Lesson Plan

An American Success Story: The Pope House of Raleigh, NC

The Pope family outside their home
Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.3, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.6, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.8, 6-8.RH.9, 6-8.RH.10, 9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.3, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.5, 9-10.RH.6, 9-10.RH.7, 9-10.RH.8, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10
Additional Standards:
US History Era 6 Standard 2B: The student understands "scientific racism," race relations and the struggle for equal rights.
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies from the National Council for the Social Studies
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.

Essential Question

What was life like for a black middle class family in the early 20th century?


1. To list some of the values and objectives of the black middle class at the beginning of the 20th century;
2. To outline efforts made by Dr. Pope and other African Americans to gain civil rights in the years before the modern Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s;
3. To identify the attributes that helped Dr. M.T. Pope succeed as an African-American entrepreneur and citizen;
4. To research how race relations shaped their community, past and present.


Time Period: 1880-1920
Topics: This lesson could be used in teaching units on African-American history--including themes on segregation, the Jim Crow era, the growth of the black middle class, and the beginning of the movement for civil rights in the early 20th century.


On a busy street corner in downtown Raleigh, in the shadow of looming skyscrapers, sits a lonely, unassuming brick house. Built in 1901, this was the home of Dr. Manassa T. Pope, his wife Delia, and their two daughters, Ruth and Evelyn. Today, the Pope house sits as a lonely reminder that this area, known as the Fourth Ward, was once a thriving African-American neighborhood including stores, churches, businesses, and the homes of many black professionals.

For the Pope family, their home was a powerful symbol of this success. Though racial tensions were very high at the turn of the 20th century, the Popes refused to be treated like second-class citizens. The Popes and other members of the black middle class fought to maintain a high standard of living and show other African Americans that success was attainable through hard work and perseverance.

"The M.T. Pope House is significant to the city of Raleigh as a stalwart sentinel to both the worst and best of American society: It represents racial intolerance and segregation, but also the strength and dignity of those who refused to be subjugated by bigotry," according to the National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Pope House. "Its continued presence in a now stark commercial urban environment will remind generations to come of the dark days of segregation as well as of the strength and dignity of those who excelled in spite of it."

Lesson Hook/Preview

In the aftermath of the Civil War, black and white southerners struggled to renegotiate their roles in a society fundamentally changed by the abolition of slavery. African Americans looked for ways to enjoy their newfound freedom, assert their independence, and exercise their rights as American citizens. In 1869, the 15th amendment gave African-American men the right to vote. During and after Reconstruction, a certain number of black individuals were even elected to political office or received political appointments. Most African Americans were Republicans, because that was the party of Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves. Most elite white southerners--many of whom had owned slaves--were Democrats, while poorer whites gravitated towards smaller third parties broadly known as the Populists. During the 1890s, a political movement called Fusion attempted to unite the third parties with African Americans in the Republican Party.

White Democrats fought vigorously to destroy the Fusion movement, largely because people were beginning to unite across racial lines. Many feared that interracial partnership would lead to the end of white supremacy. To help preserve their position, white lawmakers began passing segregation laws, often called "Jim Crow" laws. This system has been defined by "the practice of legal and extralegal racial discrimination against African Americans"¹ and would curtail many of the freedoms which African Americans experienced following the Civil War. With the Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, it became legal to create separate public facilities for African Americans, ranging from transportation to schools. While some unofficial segregation had already been in practice, this was the beginning of segregation by law. Many whites also sought to strip African-American men of the franchise, or the right to vote, like they did in North Carolina in 1900 when the state passed an amendment to the state constitution adding a literacy requirement to be eligible for voting.

Many southern blacks would not stand for this kind of treatment and refused to be seen as second-class, unequal citizens. Members of the small but rapidly growing black middle class took responsibility for the leadership and encouragement of the African-American people. "The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men," wrote African-American intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois in 1903. "The Talented Tenth of the Negro race must be made leaders of thought and missionaries of culture among their people."

These so-called "Talented Tenth" took pride in their accomplishments, which became evident through their homes and possessions, photographs they took of their families, and in their public actions. They believed very strongly in education as the key to African-American advancement. The Pope family of Raleigh, NC was part of this middle-class African-American movement and wanted to set an example of success for other African Americans to follow.


Getting Started Prompt
Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
Readings: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
Optional post-lesson activities: If time allows, these will deepen your students' engagement with the topics and themes introduced in the lesson, and to help them develop essential skills.


"Talented Tenth"
scientific racism

Additional Resources

The Pope House (City of Raleigh)
Visit the Pope House website for more information about the history of the house and the Pope family, at the Raleigh, North Carolina Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources online resource.

Library of Congress
The Library of Congress digital collections offers a wide variety of resources about African-American history.

National Park Service Travel Itinerary
The Discover Our Shared Heritage online travel itinerary, We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement provides information on many places (in states across the U.S.) listed in the National Register of Historic Places for their association with the modern Civil Rights Movement. The travel itinerary Raleigh: A Capital City provides information on various National Register sites throughout Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, including the Dr. M.T. Pope House.

African-American material culture
The Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture contains artifacts and information on the role material culture plays in helping us to better understand the African-American historical and cultural experience.

Association of African American Museums 
This organizational site provides a centralized list of various African-American museums throughout the country.

American Radio Works-–Remembering Jim Crow
Remembering Jim Crow is an online documentary glimpse at the system of Jim Crow explored through text, pictures, audio clips and slide shows. Sponsored by American Radio Works, the web site features personal accounts offering different perspectives on how the system of Jim Crow affected individuals throughout the country. The site also offers a sampling of Jim Crow laws, with a particular section addressing those specifically related to education.

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Last updated: July 27, 2023