Tobacco Mechanization Primary Source Lesson Plan

The Tobacco Mechanization Primary Source Lesson Plan teaches high school students about the changing North Carolina tobacco economy of the 20th century, and allows students to interpret change over time, the roles of African American and white laborers, class differences, and technological progression. Tobacco is a controversial crop, but industry’s development with mechanization created major changes for the laborers over time. This projects encourages students to think about technological advancement and question empowerment in terms of who benefits or suffers from agricultural advancement.

I strongly encourage history teachers in US History, AP/IB US History, and Vocational Agriculture to utilize this lesson plan. The full lesson plan combines a guide on how to identify primary sources – textual documents, media, and oral histories – with a guided question and DBQ on tobacco mechanization primary sources. Teachers can use the “What is a Primary Source? A How-To Guide for High School Students,” for any primary source activity if they do not wish to discuss tobacco mechanization.

The lesson plan utilizes photographs, documents, and newspapers housed in the NCSU Libraries, Special Collections Research Center. The plan was co-written and produced by Rebecca Lowe, Steffi King, and Sarah Matter for the digital history exhibit “Agricultural Empowerment in Academics, Research, and Extension.”

Download the PDF of the “What is a Primary Source? A How-To Guide for High School Students” here: PrimarySourceLessonPlan_Basic

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