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IMGALTTAG Volume II: A Survey of African-American History by Way of African-American Literature and Art


“Journeys: Forced & Voluntary”
Sara M. Thomas Alexander
Lincoln Elementary Technology Academy

The purpose of this unit is to direct students toward a connecting of their past, present, and future. This topic was chosen as a means of educating students and reminding others of three major journeys of African Americans: The Middle Passage, the Underground Railroad, and the Great Migration.

Communication and technology are the major avenues utilized in guiding the students through their own personal journeys.  The students will explore those routes via literature, technology and communicating with elders who reminisce about their own personal journeys.


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African American History in the Language Arts Curriculum
Jane Alu

The purpose of this unit is to provide middle school students with an understanding of accurate African-American history in order to better analyze and interpret African-American literature. History, beginning with Africa and slavery, will be taught along side literature.

Although this unit is written for use in the middle school level, it can be adapted for different grade levels. It can also be used in any setting whether urban or rural, and across curriculum levels. In this curriculum poetry, informational texts, and the anthology called African American Literature, which has been approved for use at Frick International Studies Academy, will be used. Teachers who wish to enrich their existing Language Arts or Reading curriculum by incorporating African American history and literature would be interested in using this unit.


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Reflected Images of Black Women/Mothers
Lorena Amos

The curriculum unit will focus on the images of Black women/mother from the past to the present. The unit is designed for the twelfth grade world literature and language program. Students will be required to search, research, listen, analyze, develop and evaluate the images of Black women/mothers in memoirs, essays, drama, poetry, novels, film, art, music, interviews, and oral readings. These images are found on the printed page, audio, visual or any  mixed media. Students will ask questions and deduct the answers. Students will trace and compare the cause and effect of the images throughout history. Students will assemble the information, develop a rubric for evaluating the images, and design multimedia projects that reflect their list of standards.


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African-American Folktales: Fun Ideas to Use For Black History Month
By Christina Blassingame-Cleveland

This unit consists of African-American Folktales that can be used in a first grade classroom. It is intended for use during Black History Month, but would also be suitable as an addition to a pre-existing Reading or Language Arts program. There are many activities that could also be implemented as a Social Studies, Math, music, Science, or Art subject area.

This unit will discuss African-American folktales, discuss their origin, history, and offer detailed lesson plans and classroom activities. This curriculum unit is designed for first graders in an urban school district. It can also be used to supplement the existing Harcourt Reading Series now being used in Pittsburgh Public Schools.


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Gullah People of the Sea Islands
Lea Blumenfeld

The purpose of this unit is to explore with the children the topic of the Gullah people of the Sea Islands off the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. This unit will examine the history and the culture, particularly the stories and folk arts of the Gullah people, the African origin of these coastal inhabitants, and the connection between the Sea Island people and Pennsylvania. Additionally, it will include the geography, the Gullahs’ knowledge of herb and root medicine, the impact of industrialization on the Gullah economy and the effect of tourism development on the lives of the people. A continuing theme of the unit will demonstrate that even though the Gullahs have been separated from Africa for hundreds of years, there are many examples of African retentions in the culture. The targeted participants will be fourth and fifth graders, but for some of the activities, such as the chants, songs, and stories, the kindergartners through third graders will also be involved.


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Abby’s Quilt: An Amalgam of Literature, Culinary Art, Visual and Auditory Art
by Sandra L. Devonshire

This curriculum unit has been prepared for use during Black History Month. The population to be targeted is a predominately African American group of first graders with limited background in Black History. The unit is intended to familiarize students with African American traditions and their impact on contemporary life. The curriculum will cover four areas: cooking, quilting, music and storytelling.


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Making Connections:  Reflections of History
by Dr. Marlene Gardner

The concept of making connections is important in both teaching and learning. Teaching often consists of assisting students in finding connections and learning involves making connections among various disciplines and life experiences. The curriculum unit concentrates on an area of interest for mainstream grade seven students, presents information about African-American literature and history using inquiry strategies, and considers the concept of Southern identity in examining sample stories from the oral tradition, with emphasis on supernatural tales.


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The Legacies of African-American Artists, Ellis Wilson, John Biggers, and Jonathan Green, and Their Influence on American Art
Joanne Hattrup

This curriculum unit focusing on African-American Artists, Ellis Wilson, John Biggers, and Jonathan Green is designed for fourth and fifth graders in an art classroom. The purpose is to introduce the individual artists and explore how they share a link to the South. The unit will also expose the pupils to the Gullah culture from the coastal Sea Islands of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. It will examine the Gullahs’ unique language, basketry, quilting, weaving, fishnets, folklore, folktales, and crops of indigo, rice, and cotton. The unit will focus on the ways this culture with its retention of West African traditions and practices impacted these artists and shaped their legacies. It explores motivational forces and beliefs that were behind each man’s creative energy. Additionally the unit examines the obstacles and hurdles that these artists confronted and overcame as they painted African- American themes on canvases and walls throughout the 20th century.


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In the Beginning was African-American Dance
By Melvina Reid

I would like to introduce African American Dance in its many forms and fashions. This unit will attempt to inform you of the historical facts pertaining to the creation of dance through the eyes of African Americans. People of African ancestry in the Americas created the African American dance. Africans brought their dances to North America, South America, and the Caribbean Islands, when they were imported as slave labor starting in the 1500s.  The dance styles of hundreds of African ethnic groups in the Americas gradually merged with European dances and new forms of expression emerged that represent the continuation of the African aesthetic in the Americas. Dance has always been an integral part of daily life in African.  In the Americas, dance played an important role in helping enslaved Africans maintain a connection with their homeland and keep their cultural traditions alive. As they had done before enslavement, Africans danced for special occasions, such as a birth or a marriage, or simply as a part of their daily activities. And dance helped affirm life and the possibility of a better future. The early types of African-American dance dominated through the 18the century included the ring shout or ring dance, the calenda, the chica, and the juba. This unit will attempt to introduce people who created dance movements that became popular all over the world. It will provide information regarding African-American dances from the beginning to the 1900s.


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The Influence of African Americans in Science Fiction
By Phyllis Roberts
David B. Oliver High School

Star Trek, Time Machine, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the Bicentennial Man are all dynamic science fiction novels that have captured our imagination and questioned our own theories about the reality of futuristic science. These books have challenged us to take a glimpse at the future and ponder, whether these events could ever happen? Will humanity resort to spaceships and live in various quadrants in space? Is time travel possible? Is there life beyond Earth? Science fiction truly has a way of stimulating our intellectual thought.

This curriculum unit is designed to introduce my students, who are in grades 11 and 12, to science fiction written by African-Americans. Our focus will be on the writings of Octavia E. Butler, Samuel R. Delaney and Levar Burton. We will analyze how these science fiction writers address issues from a historical as well as present day perspective while at the same time analyzing concepts that pertain to the physical realm of science.


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The Importance of African Cultural Continuity Against Slavery
Donald J. Wilds

This unit emphasizes a concentration on how enslaved Africans were able to extend their African culture in a new environment that was forced upon them thousands of miles away. The unit also gives a detailed account on how this extension of culture was the guiding force in the mightiest form of resistance, which was insurrection or revolting. This unit goes well with the Pittsburgh’s school districts unit Slave Life, Free Africans, and Resistance to Slavery because it gives a more detailed account on the importance of certain aspects of African culture. The unit also gives an in depth study on slave revolts beginning in 1550.


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The Role of African-American Soldiers in the Civil War (1861-1865)
Ulysses R. Winn, Ph.D.

The purpose of this unit is to provide Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Cadets at the secondary level an insight into the history of African-American soldiers who fought in the Civil War. The Civil War era is one of the most critical and fascinating in our nation’s history. The many books about this period written for young audiences provide a rich context in which to learn about the Civil War. I will answer some of the questions as to what actually happened to many of these African-Americans who were prepared to pay the ultimate price even though they knew there were no guarantees for their freedom. In keeping with the mission of JROTC “to motivate young people to be better citizens,” it is inherent in this mission to prepare these students for responsible leadership roles while making them aware of their rights, responsibilities and privileges as citizens. Most African-Americans welcomed the war, believing it was a war that might lead to their emancipation. If war would bring about liberation, the enslaved were for war. If peace would bring it about, the enslaved were for peace.


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Chatham University
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IMGALTTAG Pittsburgh Teachers Institute
Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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