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Sample lesson Plan for Using "Black Berea" Website
Oliver Keels
Using Oral Histories and Local History
Subject: United States History
Grade Level: Eleven
Time: Two to Three weeks, including time spent in study of website materials.
Lesson Plan 1:
Objectives: Students will employ the transcripts of interviews with former residents of Berea to better understand the experiences of African Americans in the years following the Civil War. They will be able to demonstrate the connection between national events in the period 1865-1900 and important events in local history.
Connections: To enhance student appreciation for, and connection to, the events of United States History in the years immediately following the Civil War, attention to the events surrounding the founding of Berea College can put somewhat obscure national events into a much more personal and local context. A central content focus under Academic Expectation 2.20 is "Disagreements over how Reconstruction should be approached and its various programs led to conflict, constitutional crisis, and limited success."
Context: The stories presented in the oral interviews can provide a personal perspective on how changing perspectives on the role of African Americans by society at large had immense immediate consequences on communities such as Berea. Students should be able to gain a deeper understanding of national events as they were reflected in changes that occurred in Berea and Madison County.

Interview transcripts included in the website, Early Black Berea.

Special texts on the history of Berea and Madison County--e.g. William Ellis, Madison County: 200 Years in Retrospect (Richmond, KY: Madison County Historical Society, 1985) and Richard E. Sears, A Utopian Experiment in Kentucky: Integration and Social Equality at Berea, 1866-1904 (Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1996).

Texts and other resources on the history of the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction period.


Access the interviews on the Early Black Berea website (This might be done either by having students go to the school computer center, or by simply copying the text of the interviews for student use).

After a close reading of the texts of the interviews, have students construct an overlapping event timeline for the stories. Focus on: What brought their families to Berea? What work did they do? What kinds of opportunities did they have in Berea, or elsewhere in Kentucky? What kinds of social/economic/political pressure did they experience? Were there common factors that led them (or other members of their families to leave Berea)? This can be done as a whole-class discussion, or as a small group activity which is then merged into a class event-line.

[Some explanation of the nature of education at Berea College may be necessary. Students will imagine that the label, college, meant the same thing in the nineteenth century as today. They will need to understand that many students came for basic education (Foundation School, with basic literacy the primary outcome, equivalent to common school or grade school; Preparatory School, which was like high school for college preparation; Normal School, which was like high school, but the level of preparation for teachers of public common schools (grades 1-8).]

Once students have completed the event timeline for the oral interviews, begin a detailed study of the historical period, 1865-1877, and the social history of the period, 1877-1914. Make certain that an emphasis is placed on the creation of a segregated society. Once this unit is completed, present students with the following research assignment:

In reviewing the event timeline that we have constructed from the interview transcripts, explain how the social/political/ and economic changes in the years before 1914 is reflected in the personal experiences of these African Americans.


Assessment: The research papers produced by each student will be the source of evaluation information.


Dr. Jackie Burnside
CPO 1706
Berea, KY 40404
(859) 985-3811

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