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Weeksville Through the Lens of Langston Hughes

Weeksville Through the Lens of Langston Hughes

                                                                    

Lesson Plan: Grades: 9-12

Lesson time: 40 mins-1 hr (1 class period)

Discrimination and racism have been an issue widely discussed throughout high school particularly in the U.S. history curriculum. Topics such as the Civil War and the Underground Railroad, Civil Rights movements, Jim Crow Laws, are all topics of discussion in the high school curriculum. This lesson is about racism in relation to the neighborhood of Weeksville, New York and how this community played a crucial role in changing the way African Americans lived through three different periods of history.

Weeksville is one of the first African American neighborhoods and was established in 1838 by James Weeks post abolition. Weeks, the buyer, established a neighborhood that allowed African Americans a chance for improvement; giving rise to schools, senior care centers, occupations, and residencies. Obtaining a rightful community post-abolition was not an easy task. Many were not wanted or accepted into neighborhoods once they were free. Langston Hughes’ poem, “Let America Be America Again” portrays the theme of racism and the American Dream, depicting the hope of achieving the freedom and equality America should have. In this lesson plan, we describe how Langston Hughes’ poem can be taught alongside a field trip to the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn in order to show how African Americans sought to improve their living conditions once they gained their freedom.  

                        

 

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Assignment Sheet for Weeksville Heritage Center

The handout is to guide you through the Hunterfly Houses located in the Weeksville Museum. Before the visit, make sure you have read Langston Hughes’ poem, “Let America Be America Again”.  The center is a tour only facility so feel free to take notes and ask questions when needed, all facts are helpful and will only aid in your presentations.

 

Questions:

1) There are a multitude of historic centers circumscribing the African Community. What makes The Weeksville Heritage Center distinctive?

2) The first home is centered to illustrate the living conditions in the 1860s. Why was it so important for African Americans to obtain their own property particularly around this era?

3) The second home has some significant changes within the residence and was inhabited from 1897-1923. What historical changes were going on in America? What changes did you observe within living conditions?

4) The curator gave historic evidence stating that in the 1960’s the last house was still inhabited. However, the Williams family was generous enough to donate her home to be apart of the historic site in Weeksville. What new changes were seen in this home? The historical events during this time?

5) Langston Hughes published his poem, “Let America be America Again”  in 1935, as we discussed in class the theme was centered around Hughes’ illusions on the American dream. After visiting all three homes, do you believe James Weeks was successful in building a community for African Americans? And furthermore, why was it so important and necessary for him to build an isolated community?

Assignment for the Presentation:

In groups of 3 you will all give a 10 minute presentation on your experience and observation of the center in connection the poem. Langston Hughes discusses the American Dream and successful integration with the White community. Because of the struggles within society, James Weeks wished to build an isolated area to aid African Americans, giving rise to schools, churches, and senior care centers. Weeksville however was mainly centered eleven years after the Abolition. Langston Hughes in the 1930’s ends the poem in a positive tone, having hope in the integration between the races. But there is much segregation yet to be fragmented, why do you believe integration still remains to be a struggle?

 

 

 

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