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Curriculum Materials

Janice Bell Ollarvia


Main Ideas
African-Americans such as William T. Scott and the others mentioned in the foregoing narrative section contributed significantly to the growth and prosperity of Cairo during the late-nineteenth century. African-Americans created strong, vital communities populated by entrepreneurs, laborers, and professionals. They established churches, newspapers, and social organizations, and ran for, and were sometimes elected to, various political offices. Despite progress in those endeavors, discrimination continued to exist, particularly in the areas of education, employment, and public accommodations.

Connection with the Curriculum
This material may be used in teaching Illinois history, U.S. history, social studies, or African-American history classes.

Teaching Level
Grades 9-12

Materials for Each Student

• A copy of the narrative portion of this article

•Handouts 1-3

• A dictionary and/or a thesaurus and encyclopedia available for student use

Objectives for Each Student

• Identify key events and persons in the political and economic development of African-Americans in the Reconstruction era in southern Illinois.

• Recognize the importance of "community building" in African-American life.

• Identify major areas of racial discrimination that existed during the period.


Opening the Lesson
Before having students read the article, conduct a K-W-L anticipation activity. Ask students what they already know about the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction


periods and the Black Codes. On the chalkboard or overhead projector, record what they "know" in a column headed K. In a second column, headed W, have students indicate things they "want to know" about Cairo, and/or the history of African-Americans during the period. Leave a column L for students to record what they learn upon reading and discussing the article.

Developing the Lesson
• Have students read the narrative portion of the article and then discuss the concepts found in the reading. This is time to complete the "Learned" column on the board or in their notes. Does anything students learned contradict what they knew prior to reading? Are there things they still want to learn about the topic?

• For Activity 1, divide students into groups of four or five. Have them discuss and respond to the questions. If possible, allow them to refer to source material (dictionary, textbooks, encyclopedias) located in your classroom.

• For Activity 2, you may wish to discuss the quotation with students to monitor their understanding of the demands. If you wish, give students some background information on the Niagara conferences. As they discuss the demands, move from group to group to answer any questions and to monitor progress.

• Students should complete Activity 3 individually.

Concluding the Lesson
• Allow representatives from each group to share their conclusions and ideas with the entire class.

• Discuss with students the main issues they were to have learned. Refer to the KWL chart and lesson objectives.

Extending the Lesson
• If feasible, organize a field trip to the DuSable Museum of African-American History (740 E. 56th Place, Chicago, Illinois 60637-1408; phone 312-947-0600) to allow students to view artifacts and exhibits related to this area and period.

• Have students research and report on court cases that led to the social and political disenfranchisement of African-Americans during the post-Reconstruction period.

  1. Strauder v. West Virginia (1879)
  2. Virginia v. Rives (1879)
  3. Bush v. Kentucky (1883)
  4. Williams v. Mississippi (1879)
  5. United States v. Reese (1875)
  6. United States v. Cruikshank (1875)
  7. United States v. Harris (1883)
  8. Civil rights cases of 1882
  9. Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

• Assign a research paper or project on the issues raised in this lesson.

• Have students write and deliver a persuasive speech in which they either encourage fellow African-Americans to organize to combat racial inequities during this era or encourage fellow white citizens to treat African-Americans with fairness.

• Divide the class into small groups. Obtain a political cartoon from a recent newspaper or magazine. Have students brainstorm regarding the meaning of the cartoon. Next, select a cartoon from the Reconstruction/post- Reconstruction era. Have students follow the same brainstorming process. Each group should select a spokesperson to share the group's conclusions with the class.

Assessing the Lesson
• Have students write a summary paper or oral report using the information they have learned. Create a rubric for assessment, such as the ones used for the Illinois Goal Assessment.

• Give a test or quiz.


Activity 1

Discuss the following questions with the students in your group. Designate one student to record your responses and report them to the class.

  1. What were some of the restrictions placed on African-Americans by the Illinois Black Laws? What were some of the ways that they objected to or resisted these restrictions?

  2. What role might churches and social organizations such as Masons play in African-Americans' quest for equal treatment in a community like Cairo?

  3. Would it be important for African-Americans to have their own newspaper(s) in this city? Why or why not?


  1. Write the headlines for three or four articles you imagine might have appeared in the Cairo Gazette.


Activity 2

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia

Read this resolution passed at the second Niagara conference at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, in 1906. It might just as easily have been written by the citizens of Cairo. Use the resources available to be sure you know the meanings of the underlined words and phrases.

First, we want full manhood suffrage and we want it now. Second, we want discrimination in public accommodations to cease. Third, we claim the right of freemen to walk, talk and be with them that wish to be with us. Fourth, we want the laws enforced against rich as well as poor, against Capitalist as well as laborer, against white as well as black. Fifth, we want our children educated. They have a right to know, to think, to aspire. We do not believe in violence. Our enemies, triumphant for the present, are fighting the stars in their courses. Justice and humanity must prevail. We are men, we will be treated as men. And we shall win.

Patrons on the Ferry

In your group, discuss each of the five demands. To what degree has each demand been achieved by African-American citizens today? Have one group member record your responses and report them to the class.


Activity 3

Imagine yourself to be one of the following African-Americans living in Cairo in 1885. In the voice of that person, write a journal entry or a letter to a relative in another part of the country describing what your life is like and what your aspirations are. Be sure to include some of the things you see and do during your day.

• a blacksmith with a wife and children

• a young teacher

• the publisher of the Cairo Sentinel

• the pastor of a church

Photo Collage

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