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The Experiences of African Americans in World War I

WWI African-American Soldiers

Lesson Plan

Grade Level:


Estimated duration of lesson:

45 minutes-one hour

Content standard or standards:

Ohio Content Standards: U. S. History: World War I: The Experiences of African Americans; A, B, C; 1-6. This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.
The lesson also correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.

Primary Sources:


A summary of the lesson:

This is a history lesson re: the experiences of African Americans during World War I. I can use direct instruction or differentiated instruction (maps, coordinated with Math lesson, power point, projector, and video). The repetition method would be beneficial because the more you repeat it, using different modalities, the better understanding students will have. This lesson plan has cross-curricular connections. I may share this exercise with my history, government, English, and music colleagues.

Instructional steps to implement the lesson: 

Homework and Practice:
Students read: A Companion to the American Revolution, Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole:  read pp. 611-616; The Right to Fight: A History of African Americans in the Military: read pp. 43-55; The Unknown Soldiers: Black American Troops in World War I: read pp. 3-20. Think about the following question: What was the state of race relations in the United States before, during, and after World War I?
My recommendation is the students should start with visual quality images that tell a story. I will allow students to be a part of the decision making process re: photos they want to have reproduced. The selected images should answer the 5 W’s: Who? Pictures have a biography, require students to do some research; What? charts, graphs, maps; When? Sense of time; Where? Sense of place; Why? reasoning/purpose. I will use words to help to establish a context for the visual quality images, and to help the viewer make associations with other images
  • Divide students into groups and distribute photographs and newspaper sources.
  • Students use Photograph Analysis Worksheet and Document Analysis Worksheet to analyze the primary sources.  
  • Bring groups together to discuss what they learned, and through the discussion guide the class to put the sources together to tell the story of the 369th Infantry, as far as the sources will take them.
  • Relate the story of the 369th Infantry Division back to the question guiding the readings:  What was the state of race relations in the United States before, during, and after World War I? Teacher and students may reference this Venn Diagram to organize responses. 

Materials needed by teachers:

accent hi-liter, charts, dictionary, graphs, maps, permanent markers, power point, propaganda posters (recruiting, causes for the attitudes concerning race), overhead projector, thesaurus, and video. Teachers must be impulsive, responsive, rigorous (working at a level of learning that will take students to the next level) and spontaneous. Their information needs to be trumped with education and they need to know how to teach history in an interdisciplinary manner. Teachers should encourage students to think about alternative endings to wars.

Materials needed by students:

Document Analysis Worksheet,  Photo Analysis Worksheet, 8-10 hours of sleep every night (7days a week), nutritional breakfast every morning (7days a week) is extremely vital, know the definition of punctuality, be ready and willing to learn when they walk into the classroom, writing utensils, writing paper and or composition book/note pad, access to a computer, and library card.

Other items that might be included:

Ideas for students to continue learning on the topic (a) Re-Teach Activity: to get the students to know more about World War I. (b) Extension Activity: Re-teach/flash extended activity; objective/goals are methods to put lessons together to enable students to know more about African Americans and their experiences in World War I.

Other resources:

Harlem’s Hellfighters: The African American 369th Infantry in World War I, Stephen Harris
Battle for the Bundu: The First World War in East Africa, Charles Miller
The Censored War, George H. Roeder, Jr.
The First World War, Hew Strachan
Intimate Voices from the First World War, Svetlana Palmer and Sarah Wallis
Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917, Gail Bederman
My Bondage and My Freedom, Frederick Douglas
The Palgrave Concise Historical Atlas of the First World War, Matthew Hughes and William J. Philpott
World War I, the African Front: An Imperial War on the African Continent, Edward Paice
Created by Joanna Robinson Meriwether, Dayton Public Schools, Ohio