Evolution of African American Musicians

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Evolution of African American Musicians

This lesson will focus on an African American musician in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania history. The teacher will present a PowerPoint about Marian Anderson who was born and raised in Philadelphia and who went on to become one of the most beloved voices of the 20th century while breaking barriers as a classically trained black woman and a Civil Rights activist. The teacher will use this presentation as an example with which to teach students about online research resources, proper modes of citation, PowerPoint design, and presentation strategies. Students will then choose one out of the following two historical musicians local to Philadelphia and Pennsylvania: Francis Johnson or H.T. Burleigh. Students will conduct independent research and create their own PowerPoints.

Essential Questions

How can the story of another Pennsylvanian, past or present, influence your life?
How does continuity and change within Pennsylvania history influence your community today?
How does continuity and change within the United States history influence your community today?


Students will be able to:

  • Conduct independent research on a historical figure of their choice by utilizing the online research resources including the Historical Society of Pennsylvania digital library.
  • Analyze textual, visual, and aural primary resources and apply them to their presentation through document study.
  • Synthesize their primary and secondary source evidence into a coherent narrative to put into their PowerPoint through document study and the use of PowerPoint skills.
  • Evaluate different genres of African American music by comparing and contrasting primary sources.
  • Present on their research in a cohesive and coherent way by preparing their primary and secondary sources in a PowerPoint with a clear oral presentation.

Suggested Instructional Procedures

  1. First, the teacher will present the PowerPoint to the class. The PowerPoint begins by outlining the life of Marian Anderson and her significance in United States, and specifically Pennsylvania, as a classically trained, world-renowned black opera singer, Civil Rights activist, and local Philadelphian. This presentation will be used as an example for the students to follow later in the unit.
  2. Afterward, the teacher will present the suggested resources in the PowerPoint as well as hand out the Research Resources sheet to their students. This guide is a list of suggested online sources for students to use for independent research. Teachers may add their own sources at their discretion, including non-online resources. The Research Resources for Lesson 1 makes up most but not all of the suggested resources. The other suggested resources can be found on the Research Resources handout sheet and in the Lesson 2 PowerPoint.
  3. Students should pay careful attention to citation. A Citation Guide handout is provided along with a guide on the Lesson 1 PowerPoint.
  4. Students will then use the rest of the class time doing independent research or continue research for homework. They will choose one historical figure from the African American music scene in Pennsylvania: Francis Johnson or H.T. Burleigh. They will use the teacher’s PowerPoint as a model.


Civil Rights Movement:  Any movement working for the civil rights of a particular group or minority; spec. a movement in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s aimed at abolishing racial discrimination and improving the civil rights of African Americans.

Activist: A person engaged in or advocating vigorously for political or social change.

DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution): Membership service organization for women who are directly descended from a person involved in the American Revolutionary War.