In this lesson, students will learn about Buffalo Soldiers using the Blacks in the West Mini Page. Students will compare what they learn from the Mini Page with Bob Marley’s song "Buffalo Soldiers." Then students will choose another group of people or a social movement to compare the Buffalo Soldiers to, similar to the way Marley compared them to Rastafarians, and they will write their own song lyrics to demonstrate the connection. This lesson allows students to make connections between different groups across history.
A lesson plan for grades 11–12 English Language Arts and Social Studies
Provided by UNC Libraries / Southern Historical Collection
- learn and conduct research about Buffalo Soldiers in the 1800s.
- conduct research about Rastafarians in Jamaica and learn about how they are similar to Buffalo Soldiers.
- compare another historical or contemporary group to Buffalo Soldiers.
- demonstrate their understanding of Buffalo Soldiers by answering questions and writing a song.
Three 90-minute class periods, though students may need more time to work on the final project
- Copies of the Buffalo Soldiers Handout — one per student
- Copies of Rastafarians and Buffalo Soldiers Handout — one per student
- Copies of the Songwriting Instructions handout — one per student
- Copies of the Songwriting Planning Sheet — one per student
- Copies of the Songwriting Rubric — one per student
- Computer with internet connected to a multimedia projector
- Computer lab or individual student computers
- Access to the video intro on the Shadow Soldier site
- Access to the Blacks in the West Mini Page
- Access to the “Buffalo Soldier” video on YouTube
- Access to the Rastafari and Slavery article
- Access to this Profile of Bob Marley from the BBC
- This lesson will be most successful if students are already knowledgeable about slavery in the US.
- This whole lesson could be done in pairs or groups, if desired. If so, teachers should decide who will work together and notify students beforehand.
- As the work is easiest completed on the computer, teachers should load the documents on student computers or post the handouts to the course website so they are ready for students to use.
Part one: Buffalo Soldiers in the Mini Page
- Tell students that they will first watch the video to give them an idea of what they’ll be doing in this lesson. Ask them to get out a piece of paper, as they will be writing a short response afterward.
- Show students the Shadow Soldier video intro. Click the link that says “go directly to the final cut.”
- After the video ask students to jot down their reactions.
- How did this video make them feel?
- What did it make them think about?
- Give them a few minutes to respond, and then ask student volunteers to share what they wrote. Tell students that in this lesson they will look through this “prism” and learn more about Buffalo Soldiers.
- Next, tell students that they will be using the Mini Page to learn about Buffalo Soldiers and then finding more information online. This information will help them with later parts of the lesson when they will compare the Buffalo Soldiers with another group of people, so they should keep this in mind during their search.
- Project the Buffalo Soldiers Handout on the board. Show students how to control-click on the link in the document to get to the website. Stress that on the second page, students will have to look through the websites to gather their information. Every question cannot be answered by each site, so they will be using their research skills. Remind students of your established procedure for working on the computer (saving to the desktop/ flash drive/ etc.) and how you want them to name their files (groupname, groupmember1_groupmember2, etc.).
- Divide students into groups of two to four sudents, ensure everyone knows how to access the Buffalo Soldiers Handout, and allow students to begin working. Walk around the room to monitor students and answer questions.
- About 10-15 minutes before the end of the class, have students save and turn in their work using your preferred method. Ask the students to share what they have learned with the class and facilitate a brief discussion.
- Tell students that in the next activity, they will be examining another text on Buffalo Soldiers.
Part two: Marley’s “Buffalo Soldiers”
- To introduce this part of the lesson, ask students to recap what they learned in the previous activity. Use this time to clarify any misunderstandings.
- Explain to students that the story of the Buffalo Soldiers has been inspirational to many and that they will watch a video from a music artist.
- Direct students to open the Rastafarians and Buffalo Soldiers Handout on their computer. Tell students that now they only need to look at the lyrics on the first page.
- Ask the students to watch the video carefully and jot down things they notice that relate to what they learned in the previous activity. Play the music video, giving students a few minutes to take notes afterwards and write down any questions they have.
- Ask students what they noticed about the video, and make a list on the board of their observations. They will likely say things like the people were wearing army uniforms, had dreadlocks, the song was about the soldiers fighting, etc. If it is not brought up, ask the students if they heard the word Rasta, and if anyone knows that that means. Allow them to speculate, and tell them that Rastas, or Rastafarians, are practitioners of a religion that has specific political beliefs, begun in the country of Jamaica.
- Using the computer and projector, show students a map so they can locate Jamaica. Bob Marley, who wrote this song, was a Rastafarian. They will be doing some internet research to find out about him and Rastafarians. Then they will analyze why Bob Marley chose to compare the Rastas to the Buffalo Soldiers.
- Redirect students to the Rastafarians and Buffalo Soldiers Handout on the computer. If needed, remind them how to access the websites from the handout. Go over the handout and answer questions as needed. Tell students to look through the Rastafari and Slavery article carefully, and to look up any words they don’t know.
- Divide students into groups (two to four students per group is ideal) and instruct them to begin working. Walk around the room while students work to monitor and answer any questions.
- About 10-15 minutes before the end of class, have students save and turn in their work using your preferred method. Ask students to share some things they learned, were surprised by, and/or found interesting. Tell students that in the next activity they will be working on their own Buffalo Soldier comparison.
Part three: Song writing
Before starting this activity, make sure students will have access to the Songwriting Instructions, Songwriting Planning sheet, and Song Rubric on the computer.
- Start by facilitating a discussion about the previous two activities. Make a three-column chart on the board with “Buffalo Soldiers,” “Marley’s song,” and “similarities” and have students fill it in. Tell students they can use their work from the previous activities.
- Once the charts are complete, talk with students about Bob Marley’s song specifically. What do they see as the main points or themes of the song? They should come up with answers like slavery and resistance of slavery, survival, African ancestry, etc.
- Tell students that now they will work to write their own song lyrics, comparing the Buffalo Soldiers to a group of their choice, as Marley compared them to the Rastas.
- Project the Songwriting Instructions handout and review the directions with the students. Stress that the historical details and connection between the groups are the most important aspect of this assignment.
- Next, tell students that they will use a brainstorming sheet to guide them through the creative process. Project the Songwriting Planning Sheet, and go over it with the students. Stress that each step is necessary to create a successful song, and this will ensure they are thinking carefully about the theme or focus of their song. Tell students that they should spend at least 20 minutes on this planning sheet before starting to write their song.
- Once students understand the planning process, project the Song Rubric and go over it with the students. Tell students that before they turn in their song, they should check that they have met the requirements.
- Divide students into their pairs or groups, make sure each group has at least one computer, and allow them to being working. Circulate around the groups to monitor. Remind them of the time remaining every so often.
- About 15-20 minutes before the end of class, have students save and turn in their work (if completing it on the computer).
- Have each group read their song to the class. Afterward, ask the students if they could understand what the comparison group was and what the main focus or theme of the song was. If desired, have students vote on their favorite.
Students could research different ways Buffalo Soldiers have been referenced in pop culture.
- The main assessment is the song, so teachers should check that students demonstrate knowledge of Buffalo Soldiers as well as making a solid comparison between them and another group. Use the rubric to assess student work. The first two activities are best completed as group work, though they could be completed individually if desired. The final assignment could be completed in pairs or individually.
- The following answer keys can be used to check students’ handouts:
Instead of writing a song, students could write a narrative, an essay, or make a poster/multimedia presentation.
The following links may be used for background information for this lesson:
- Common Core State Standards
- English Language Arts (2010)
- Grades 11-12
- 11-12.LH.6 Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
- Grades 11-12
Reading: Informational Text
- Grade 11-12
- 11-12.RIT.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
- Grade 11-12
- English Language Arts (2010)
- North Carolina Essential Standards
- Social Studies (2010)
United States History I
- USH.H.1 Apply the four interconnected dimensions of historical thinking to the United States History Essential Standards in order to understand the creation and development of the United States over time. USH.H.1.1 Use Chronological thinking to: Identify the...
- USH.H.7 Understand the impact of war on American politics, economics, society and culture. USH.H.7.1 Explain the impact of wars on American politics through Reconstruction (e.g., Issues of taxation without representation, Proclamation of 1763, Proclamation...
- Social Studies (2010)