guide, you'll need the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Download Adobe Acrobat.  


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