Teachers Page

Grade Level(s): Grade 3

Age Levels(s): 8 7 9 year olds

Subject Area: History and Social Studies


  1. Students will be able to examine the life of William Henry Lewis as related to the experience of migrating from the South to the North
  2. Students will be able to identify examples of discrimination about his life by exploring newspapers articles during the time Lewis lived in Massachusetts
  3. Students will be able to compose a newspaper article about the incident between Lewis and a barber who refused to cut his hair

Curriculum Standards:

1. Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

2. Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.

3. Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.



Timeframe: 4 day (60 min lessons)

Student Foundational Skills:

Learning Activities and Organizational Notes:

Before starting this lesson,

(1) Pre-Assessment - Day 1

Mini Lesson on Black Migration to build background:

picture book great migration

Organizational Notes:

Activity 1:

  • Students will read the picture book, "The Great Migration" by Eloise Greenfield
  • Students will use the BPL map link -
  • to locate the following information:
    Portsmouth, Virginia,
    Northampton, Massachusetts (Amherst, MA)
    Boston, Massachusetts (Cambridge, MA)

(3) Activity 2:
*Students will look at a powerpoint to learn about William Henry Lewis's life.
*Students will fill in the blanks of a biography worksheet using the information obtained by the powerpoint -- William Henry Lewis PowerPoint.ppt

Activity 3:

. Students will read the article about the barber shop incident between Lewis and a white barber in 1893.
Article from Harvard University school newspaper, The Harvard Crimson dated May 26, 1893.
Article from The Critic, June 3, 1893 TheCritic-June3,1893-BostonLetter-a.pdf
The laws in Massachusetts were as follows: Massachusetts - Acts and Resolves 1885 Ch. 316 - ActsAndResolves1885mass-Chapter316.pdf

*Students will also discuss why a barber did not want to shave William Henry Lewis's hair by answering questions such as:
How do you think Lewis felt?
Have you ever been told that you can't get your hair cut or nails done, or any other that of service that everyone is entitled to?
Do you think some of these issues changed or gotten better over the years?

Excerpt from "In Freedom's Birthplace: A study of the Boston Negroes" by John Daniels
published in 1914 p. 95-96 THE NEGRO IN BOSTON

In 1893, William H. Lewis, a young Negro then attending Harvard University Law School, and an ardent recruit to the ranks of the agitators for equality, was refused service in a barber shop in Cambridge.^ He and Wilson went before the Legislature and asked that not only barber shops, but all places open to public patronage, be included in the scope of the law. The Act of 1885 was in consequence amended, and made to include "barber shops or other public places kept for hire, gain, or reward, whether licensed or not."^ The ast revision of the law was made two years later. It
increased the maximum fine to three hundred dollars, made imprisonment of not more than one year an alternative or additional penalty, and provided also for the recovery of damages, of not less than twenty-five nor more than three hundred dollars, by the person subjected to discrimination.^

By 1895, therefore, the Negro's civil rights — that is, his share in all public privileges of whatever sort — had been made fully equal, in Boston and Massachusetts, to those of other elements of the community. So far as it was possible for the law to accomplish, all obstacles to the Negro's largest opportunity were removed, and he was placed abreast of his white fellow-citizens.

Acts and Resolves, 1885, chap. 316.
Article from the Boston Daily Globe June 16, 1897 BostonDailyGlobe-1897-LovedByAll-a.pdf
Acts and Resolves of 1885 Ch. 316 amendment of 1893 - Acts and Resolves 1893 Ch. 436 ActsAndResolves1885mass-amendmentCh316.pdf
Civil Rights Laws in Massachusetts -

What did William Henry Lewis do?
What was William Henry Lewis' reaction to being denied service at the barber shop?
What changed after the barber shop incident?
Did things just change for William H. Lewis? Were changes made for other people too?

Organizational Notes:
Partner read the articles

*Students will use the information from the last few days to create a newspaper article about the barber shop incident.

Organizational Notes:
Provide graphic organizers


Assessments: Pre and Post Survey

Assessments: Limited to this lesson.

Assessment Questions:
1. You are writing a report about immigration in the 1800’s. You cannot find enough information in any of your social studies books. What other sources could you use to get information? Name three different primary sources.




2. Imagine that you want to learn about what everyday life was like 100 years ago in the place where you live.

Choose ONE of the items on the list below and circle it. Tell what information you could get from that item that would help you.

a. a map of the place from 100 years ago
b. a diary or journal from 100 years ago
c. a local newspaper from 100 years ago
d. an encyclopedia printed this year
e. a cemetery

3. Over the years, many Blacks have migrated from the South to the North of the United States. Give two reasons why you think Blacks have migrated.

4. What is one of the basic purposes of government in the United States?

a. To protect the rights of individuals
b. To have fire drills in public buildings
c. To elect a new President every four years
d. To keep criminals in federal prisons

Teacher Notes: