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Negro expulsion from railway car

[Detail] Negro expulsion from railway car

Lesson Procedure

Ask students to read Section 1 and follow the instructions. Allow 20 minutes.

  1. Explain that African Americans in the South faced a variety of problems at the end of Reconstruction. These problems became acute as federal regulation of Southern state governments ended and remaining federal troops were withdrawn from the South.
  2. Have students brainstorm ideas about what these problems might be. Record responses and keep for later reference and use.
  3. Divide the class into small groups and give each group several copies of the Timeline. Tell students to read the Timeline and, based on items included on the Timeline, develop a list of three to five important problems facing African Americans following Reconstruction. Allow 15 minutes for this task.

Discussion of Problems

When small groups have completed their work, have groups share their findings with the class. Discuss the problems identified, asking such questions as:

  • How do you know this was a problem? What evidence does the Timeline provide?
  • Did you identify this as a problem before you read the Timeline? If so, how did you know it was a problem? If not, why do you think you did not know about this problem?
  • Are there significant differences among problems identified by different groups?
  • Are any of these problems related? How?

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.

Small Group Research

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 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, Progress of a People. 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.


Model African American 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:

  1. Construct an agenda consisting of the problems under study.
  2. For each problem, allow each group studying the problem to give a five-minute report.
  3. A brief class discussion of each problem should follow reports on that problem.
  4. After all problems have been reported and discussed, conduct a general discussion in which the class decides on recommendations to include in a report of the model congress.

Debriefing Discussion

Conduct a debriefing discussion in which students consider such questions as:

  • What search strategies were most effective?
  • Did you find some types of documents more helpful than others? More difficult to interpret?
  • What surprised you about the documents you found? Why?
  • Did you have enough information to assess the credibility or reliability of the documents? Why or why not?
  • What other problem(s) did you identify through your research? How were these problems related to the original problem your group studied?
  • What evidence of prejudice or racism did you find in the documents? Did any of the examples surprise you? Why or why not?
  • What issues generated the most disagreement among African Americans? Why do you think this was so?
  • What evidence did you find of the effects of slavery? Of Reconstruction?

NOTE: For help on organizing the groups, see Tips for Organizing Group Work.


  1. Appoint a committee consisting of one representative from each small group. Have the committee prepare an outline for a report about the model congress results. Then have each small group write to flesh out one outline topic. Ask the committee to edit the final report.
  2. Have each group select a historical person particularly identified with their issue. Encourage them to search African American Perspectives, 1818-1907 and other sources for more information about that person. Have students present results of their research through a poster, a biography, or a mock interview.
  3. Encourage groups to look for similarities between historical problems they have studied and problems that Americans, including African Americans, face today. Which, if any, problems have been solved? Which problems have persisted? How are arguments and proposed solutions similar and different?