The collection African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection, contains pamphlets and other materials, most of which were written by African American authors about pressing issues of the day. In this lesson, students use the collection's Timeline of African American History, 1852-1925 to identify problems and issues facing African Americans immediately after Reconstruction. Working in small groups on assigned issues, students search the collection for documents that describe the problem and consider opposing points of view, and suggest a remedy for the problem.
Students will be able to:
This lesson emphasizes small group work. Determine the composition for the small groups prior to the first class period.
The lesson's first two class periods require computers connected to the Internet. To save time, begin the lesson offline. To begin offline, print and photocopy the Timeline that accompanies African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection.
Ask students to read Section 1 and follow the instructions. Allow 20 minutes.
When small groups have completed their work, have groups share their findings with the class. Discuss the problems identified, asking such questions as:
Help the group reach consensus on a list of problems to be studied. Likely problems include: lynching, race riots, loss of the right to vote, segregation/Jim Crow laws, and education.
Assign or allow groups to choose problems they wish to study. Try to ensure that all problems are studied by at least one group. Explain to students that they will be using a collection of primary source documents from the Library of Congress to explore their topic further.
Before students begin their work, explain that groups will make final presentations as part of a model African American Congress. Describe how congresses were held to explore solutions to societal problems of the day. See Brief History of African American Congresses in Student Resources for background information. Point out that the constitution from one of these congresses is in African-American Perspectives, 1818-1907. A list of topics likely to be discussed at a congress is in the collection's feature presentation, Daniel Murray: A Collector's Legacy. Each group should prepare a five-minute presentation describing the problem they studied and a possible solution. The presentations should be based on information from at least three documents in African American Perspectives, 1818-1907.
Give students the remainder of this class period and the next class period to do their searching and preparation for the model congress.
During the third class period, conduct a model African American Congress, a public meeting to discuss and look for solutions to problems facing African Americans. You may preside over the congress or appoint a student to do so.
To conduct the congress:
Conduct a debriefing discussion in which students consider such questions as:
NOTE: For help on organizing the groups, see Tips for Organizing Group Work.
1. Select, print, and copy a document from African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection that students have not analyzed. Ask students to write essays in which they:
2. If practical, have students identify and analyze a document themselves. This approach allows assessment of students' search skills as well as their understanding of issues studied in this lesson, and their ability to analyze a primary source.
3. Students could create posters illustrating their research on a problem. The posters should answer the study questions, providing evidence from primary sources to support the answers given.
When Reconstruction ended in 1877, African Americans in the South faced many of the problems they had faced since Emancipation. Some of these problems were getting worse, and new problems were gaining importance.
In your group:
Select a problem faced by African Americans in the post-Reconstruction South.
Search African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection to learn more about your problem. Examine at least three primary sources from the collection before preparing your presentation. The search tips below will help you choose search words.
Search African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection to find documents related to the problem you are studying. Use keywords and synonyms to produce a list of documents.
For example, if you are studying 'Voting Rights' search on suffrage, vote, and other related words. This chart includes some helpful keyword search terms. You may need to think of some additional search words to find documents for your topic. Remember to look at the language in the document for additional search terms. What terms do the authors of the documents use in their writing? These terms were the language of the day and will lead you to successful searches for more material in the collection.
|Problem||Keyword Search Terms||Sample Primary Source|
|Lynching||lynching, hanging||"Lynch Law in Georgia"|
|Race Riot/Violence||civil rights, violence, riot||"Open Letter to President McKinley"|
|Voting Rights||suffrage, vote||"The Hardwick Bill: An Interview"|
|Segregation/Jim Crow Laws||equality, segregation, black laws, jim crow||"Equality Before the Law"|
|Education||education, higher education, industrial education||"Education of the Negro"|
Use the skills you have learned to analyze the sources. Answer the following study questions about your problem and use them to help organize your presentation for the model African American Congress:
When you have completed your research, prepare a five-minute presentation to the class about the problem and a proposed solution. The class will conduct a model African American Congress as it might have taken place after Reconstruction. See Brief History of African American Congresses to learn more about congresses. The Congress will choose solutions to be included in its report.
African American Congresses date back to 1830, when 40 delegates met in Philadelphia to discuss work problems of African Americans in Cincinnati. The group established the precedent for holding national assemblies to discuss matters of concern for African Americans. Congresses or assemblies met at irregular intervals for the next thirty-five years until the end of the Civil War. Members usually included African American ministers, editors, business owners, and intellectuals. Discussions centered on morality, education, economy, self-help, and equality of opportunity.
Congresses or conventions continued at intervals throughout the post-Civil War period. In Louisville, in 1883, ia convention of African Americans met to plan congresses for regional African American leaders to discuss political policies and conditions. From these regional conventions, held throughout the 1880s-90s, several rights organizations emerged, including the National Association of Colored Men (1896) and the National Afro-American League (1890), which became the Afro-American Council (1898).
The Constitution of the National Afro-American Council stated the following objectives for the organization: