Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Who Moves to Kansas? The Exoduster Migration
Kate Sutter
American History
Time Frame:
60 minutes
Civil War

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Students will use primary documents to determine the views and dreams of freedmen in the Exoduster migration to Kansas using a photo of an Exoduster family in NE, the Kansas Emigrant Song, and NARA’s document analysis form.


Students seem to have a good grasp on the buffalo, the gold rush, and the wagon trains of the West, but overlook the experience of minorities, such as freedmen, the Irish, and Chinese during the Expansion period

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

Show Me Standards:

2. Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world

6. Relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions

7. The use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)

Course Level Expectations

3aI - Analyze the evolution of American democracy, its ideas, institutions and political processes from Reconstruction to the present, including:

  1. Reconstruction
  2. Struggle for civil rights

5D - Distinguish major patterns and issues with regard to population distribution, demographics, settlements, migrations, cultures and economic systems in the United States and world

            7A – distinguish between and analyze primary and secondary sources

7C – distinguish between sources to recognize bias and point of view

            7F – interpret primary documents

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Full description of activity or assignment.
  1. Introduce the lesson by informally accessing prior knowledge of the MO/KS Border War before and during the Civil War, key vocabulary terms like migration and the prefix “ex-“ and understanding of hardships faced by freedmen in the South and all in the West.
  2. Divide students into halves (for stations) or smaller groups if desired.  Each group, regardless of size, will receive either :
    1. The Kansas Emigrant song and NARA Document Analysis
    2. A secondary reading on Exodusters and the Exoduster Family Photograph ws.
  3. Students will be given an appropriate amount of time (est. 20 min) to complete their “station.”
  4. Students can then stay in these groups to complete the opposite assignment or can be re-shuffled in a “Jigsaw” or “Sage and Scribe” cooperative learning structure to teach their peers what they have just learned.  The teacher will have to decide if they prefer practicing cooperative techniques or analysis methods with the particular class.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • An answer key for the Exoduster Family Photograph worksheet has been provided.
  • The teacher will grade the NARA Document Analysis worksheet for accuracy.
  • An “Exit Ticket” question can have students free write or answer a specific question targeting the teacher’s specific learning goal.  Examples:
  • What were 2 hopes and 2 realities experienced by Exodusters?
  • How did the end of Reconstruction feed into the Exoduster migration?
  • List 3 things you learned specifically from the song and photograph.