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Lesson Plan August 15, 2023

The African Diaspora and the Development of American Culture


Lesson Summary: Students analyze how cultural traits diffuse and change, specifically focusing on the impact of African culture on culture in the U.S., and apply their analyses to the creation of a "What is American Culture" photo project. Downloads: Unit resources

This unit was created by the Brooks Eagles team as part of the 2022 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately four weeks, with two 100-minute blocks each week.


Students will be able to…

  1. Analyze elements of culture, and how cultures vary based on geography, resources , and shared history.
  2. Explain how the  interaction of people contributes to the spread of cultural practices.
  3. Illustrate how cultural ideas, practices, and innovations change or disappear over time.

Unit Overview

The main focus of this unit is on cultural patterns and processes that create recognized cultural identities.

A special focus will be on African American culture and the impact of African American culture on the greater cultural identity in the U.S.  

Students consider the effects of geographical location and available resources on cultural practices. Visuals representing artifacts, mentifacts and sociofacts all shed light on cultural landscapes and how they change over time. Students also practice analyzing images of different places at different times for evidence of the connections between place and ethnicity, language, religion, gender roles and attitudes, and other cultural attributes. This analysis builds students’ understanding of cultural patterns and processes. 

This unit also engages a temporal and spatial perspective to guide students in considering how culture spreads (i.e. traditional forces such as colonialism and imperialism and through contemporary influences such as social media). Students ultimately synthesize their analyses of the different ways cultures develop and spread to create an original project capturing images that reflect the ways that American culture has been influenced by different cultures throughout the world. The following outlines the scope and sequence of the unit: 

  • Week 1: The impacts of ethnocentrism on medical inequality, compare and contrast the terms ethnocentrism and cultural relativism, explore the impacts of sequent occupance in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, and ultimately compare and contrast the ways that the building of highways impacted African communities in Atlanta and Chicago.
  • Week 2: Students analyze the different kinds of cultural diffusion and review examples. They also analyze the history of languages and analyze the influence of African languages on the English language.
  • Week 3: Students examine the term “distance decay,” evaluate the way that African American culture developed in the U.S, analyze the history of several world religions, and ultimately evaluate the influence of African religions on how Christianity is practiced by Black communities in the U.S.
  • Week 4: Students explore different ways that cultures adapt and change and evaluate examples of acculturation, syncretism, assimilation, and multiculturalism. Students then apply their learning to a multiple choice exam, a writing task, and the creation of a final photo project.

Performance Task

Students will complete “What is an American” Culture Project. In this project, students will collect images of American culture that has developed due to the influx of various racial and ethnic groups to the U.S. Students will connect major concepts such as diffusion, sequent occupance, food, religion and language. This project is meant to be completed after students take the assessment on The 1619 project. 
Final Project “What is an American? Cultural Project” description [.pdf][.docx]


Students will take complete daily exit tickets to assess their knowledge of the standard covered during the period. There are also formative writing assessments for each week[.pdf][.docx]

At the end of the unit, the students will also take a summative exam which will include 40 multiple choice questions and selected writing prompts related to the materials presented from The 1619 Project. The exam will mimic the conditions the students will have when they take the AP Exam in May.

Multiple Choice Exam [.pdf][.docx]Writing Prompts [.pdf][.docx]


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