Missouri Digital Heritage :: Education :: Progress Among Prejudice :: Lesson Overview

Missouri State Archives
Progress Amidst Prejudice:
Portraits of African Americans in Missouri, 1880-1920

Lesson Overview:

This lesson, developed by the Missouri State Archives for ninth through twelfth grade students, is intended to instill in students an appreciation for original documents by introducing them to primary source portrait photography relevant to African Americans in Missouri in 1880-1920. This lesson plan, which may be presented in whole or divided into three parts, may also be adapted to suit eighth grade students.

Students can explore the database of portraits, or the selected pictures of the Johnson family, and complete photograph analysis worksheets. They will also have the opportunity to complete a worksheet with census data, in order to trace the migration of African Americans within Missouri toward urban areas. An accompanying history of black Missourians in the period between the Civil War and the end of World War I will help students in their analysis of the photographs.

Instructional Procedures:

  • History: An Introduction to the Collection
  • Fact Sheet
  • African American Portrait Database
  • Census Worksheet: Missouri’s African American Population Shifts
  • Guided Discussion Questions
    • The Johnson Family: What can a picture tell us?
    • Four Portraits
    • Original Document Worksheet—Johnson Family Photographs
    • Original Document Worksheet—Exploring the African American Portrait
    • Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Social Studies Framework

Learning Goals:

  • To engage students in an age-appropriate discussion of the changes black Missourians faced in the decades between the Civil War Reconstruction period and World War I.
  • To help students understand why some records (in this case, photographs) are deemed to be of “permanent, historical value.”
  • To encourage students to use the data presented to them to hypothesize about the lives those in the Portrait Collection may have led.

Lesson Plan:

Students should read An Introduction to the Collection which will give them a history-based context for the lesson. Once this is completed, you may choose to have your students complete one of the following exercises, or all three.

The Johnson Family Exercise:

  1. Students should review the brief document The Johnson Family: What can a picture tell us?.
  2. After this is completed, students should review the four selected portraits.
  3. Students should refer to the Fact Sheet and the Census Worksheet to help them complete the Original Document Worksheet—Johnson Family Photographs.

Portrait Database:

  1. Students should browse the portrait database and select one that they are interested in.
  2. After this is completed, students should refer to the Fact Sheet and the Census Data Worksheet to help them complete the Original Document Worksheet—Exploring the African American Portrait.

Census Exercise:

  1. Students should review the Census Data Worksheet.
  2. Once they understand its format, students should visit the website of the United States Census, http://factfinder.census.gov
  3. They will need to search for fact sheets from the 2000 census to complete the worksheet.
  4. Once the worksheets are completed, you may ask your students to put their information into a different form, such as a chart or graph.