Active Viewing: Up South

In this activity, students watch the ASHP documentary Up South: African-American Migration in the Era of the Great War with documents and exercises designed to support and reinforce the documentary's key concepts of Jim Crow, lynching, sharecropping, migration, and life in northern cities. At the end of the activity, students complete a short writing task on how life changed and how it stayed the same for migrants, and how they tried to improve their lives in the North.

Objectives

  • Students will learn about lynching, segregation, sharecropping, and the experiences of African Americans in northern cities after they moved there from the South during the World War I era

  • Students will understand how life was different in the South and in northern cities for African Americans

  • Students will understand how African Americans tried to improve their lives in the North

This activity supports the following Common Core Literacy Standards in History/Social Studies:

  • RHSS.6-8.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

  • WHSS.6-8.2. Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events.

Instructions

Step 1: Discuss with students: When does home become so bad that you have to leave? Is it better when you do leave? Write down their answers and have them available on the board or chart paper to refer back to later. 

Hand out Map of Migration Routes Followed by African Americans During the Great Migration

Ask students to find Mississippi (MS) and Chicago on the map and draw a line between the two. Explain that the Up South documentary they are about to see will show stories of people who went from Hattiesburg, Mississippi to Chicago, but as they can see from this map, this is part of a larger story of more than a million people who left different parts of the South for cities in the North. 

Step 2: Play chapters 1-3 (00:17-6:01) of Up South. Ask students to think about the following as they watch: One part of the story of life in the South is lack of economic opportunity; another part of the story is about oppression and segregation. What was so bad about sharecropping? 

After watching, lead a brief shareout of students’ thoughts on “what was so bad about sharecropping.” (If you think your students need additional information in order to clarify their understanding of sharecropping, have them read and discuss Description of Sharecropping.)

Hand out the Active Viewing: Up South worksheet and ask students to write down examples of what life was like from the document and/or film in the Jim Crow and Sharecropping sections of the worksheet. 

Step 3: Hand out Bar Graph of Lynchings of African Americans, 1890-1929. Have student volunteers read aloud the description text above the graph and the text below it. 

Ask students to write down three facts about lynching in the Lynching section of the worksheet. 

Play chapters 4-5 (6:02-12:09) of Up South. Ask students to think about the following as they watch: What was the Chicago Defender and why is it important in this story? 

Step 4: Discuss the Chicago Defender and ask students to summarize why people left the South. Ask students to predict what they think will happen when migrants get to the North; record their answers. Either provide these categories or organize their responses on the board or chart paper into these categories: jobs, rights, community, housing. 

Play chapters 6-7 (12:10-21:35) of Up South. Assign small groups of students to listen for information about one of the categories (jobs, rights, community, housing) as they watch.

Ask students to write examples from the documentary and from the survey about life in the North on the worksheet, making sure to fill in at least one example for each category (jobs, rights, community, housing) 

Ask students to write examples from the documentary and from the survey about life in the North on the worksheet, making sure to fill in at least one example for each category (jobs, rights, community, housing) 

Step 5: Revisit the predictions students made about life in the North and ask each group to report back what they learned from the film. 

 

Hand out Black Chicagoans Describe Their Migration Experiences and ask students to circle evidence that relates to what category they were listening for in the film. Briefly discuss their answers. 

Play chapters 8-10 (21:36-29:18) of Up South. As students view the clip, ask them to think about: Who was the New Negro and how did he try to solve problems in the North? 

After watching the clip, review students’ understanding of the New Negro.

Step 6: Assign students to complete the Active Viewing: Up South Writing Prompt.

Historical Context

Between 1910 and 1930, more than one million African Americans moved out of the South. They sought economic opportunity, freedom from racial segregation, and safety from lynching and other kinds of racist violence. The promise of freedom and full citizenship drew them to cities in the North, Midwest, and West. Once there, the migrants faced poor housing, discrimination on the job, and racial violence. They responded by forming women’s clubs, engaging in political campaigns, and creating the “New Negro” movement.

Source | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, 2011
Creator | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning
Rights | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Item Type | Teaching Activity
Cite This document | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, “Active Viewing: Up South,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 24, 2014, http://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1894.