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Alfred Holt Stone (1870-1955): His Unique Collection of Reading Material About People of African Descent (Lesson plan)

OVERVIEW

Living in the anxious years between the Civil War and the mid-20th century Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, Alfred Hold Stone, born in Greenville in 1870, made significant contributions to the state in areas of business and government. His successes in these endeavors are clearly documented, but it was another, perhaps unconventional, interest that gained him national recognition and proved to be his greatest legacy. In this lesson, students will ponder the paradoxical nature of Stone’s life and his most important life work.

CONNECTION TO THE CURRICULUM

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3, and 4

TEACHING LEVELS

Grades 4 (with modifications) through 12

MATERIALS

Mississippi History Now article on Alfred Holt Stone

The Stone Collection on the Mississippi Department of Archives and History web site

OBJECTIVES

Students will:

• Describe and explain Alfred Holt Stone’s views on race;
• Describe the subject and components of the Stone Collection;
• Evaluate the importance of the Stone Collection.

OPENING THE LESSON

Place this quote from the article on the board or overhead: “As a tax commissioner and cotton planter, Alfred Holt Stone was an innovator. As a racial theorist, he was a traditionalist.” Ask students to write a definition of the terms innovator and traditionalist in their notes. Let them share their thoughts and help them develop a clear understanding of the meaning of the words. Teacher will then relate background information on Alfred Holt Stone, including date of birth, birthplace, career as a cotton planter and founder of Staplcotn, and his unprecedented service as Mississippi’s tax commissioner. Ask students to write a brief description in their notebooks of how Stone could be perceived as an innovator in each of these areas.

Tell students that Stone, in addition to his government and business careers, was an avid collector of information. Continue by telling them that there is a special collection of his in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Ask them to speculate on what the subject of the collection might be. Tell them that they will use the web site to solve the mystery.

DEVELOPING THE LESSON

1. Either in small groups or individually, allow students to access the web site of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to find the Alfred Hold Stone Collection. (Instructions at the end of plan.) Have them view the subject matter of the items in the collection and decide on a category name. They might suggest African-Americans, race, etc.

2. Remind students of the rest of the quote: “As a racial theorist, he was a traditionalist.” Ask students to write in their notebooks what they think the quote means, especially as it relates to the time period in which Mr. Stone lived.

3. Students will read the first three sections of the Mississippi History Now article to determine Mr. Stone’s racial views and to compare them with their notebook entry.

4. Ask students if it would be safe to assume that the following statement is true: “It is likely that the Alfred Holt Stone Collection of items regarding African Americans reflected his own traditionalist views of race.” (Display this on board or overhead.)

5. Students will read section 4 of the Mississippi History Now article to determine if the statement is correct. Let them share their findings aloud and have them write a rebuttal statement that reflects more accurately the composition of the Stone Collection. They should add both the original statement and their rebuttal to their notebooks.

6. Lead a class discussion in which students talk about the irony (may need to help them understand the meaning of the term) of Mr. Stone’s work in relation to his personal views on race. Based on the information in the article, have students discuss why they think Mr. Stone included diverse points of view in his collection.

7. Finally, help students understand the value of archival collections in the study of history. Have students scan the last section of the article and quote three statements in their notes that describe the value of Stone’s collection to the public.

CONCLUDING THE LESSON

1. On the board or overhead, place this statement: “Stone’s collection of articles and pamphlets at MDAH is his greatest legacy.” Ask students to write a paragraph detailing why they think the statement is true. If they disagree with the assertion, they should explain why.

2. Give students several archival web sites and ask them to make a list of primary resource collections that would be useful in studying and writing about a particular subject. Ask students how they might use such collections.

ASSESSING THE LESSON

1. Participation in large-group discussion
2. Completion of notebook exercises
3. Supporting paragraph

EXTENDING THE LESSON

1. Students may be interested in researching the history of Staplcotn and its current work.

2. Students may wish to explore Mr. Stone’s biography indepth by responding in a creative fashion to the following:

a. In what ways was Mr. Stone’s life remarkable?
b. What human qualities were most influential in shaping the way Mr. Stone believed?
c. In what ways was Mr. Stone’s life troubling?
d. Does his work reflect or challenge prevailing attitudes of the time?

Link to archival resource: Click on ON-LINE CATALOGUE, then under “Browse Specific Collections,” click on ALFRED HOLT STONE COLLECTION; then click on BROWSE FINDING AID.

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