Goals and Objectives--Grades 6 - 8
Voices and Choices--Ruby Livingston
Note: It is a good idea to print
Level Two for easy reference.
Ruby Livingston has moved to Chicago from
Mississippi with her husband and three children. She needs to find
a job to help the family make ends meet.
These themes can be explored with either a social studies or
language arts curriculum. Use these themes to tie in other
resources to your class discussion, i.e., other books, other
cultures, students' own lives.
- "The Great Migration" of African Americans from their
homes in the rural South to the burgeoning urban centers of the
North over the first two decades of the twentieth century.
- economic reasons
- political and social reasons
- Use the story of Ruby and her family to explore issues of
segregation and racism towards the black community in America
in the first decades of the twentieth century.
- The hardships of urban life for families migrating from
rural areas who lacked the needed skills for an industrial
These questions, which come at the end of each story (minus "the
answer"), can be used to start class discussions or be assigned as
Where did Ruby and her husband live before moving to Chicago?
Is this place considered part of the deep South? Which states make
up the deep South?
Ruby and her husband migrated to Chicago from Mississippi. Many
consider Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Florida, and the
Carolinas to be part of the deep South.
What are the economic reasons that Ruby gives for leaving the
South? Do you know anyone who has moved to a new place in order to
get a better job?
Ruby and her husband, like many southern blacks, moved to
Chicago for the promise of greater economic opportunities than were
available to them in rural Mississippi. Many students may have
experienced this personally, either as a part of a family that
moved because a parent had taken a better job in another place, or
as a friend of someone whose family moved for economic reasons.
Before moving to Chicago, Ruby and her husband lived in a rural
community. What types of skills would they have learned growing up
in a rural area on a farm?
They would have had skills associated with managing and running
a farm, taking care of livestock, and planting and harvesting
What types of skills will Ruby and her husband have to learn in
order to make it in urban Chicago?
They will need skills associated with factory work or service
industries, such as working as a domestic servant. Ruby discovers
that she may need to learn the skill of making fabric flowers as a
means toward self-employment.
At the beginning of the 1900s, Illinois was ranked third in the
nation for manufacturing. What were the new industries that
provided families like Ruby's with jobs?
In what way are job opportunities limited for Ruby? What
emotional impact might these hardships have on Ruby?
Ruby is limited in her job opportunities for a number of
reasons: she is an African American woman born in a rural area and
does not have readily marketable skills for an industrial economy.
Like Ruby, many southern blacks were surprised and dismayed at the
hardships which faced them in Chicago. Many migrants referred to
the North as "the promised land" and believed that not only would
they find more economic opportunities in the North but that they
would find greater social equality in northern cities.
List the hardships that Ruby and her family are facing. How
does her family work together to solve these difficulties? Has your
family faced difficult times? How did you work together to get
Despite the hardships facing Ruby and her family--poverty,
unemployment, and poor housing--they work together to survive. The
difficulties they face make them a stronger family instead of a
weaker one. By finding their own stories of family solidarity in
times of trouble, students may better relate to Ruby's story.
These are suggested classroom activities and student projects
that you may want to use with your students or as models to create
1. Case Study: Understanding the Great Migration
The Great Migration took place during the first two decades of
the twentieth century. During this period of time, a massive number
of African Americans left their homes in the rural South and
migrated to northern cities like Chicago. The Great Migration
marked a major change in where African Americans chose to live in
the United States. In 1900 of the 8,883,994 African Americans
living in the United States only 911,025 (nearly ten percent) lived
in the North*. Most lived in the deep
South--Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Florida, and the
Carolinas. Due to rural poverty, racism, and segregation, men and
women--young and old--began to set out for the promise of a better
life in the cities of the North.
From 1900 to 1910, 366,880 African Americans migrated to
northern cities from the South. From 1910 to 1920 between 500,000
and 1,000,000 African Americans migrated to northern cities*.
*E. Marvin Goodwin,
Black Migration In America From 1915 to 1960: An Uneasy
Exodus, Wales: The Edwin Mellen Press, Ltd., 1990.
The Case Study Activity
In 1990 E. Marvin Goodwin interviewed 350 elderly black
residents of the city of Chicago, who moved to the city from
Mississippi between 1915 and 1960. Goodwin wanted to know why these
people had migrated to Chicago against great odds. Read the
following remarks taken from Goodwin's interviews and group them by
economic reasons and sentimental reasons for
Research the second wave of African American migration north,
following World War II.
- Where did these new migrants come from?
- What were the main "push factors" and
"pull factors" influencing these men and women to migrate
- Compare and contrast their motivations for moving with the
push/pull factors behind the Great Migration.
2. Parallel Experiences
The Great Migration was a movement within America, yet it was
like the immigration experiences of other ethnic groups. The
following passages are taken from a book written by Hilda
Polacheck, a Jewish woman who came to Chicago from Poland in 1892,
about her childhood in Chicago.
Like southern black families, most European immigrants arrived
in Chicago with little money and few possessions. Often the entire
family had to work in order to make ends meet. Like Ruby
Livingston, many immigrant women made cloth flowers with the help
of their children.
3. Imagined Conversations
Imagine a conversation taking place between Ruby Livingston and
Carlotta's mother. What might they say to each other? How might
they compare their
Write down the conversation alone or with a partner.
- living conditions
- work opportunities
- refer to Side by Sidefor more information on how
these "newcomers" compare.
- Think about the different ways in which Ruby
and Carlotta's mother express themselves in English.
- Can you re-create Ruby's southern dialect? Or
the Polish accent of Carlotta's mother?
- What different "dialects" exist in Chicago
today? Try to mimic one in writing and have your partner read it
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