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Tobacco: Relationship between Race and Occupation

Subject: Eighth-grade, Social Studies
Written by:
Seth Brown and Sam Newell, Pitt County Schools, Greenville, NC; modified by Maury York, Joyner Library, East Carolina University

Lesson Plan Format


Students will explore the relationship between race and employment in the tobacco industry.



Competency Goal 5: The learner will evaluate the impact of political, economic, social and technological changes on life in North Carolina from 1870 to 1930.

Objective 5.01: Identify the role played by the agriculture, textile, tobacco, and furniture industries in North Carolina, and analyze their importance in the economic development of the state.

Skill Competency Goal 2: The learner will acquire strategies to access a variety of sources, and use appropriate research skills to gather, synthesize, and report information using diverse modalities to demonstrate the knowledge acquired.

Objective 2.02: Explore print and non-print materials.

Time Required for Lesson:
One class period.

Materials/Supplies Needed:
Access to the Internet and the Eastern North Carolina Digital History Exhibits; pencils and paper.

Recommended Digital Resources:

1900 Census for Pitt County, North Carolina (

Contextual information about tobacco processing found by clicking on the Read More about the Pitt County Digital Tobacco History Exhibit link (

Lesson Plan Format

Focus and Review:
The teacher will explain that tobacco production has changed considerably with technological advances. In the late 19th / early 20th century, the complicated processing of tobacco involved a variety of skills. America was a racially segregated society during this time period. The teacher should introduce/ review the concept of Jim Crow in American society. Students should make predictions on the impact of race on job opportunity in tobacco production.

Statement of Objectives/Inquiry Formation:
Students will determine if race affected the job opportunities available for tobacco workers.

Teacher Input:
Teacher will demonstrate how to navigate the Eastern North Carolina Digital History Exhibits web page ( Students will click on the Tobacco Exhibit link; click on the Census link; click on the Search by Last Name or Occupation link. Students should search the 1900 Pitt County census data for occupations containing the word “tobacco.” The teacher will need to point out the list of occupations reflected in the database. The teacher can note that certain types of occupations require more skill than others.

Group Activities:
Groups will be assigned different occupations to research in order to determine the race of individuals based on that occupation. Some jobs have few individuals and some have many. The group will create a chart that shows the name, occupation, and race of individuals.

Students will then “Jigsaw” their charts with other group’s charts so that the new groups have information on all the occupations. With this complete product, students can draw conclusions on the impact of race in tobacco production.

Individual Activities:
Students will write a paragraph on how the data they found compared to their prediction at the beginning of class.

Reflection and Closure:
The teacher will lead a class discussion to determine if all the groups reached the same conclusion and question them on why they made their conclusion. The teacher will ask for observations by students about how their data compares to their predictions.

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Page Updated 01 September 2004
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