New Jersey African American History Curriculum Guide: Grades 9 to 12



Because the New Jersey African American History Curriculum Guide: Grades 9 to 12 is a unique educational resource, most persons interested in teaching African American history to New Jersey high school students will welcome its appearance. The guide is the first curriculum resource available to New Jersey high school teachers that weaves the strands of the American, black American, and black New Jersey pasts into a common thread.

This guide is also distinctive because it represents the intersection of three developments. The first of these, greatly separated in time from the remaining two, is historiographical. The guide indeed grows out of efforts begun by a few black Americans before the Civil War to chronicle black achievements and contributions in Africa and America. These early black historians hoped their writings would stimulate racial pride among blacks and refute the white charge of black racial inferiority so as to weaken opposition to emancipation. Concerned that the story of black accomplishments had never been told, they were interested in inclusion, which would ensure that the historical experiences of black Americans were a well-documented part of the general record of the American past.

Although the work of these pioneers and their followers had developed into a well-established tradition of black American history writing by the 1960s, the decade’s black social activism spurred efforts to make the black American’s active role in shaping the nation’s development more manifest. Such efforts, along with the decade’s considerable social agitation and the consciousness-raising experiences that it engendered, encouraged other groups to decry their marginal place in American history and to clamor like the Afro-American, for a national history reflective of the nation’s pluralistic nature. By the end, of the 1960s, therefore, the proposition that in the American historical drama all citizens — irrespective of gender, culture, ethnicity, race, and religion should be recognized as players had become more tenable. The implications for the nation’s schools were, of course, enormously challenging. It became increasingly apparent that curriculum materials were needed that were informed historically by the nation’s heterogeneity, materials that add in particular the pasts and cultures of groups ignored. That such materials were thought to foster greater tolerance for differences among groups and to lessen the divisions of race, color, gender, ethnicity, and religion only strengthened interest in their preparation and use. The New Jersey African-American Curriculum Guide: Grades 9 to 12 is thus in part, a product of the expanded interest in historical inclusion generated by the social protest of the 1960s.

A more recent development has also figured this guide’s creation. The guide emanates directly from legislation passed in 1988 that authorized the New Jersey Historical Commission to prepare curriculum materials that would “treat the role of Afro-Americans in American and New Jersey history.” Without this specific legislation, and its appropriation, it is doubtful that the special kind of curriculum resource we have in this guide, one that meshes black New Jersey history, black American history, and the history of the United States, would have been realized. Contributing further to the import of this guide is the scholarly distinction of its authors, Drs. Larry A. Greene and Lenworth Gunther. I have known them both for a number of years and greatly respect their work as historians. They have not only a vast knowledge of African American life and history, but an uncommon ability to impart their masterly understanding of the subject to students. In addition, they bring to this guide the experience of teaching as well as working with teachers at the high school level. This guide clearly reveals their experience for it contains not only solid historical information about black Americans but also exciting and practical exercises that will encourage high school students to view historical events and situations in new ways. Thanks to them, this guide will enable students to go beyond the passive absorption of facts, names, dates, and places and to develop historical thinking skills and historical understanding.

Finally, this guide has merit because of its timeliness. It appears at a time when much work remains to be done in making Americans more appreciative of their nation’s racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. The very careful and sensitive manner in which it presents the past of black Americans gives reason to feel that it will contribute to a greater acceptance of racial and cultural differences on the part of those New Jersey students who are exposed to it.

The New Jersey Historical Commission is immensely proud to publish this guide. Long overdue, the work is indeed exceptional in meaningfully placing for New Jersey high school educators and their students the history of black Americans and black New Jerseyans in the larger context of American history.


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LARRY A. GREENE, associate professor of history at Seton Hall University, received his B.A. from Montclair State College, M.A. from Seton Hall University, and Ph.D. from Columbia University. In addition to teaching at Seton Hall University since 1972, he has served as an adjunct visiting professor at Rutgers University, Columbia University, and New York University. His many awards and honors include being a Scholar in Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at the Institute of Afro-American Studies, University of Iowa. Among his numerous publications are scholarly essays and book reviews that have appeared in the Journal of American History, Labor History, the Journal of Negro History, and New Jersey History. His most recent essay pertaining to black New Jersey history is “A History of Afro-Americans in New Jersey,” The Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries (June, 1994). Professor Greene is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Negro History.

LENWORTH GUNTHER is professor of history at Essex County College. His B.A., M.A., Master of Philosophy, and Ph.D. were all earned at Columbia University, where his areas of specialization were American History, African American History, West African History, and Russian Studies. His published works have appeared in numerous scholarly journals, and he has taught African, Caribbean, and African American studies at Rutgers University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Drew University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Ramapo State College. The founder and president of Edmedia Associates, an educational and motivational consulting corporation specializing in racial and ethnic history and interpersonal relations, Professor Gunther has lectured on college campuses nationwide. Very much a community activist, he has served on the East Orange Board of Education and is the host of “Impact,” a syndicated public affairs cable television program in northern New Jersey.

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As both students and teachers of African American history, we have found the preparation of this curriculum guide to be a labor of love. In it we have tried to suggest the richness and uniqueness of the place of people of African descent in the mainstream record of American and New Jersey life. The guide reveals that from the earliest of times to the present, the story of black Americans has been one of triumphs and tribulations, success and failure, dignity and degradation.

Although our guide by no means records every aspect of a black past that has witnessed both achievement and agony, it treats chronologically those themes, events, concepts, and individuals we believe to have been of major and profound significance in the African American historical experience. The breadth and depth of this story allow it to both stand alone and to be harnessed with the stories of Americans of other races and cultures, that is, similar odysseys that have been or remain to be told. We believe our guide reveals the importance of recognizing the multiracial and multicultural dimension of American life and culture, the advantages gained by emphasizing inclusion and pluralism in recounting the history of America.

We should add that we believe our guide provides help, not hindrance-it is not just “something else to remember”-to our high school colleagues, who are consumed, if not overwhelmed, by long work schedules, pervasive paperwork, and the myriad social concerns now all too common in the classroom. We believe that the guide’s chronological, thematic, and comprehensive focus, as well as its narrative, key words, suggested activities, and bibliographies, will make it particularly helpful to teachers who want to integrate the history of blacks in America, and especially New Jersey, into courses dealing with American history at the 9-12 level. In addition, we believe it will well serve the needs of students in grades 9 to 12 who take courses dealing with such subjects as ethnic studies, world history, and social studies. However it is used, we believe strongly that it will encourage among students of all races and ethnicities a greater tolerance of cultural differences, as well as an appreciation for the singularity of the black historical presence in the United States.


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This guide is organized into fifteen lesson units. Each unit represents one chronological period of the African American experience, beginning with the African antecedents of this experience and ending with the year 1994. Each unit is divided into three main sections. The first, titled Background, should be read by teachers before teaching the lesson unit. This section comprises a brief historical overview of the period, the basic historical information needed to teach the unit. In this section teachers will find the unit’s key words highlighted in bold type. Teachers should define and explain these words for the students to facilitate their understanding of the unit’s history content.

In accordance with the commonly accepted practice of scholars in writing history textbooks, as well as the procedure in preparing guides similar to the one here, we have not identified sources for the historical information found in the Background section of each unit. With few exceptions, our sources are found in the annotated bibliographies included with the units. The guide’s maps have all been prepared by the New Jersey Historical Commission’s publications staff; they are based on research by Giles R. Wright, the director of the Commission’s Afro-American History Program. And whenever a commonly used phrase of a given historical period is used in the guide, it is placed in quotation marks.

The unit’s second section, titled Core Lesson, provides activities and resources that will help the students absorb the historical information. Each core lesson has several parts. The first is the theme, the major point of the lesson unit. Next is an identification of the materials that both the teacher and students should read to ensure full comprehension. Teachers should note in particular that these materials include required readings from three general texts on African American history. Two of the texts are for students: Langston Hughes, Milton Meltzer, and C. Eric Lincoln, African American History (Scholastic, 1990) and The African American Experience: A History (Globe Book Company, 1992). The third is for teachers: John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr., From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans (McGraw-Hill, 1994). A fourth book, which provides a succinct overview of black New Jersey history, contains required readings for both students and teachers. It is Giles R. Wright, Afro-Americans in New Jersey: A Short History (New Jersey Historical Commission, 1988).

The amount of time needed to complete a particular lesson activity is also indicated in the second section. This is followed by the unit’s specific learning activities, with their objectives and evaluation methods. Additional learning activities are offered next, followed by “Key Persons,” a listing of the unit’s major historical figures. Annotated bibliographies, one for teachers and one for students, conclude the section.

The third section features the materials to be used with the lesson (for example, maps, photographs, excerpts); these are to be reproduced and distributed to the students.

Teachers should be mindful that the learning activities are only suggestions that should be freely altered and modified to suit their needs. For example, where we have called for a 500-word essay in evaluating a particular activity, a play or debate can easily serve as a replacement. Similarly, given the number of excellent studies pertaining to African American history, teachers should feel free to substitute works for those found in the bibliographies. All of this is meant to suggest that rigidity and inflexibility should not inform the use of our guide. Rather, teachers should be as imaginative, thoughtful, and creative as possible in using it. In so doing, they will cause us to realize even more just how much a labor of love the preparation of this guide has been.

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With any undertaking of this scope and magnitude there is an indebtedness owed those sincere and dedicated individuals whose support made it possible. Indeed, many people assisted us over the years and we are eternally grateful and thankful for their concerns and overall help in preparing this guide. Professor Clement Alexander Price of Rutgers University (Newark) is one of those who deserves special mention. He called every so often and kept us on course. The same and more can be said for Giles R. Wright of the New Jersey Historical Commission. His clear historical vision, knowledge, and suggestions, as well as his patience and faith in the project and us, helped in ways too great to express here. Many thanks also to our typists, who helped organize our thoughts, and to our researchers, who rechecked our details. All of you, especially Sandra K. Latson and Margaret Harahan of Seton Hall University, and Gwendolyn Slaton, Essex County College librarian, helped, along with the staff of the New Jersey Historical Commission, to guarantee the neatness and accuracy of our manuscript. Dorothy Frederique’s cheerful encouragement and clerical assistance helped us meet deadlines we otherwise might have ignored. Gwendolyn Walker’s support and courage gave new and poignant meaning to the words dedication and faith.

We also gratefully acknowledge the members of the project’s advisory committee, who read early drafts of our manuscript and made very helpful and constructive comments. They are Raymond Aklonis, Elizabeth High School, Elizabeth; Jeanette Cascone, historian-educator, Elizabeth; John DeSane, historian-educator, Englewood; Jeanne Holmes, Board of Education, Camden; Aisha Johnson, Principal, Ulysses S. Wiggins Elementary School, Camden; Alma Jordan, Board of Education, Newark; Charlotte McCane, Ridgewood High School, Ridgewood; Clement A. Price, Rutgers University, Newark; and Roberta Tate, Thomas O. Hopkins Middle School, Burlington Township.

June Peggs served as a consultant to the project and suggested historical novels suitable for inclusion in the students’ bibliographies. We thank her for her contribution.

A second project consultant, Dr. E. Alma Flagg, also deserves our thanks for editing early drafts of our manuscript.

Further, we owe a special thanks to Cheryl LuSane, who, as another project consultant, provided the guide with early suggestions about student learning activities.

And finally, we are especially indebted to the late Mildred Barry Garvin, among whose many contributions to black history and education in New Jersey was the sponsorship of legislation that provided additional funds for the New Jersey Historical Commission Afro-American History Curriculum Project, of which this guide is a product.

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Vallie and Ralph Greene
and Freddy

Print Edition Copyright 1997 by the New Jersey Historical Commission
Department of State
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America

New Jersey Historical Commission, Department of State
CN 305
Trenton, NJ 08625

Print version designed by Nancy H. Dallaire

Library of Congress Cataloging-in Publication Data
Greene, Larry A.
The New Jersey African American history curriculum guide, grades 9 to 12 / Larry A. Greene, Lenworth Gunther.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references (p.)
ISBN 0-89743-082-4
1. Afro-AmericansHistory–Study and teaching (Secondary)–New Jersey. 2. Curriculum planning
New Jersey. I. Gunther, Lenworth, 1949- II. Title.
E184.7.G74 1997
973′.0496073’00712749–dc2O 95-38310

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Digitized by Deborah Mercer and Edith Beckett of the New Jersey State Library.
Copyright 2003 by the New Jersey Historical Commission,
New Jersey Department of State.
All rights reserved.
Please direct questions and comments to Deborah Mercer.
Updated:Wednesday, April 23, 2003