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Cotton and a Global Economy: Mississippi, 1800-1860 lesson plan

OVERVIEW

Students may be surprised to learn of the dominant role Mississippi played in the global economy of the early 19th century.  In this lesson, students will explore the particulars of the cotton economy from 1800 to 1860 in the United States, and uncover an astonishing series of connections and relationships that could lead them to a new understanding of antebellum Mississippi.

CURRICULAR CONNECTIONS

Mississippi Studies Framework:  Competencies 1 - 4.

TEACHING LEVELS

Grades 4 (with modifications) through 12.

MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT

Mississippi History Now article, “Cotton and a Global Economy: Mississippi, 1800-1860”

Graphing paper, colored pencils, markers

Butcher paper

OBJECTIVES

The student will:

create an illustrated sequence chain indicating the impact of national and international factors on antebellum Mississippi’s economy;

illustrate the interconnectedness of the antebellum cotton market to the global economy by tracing the route of a bale of cotton from its production to its final destination; 

construct a graphic presentation, using population and trade data from the article, to demonstrate the relationship between Mississippi’s international trade connections (especially with Great Britain) and its population growth during the antebellum period;

explain why they think America’s economic community ignored the moral issues of slavery;

compose an editorial for a period newspaper explaining Mississippi’s dominate role in the mid-19th century global economy.

OPENING THE LESSON

1.

Administer the following TRUE/FALSE pre-assessment to students:

a.

Mississippi and Alabama were the first areas in America to have slaves working the fields.

b.

Prior to the Civil War, there were approximately four million slaves in the United States, with all of them located in the southern states.

c.

Most of the cotton produced in Mississippi and other southern states was purchased by textile mills in the northern part of the United States.

d.

Mississippi’s population growth, both before its admission to statehood and afterwards, is directly related to the rise of cotton production.

e.

New York played a dominant role in Mississippi’s cotton economy.

f.

At one point, Mississippi was the most dynamic and largest cotton-producing state in the United States.

g.

The total slave population never outnumbered the white population of Mississippi.

h.

Mississippi was once the center of the world cotton market.

2.

Ask students to write their answers in their notebooks or on a copy of the pre-assessment.  Allow them time to share their responses with other members of the class.  Teacher may want to lead a discussion to determine if students reached a consensus on any of the statements.   Tell the students that they will have opportunities to determine the accuracy of their answers as they continue the lesson.

DEVELOPING THE LESSON

1.

Place the following series of events on either the board, overhead, or make copies for the students:

a.

Mississippi’s population grows substantially.

b.

New inventions in Great Britain revolutionize the textile industry.

c.

British demand for cotton increases.

d.

Mississippi becomes the largest cotton-producing state.

e.

British industries are mass producing textiles.

f.

American cotton production soars.

g.

There is an increased demand for slaves in Mississippi.

Ask students to read the Mississippi History Now article, and to pay close attention to information regarding these events.

2.

Ask the class if they could see any cause/effect connections in the events.  Have them return to the article and place the events in a proper sequence in their notebooks.

3.

In small groups, have students construct a sequence chain, a series of blocks and arrows, to show how main events proceed from one to the next due to cause/effect connections.  These will be drawn on butcher paper and displayed in the classroom so that the class can discuss any differences of opinion.

4.

Still working in groups, ask students to collect specific information/data from the article which supports each segment of the chain.  They will then add this to their chains, using different colored markers.  Students can also add small, colorful illustrations if they wish.

5.

Lead a class discussion or give a writing assignment to let students show their understanding of the objective.   Emphasize how a series of national and international events enabled Mississippi to become the center of the world cotton market during the antebellum period.

6.

Have students produce a small outline map of the world (or provide one for them); Ask them to name the three geographic areas most affected by this story of cotton production:  Mississippi, New York, and Great Britain.  Have students diagram the route of a bale of cotton from its production to its final destination.  Students should indicate what is happening to the cotton at each juncture.  In a class discussion, have students discuss the connections among the three areas.  Ask them to remove the Great Britain connection and then formulate various scenarios illustrating the significance of such an event.

7.

Students need practice in using data as a learning tool.  Have students interpret the following information in the article:  Mississippi population statistics;  U.S. cotton production/export figures, and British manufacturing/export data.   Prepare questions  to help them understand how events in Great Britain had a direct impact on Mississippi’s population growth and how America’s economic prosperity was predicated on the institution of slavery.  Additionally, ask them to identify reasons why they think the American business community, North and South, ignored slavery’s tragic human toll.   These answers could be turned in for credit.  Discuss the information with them, focusing on the connections between increased production and increased population.  In small groups, have students design a schematic showing this information for classroom display.

8.

Assign students to write an editorial for a period newspaper explaining Mississippi’s position in the center of the world cotton economy during the years prior to the Civil War.  (Teacher may wish to provide a rubric for this assignment.)

CONCLUDING THE LESSON

1.

Ask students to return to the TRUE/FALSE activity at the beginning of the lesson.  Allow them to change answers based on what they have learned in the lesson.

2.

Allow time for students to discuss any changes in their understandings of antebellum Mississippi.

ASSESSING STUDENT LEARNING

1.

Participation in class discussions and group work

2.

Construction of sequence chain

3.

Writing assignment (if used)

4.

Map showing route of cotton bale

5.

Questions interpreting population data

6.

Editorial

EXTENDING THE LESSON

1.

If there is an operating cotton gin in the community, students could take a tour to learn how cotton seeds are extracted and the fibers are baled.

2.

Having a local cotton farmer and/or cotton buyer explain today’s cotton growing and marketing process would be interesting and would provide information for students to compare/contrast the two time periods.

3.

Ask a student to research how much cotton is now produced in Mississippi and what percentage of the state’s gross domestic product is represented by that figure.  Challenge a student to investigate Mississippi’s current role in the global cotton economy by contacting the National Cotton Council in Memphis, Tennessee, or the Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Department.

4.

Divide the class into small groups.  Assign each group one of the segments of the sequence chain.  Ask them to speculate on how the absence of their segment would have affected the chain.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

1.

Scarborough, William K. “Heartland of the Cotton Kingdom” in A History of Mississippi,Vol.1, edited by Richard Aubrey McLemore, 310-351.  Jackson:  University & College Press of Mississippi, 1973.

2.

Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce website:  http://www.mdac.state.ms.us (accessed September 2006)

3.

National Cotton Council website: http://www.cotton.org (accessed September 2006)
 

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