Lesson Plan

Discover Colonel Young's Protest Ride for Equality and Country: A Lightning Lesson from Teaching with Historic Places, featuring the historic Colonel Charles Young House

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.1, 6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.7, 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.7, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10, 11-12.RH.1, 11-12.RH.2, 11-12.RH.4, 11-12.RH.5, 11-12.RH.8, 11-12.RH.10
Additional Standards:
UCLA History in Schools US History Era 7
• Standard 3A: The student understands social tensions and their consequences in the postwar era.
• Standard 2C: The student understands the impact at home and abroad of the United States involvement in World War I
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 motivated African Americans to volunteer for a segregated military during WWI?


1. Describe how racism affected 20th century military service and how Col. Charles Young challenged it;
2. Develop and defend a theory to explain why Americans volunteer to serve in the military;
3. Investigate, analyze, and report on an optional activity: Bias in news reporting and its challenge for historians; Civil rights and the U.S. military; OR A local history investigation at a nearby cemetery.


Time Period: Late 19th and Early 20th Century through World War I.
Topics/Themes: This lesson can be used in history and social studies curricula to cover topics related to civil rights and military service, African American history, World War I, and history investigations through local cemeteries.


When the United States entered World War I, segregation was entrenched in military culture as well as civilian society. It put barriers up to prevent African Americans from enlisting. Despite this, about 380,000 African Americans served in the U.S. military during the war.

Colonel Charles Young was the highest-ranking African American Army officer in 1918. Despite an impressive leadership record, the Army refused Young’s request to command troops in Europe. Military leaders told him he was not healthy enough to serve.

To prove his fitness, Young made a difficult ride on horseback from his home in Wilberforce, Ohio to Washington, D.C. His brave display failed to persuade the Secretary of War. Young did not lead soldiers in Europe, but he fought for respect on the Homefront.

Lesson Hook/Preview

What motivated African Americans to volunteer for a segregated military during WWI? What historic place might you study to answer this question?


  1. Getting Started Prompt
  2. Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
  3. Readings: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
  4. Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
  5. 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.


Buffalo Soldiers
Jim Crow

Related Lessons or Education Materials

Find out more about this resource and download all of the lesson's materials, standards, and resources at the Teaching with Historic Places website: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/teachingwithhistoricplaces/lightning-lesson-002_charles-young-house.htm

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Last updated: September 19, 2018