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Chinese in Mississippi: An Ethnic People in a Biracial Society lesson plan

OVERVIEW

The emancipation of African slaves as a result of the American Civil War left Mississippi’s dominant Anglo-American society without an adequate labor force and a tradition of white supremacy in upheaval. Ironically, this situation provided numerous opportunities for persons of other ethnic backgrounds to immigrate to the state; its history of intolerance to “different” people notwithstanding. In this lesson, students will explore the ways Mississippians related to a new ethnic group introduced to the state in the 1870s: the Chinese.

CURRICULAR CONNECTIONS

Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies: Competencies 1, 3, and 4.

TEACHING LEVELS

Grades 4 (with modification) through 12.

MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT

Mississippi County outline maps

Transparencies (optional)

OBJECTIVES

Students will:

determine when and why people of Chinese ancestry immigrated to Mississippi.

show on a map the region of the state where most Chinese settled and explain why.

describe how the Chinese have handled the challenges of living in the state.

identify examples of ways the Chinese culture and American Southern culture have interacted.

illustrate the changing Chinese population, using a graph.

OPENING THE LESSON

Teacher will read the following quote to the class:

Imagine how hard it must have been for the first ones who came to Mississippi:
strangers in another land; separated from ... family and home; and isolated by race, culture, and language. (Sung Gay Chow, “A Personal View of the Mississippi Chinese” in Mississippi Writers, Volume II, p. 97)

Without mentioning the author, have students free-write for two minutes on the group of people described in the quote. Ask them to share their impressions with the entire class. Identify the author. Students will now write for another two minutes on what they know about the Chinese who live in the state. After they finish, ask them to check their information and perceptions as the lesson proceeds.

DEVELOPING THE LESSON

1.

Ask students to write in their notes the following questions: “When did Chinese first come to Mississippi?” and “Why did they come?” Students will read the first two sections of the Mississippi History Now essay to find answers to the questions. With a partner, let them discuss the “when” and “why.”

2.

Now that students know “why” the Chinese first came to Mississippi, they may be able to speculate “where” they settled. Ask leading questions to assist students in connecting the “why” with the “where.” (EXAMPLE: If the Chinese came to be laborers in the cotton fields, which region of the state produced the most cotton?)

3.

Distribute outline maps of Mississippi which indicate county boundaries. Ask students to scan the Mississippi History Now article through the Triethnic society subhead to find place names of counties and cities where the Chinese settled. They will locate and label these places on their maps.

4.

Lead students to briefly discuss the white-dominated society of Mississippi, post-Civil War. Have them think about how whites related to blacks and ask students to predict how whites would relate to the Chinese.

5.

Students will carefully read the entire Mississippi History Now article to list challenges faced by the Chinese, both historically and currently.

6.

Ask students to construct a DECISION CHART on their paper. The activity will include these headings: CHALLENGE/PROBLEM; DECISION/RESPONSE; IS DECISION A GOOD ONE? WHY?

7.

On a transparency or board, teacher will list the “challenges” that the students found as they read the Mississippi History Now article. As the class determines the major challenges, they will list these in their DECISION CHART.

8.

Students will now complete the chart to show how the Chinese responded to living in Mississippi. Students will also personally evaluate the Chinese response.

9.

Using their DECISION CHART, students will compose an essay explaining their evaluation of the decisions made by the Chinese people.

10.

Ask students to “brainstorm” ways the cultures of Mississippi have interacted. Have them consider both positive and negative aspects.

11.

Using the population statistics quoted in the Mississippi History Now article, have students prepare a bar graph showing the Chinese population of Mississippi from the 1870s to the present. (Students may fill in missing years by doing research on the Web.)

CONCLUDING THE LESSON

1.

Students will write a response to this question: How do Mississippians respond today to immigrants from diverse backgrounds? Compare/contrast with how the Chinese were treated.

2.

Using their free-writing exercises, have students check for accuracy.

ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING

1.

Participation in class discussion.

2.

Map completion

3.

Decision Chart

4.

Essay

5.

Population Graph

EXTENDING THE LESSON

1.

Plan a “Chinese Ethnic Day.” Students will demonstrate elements of Chinese culture, including food, music, arts, holidays, etc.

2.

Have a guest of Chinese ethnicity visit the classroom.

3.

Lots of helpful information and suggestions including a pronunciation guide for common Chinese phrases can be found at http://www.teachervision.com/lesson-plans/lesson-6603.html.

4.

Have students read “A Personal View of the Mississippi Chinese” by Sung Gay Chow for ways it supports the Mississippi History Now article. Ask students to share any other insights they may gain from the second article, including similarities between the Chinese and traditional Southern cultures mentioned by the author.

5.

Some students may want to think about this experience of a Chinese man in Mississippi:
“As a kid, my first encounter with segregation signs was at a café in the Delta. It had one door for ‘colored’ and one door for ‘white’ and I didn’t know which one to go into. I had to make a decision about whether I was white or colored. I didn’t choose either. So, I didn’t go in.” (Wilson Wong quoted in Ethnic Heritage in Mississippi, p. 173.)

6.

Research other Asian ethnic groups who have settled in Mississippi.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

1.

Abbott, Dorothy, editor. Mississippi Writers, Reflections of Childhood and Youth, Volume 11, University Press of Mississippi, 1986.

2.

Carpenter, Barbara, editor. Ethnic Heritage in Mississippi, University Press of Mississippi, 1992.

3.

Wilson, Charles Reagan and Ferris, William. co-editors, Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, University of North Carolina Press, 1989.

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