With Art & Industry: 1890-1920

Teachers Level Two

Learning Goals and Objectives--Grades 6 - 8

Voices and Choices--Ruby Livingston
Note: It is a good idea to print Level Two for easy reference.

Voices and Choices

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.


What do you think?

These questions, which come at the end of each story (minus "the answer"), can be used to start class discussions or be assigned as homework.

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 crops.

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?
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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 through them?

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 your own.

1. Case Study: Understanding the Great Migration

Background Information:

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*.

More about:
*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 migrating.

Follow-up Activity

Research the second wave of African American migration north, following World War II.


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.


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