African Immigrant Communities

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African Immigrant Communities

In this lesson, students will learn about immigrant communities, and how aid societies benifited their development.

Essential Questions

How does continuity and change within Pennsylvania history influence your community today?


Students will be able to:

  • Identify the role that mutual aid societies play in the African immigrant community in Philadelphia by studying the various community organizations that exist for immigrants.
  • Understand why aid societies are beneficial to immigrants by engaging in discussion and introspection on how these organizations serve the African immigrant population in Philadelphia.
  • Demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the African immigrant community by working collaboratively to create their own example of a mutual aid society.

Suggested Instructional Procedures

  1. Pass out copies of the Directory of Community Resources and have students review the various community associations.
  2. Have students identify where they live on a Philadelphia map. Have students determine whether they live near or know someone who lives near an African immigrant community. Using “Directory of African Community Resources,” identify African immigrant businesses, places of worship, and or gathering places near you.
  3. Guide class discussion by asking the following questions:
    • What if the water dried up or there was war in this country and you had to move to another country, what would you miss?
    • Would you try to find other people from the United States who may be living in your new country?
    • Would you try to get some of your needs met through associations?
    • How do mutual aid societies serve the African immigrant community in Philadelphia?
  4. Using direct instruction, emphasize that one way students might meet people from the United States is through associations. Ask students why immigrants might need/desire a mutual aid association.
  5. Have students create their own mutual aid association as African immigrants either in groups or as a class. What are their needs and how might an association help them meet them? Students need to decide on the association’s activities, membership qualifications, and services to members. Students must also decide whether their association will have a formal or informal structure and the advantages/disadvantages of each option. Students may choose to run their association like a club or may formalize the association as a mock non-profit corporation by writing By-laws and electing officers. Based on your class, provide a structure for making these decisions that would work the most effectively. Possible end results include:
    • Mutual Aid Society constitution: split the class into several groups, each of which is in charge of a specific component or work together as a class to write the constitution.
    • Dealing with an issue: once the structure has been decided, the class should be presented with an issue that the mutual aid society must deal with. They must come up with a solution and plan based on their rules.


Mutual aid association: an organization whose purpose is not primarily to distribute earnings to its members but to assist, benefit, or protect them in some common matters or objectives : a beneficial association
Community: a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage