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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Montana's African American Heritage Resources

Our colleagues at the State Historic Preservation Office have done the state a great service with their new Montana's African American Heritage Resources website. This is a vast improvement on the earlier website and a wealth of information on Montana's African American history. I highly encourage you to spend some time browsing the "Story Maps" they created for the site, learning about Montana's African American military history, women's history, churches and newspapers, exploring maps of African American enclaves in seven Montana communities, oral histories, photographs, and artifacts, and much more.

To complement the new website, we overhauled two lesson plans originally created by Jacqueline K. Dace (now Director of Internal Affairs at the National Blues Museum in St. Louis) to encourage the exploration of African American history.

Overcoming Prejudice (.pdf) is a Model Lesson Plan for fourth-sixth grade. The three-five day lesson asks students to look at census data to draw conclusions about how job options changed for African Americans in Montana from 1870 through 1930 and then to research a particular African American Montanan or institution to create posters for a classroom exhibit.

Creation of a Community (.pdf) is a Model Lesson Plan for seventh-ninth grade (though it can also be adapted to high school). Using resources posted on the Montana's African American Heritage Resources website, the three-five day lesson plan asks students to research and construct answers to the following questions: 

  • What laws were enacted that were specifically directed to African Americans?
  • What evidence is there of African Americans creating community life?
  • What were some of the successes that African American Montanans experienced?
  • What were some of the difficulties that African American Montanans faced?
  • How did Montana's African American population change from 1910 to 1930?
Through these lessons, students will have the opportunity to learn more about an understudied population in Montana, work with primary and secondary sources, conduct and share research, and consider such essential questions as 


  • How (and why) did skin color affect social status? 
  • What difficulties are there in being the first? 
  • What might be some of the effects of someone breaking the color barrier? 
  • Why did African Americans organize their own institutions (e.g. churches, civic and social organizations, etc.)?
  • How did laws relating to race affect African Americans’ economic, political, and social opportunities?
I'm excited about the lessons and even more excited about the new website. I bet after spending a little time exploring the site, you'll come up with additional ways to use the information there in your classroom. When you do, let me know! We'd love to learn more about how our online resources are put to use.

P.S. Looking for national resources on African American history. Check out Glenn Wiebe's post

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