Black American Historical Figures (Vocabulary and RC - Passage)

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This is a vocabulary and passage reading comprehension session whose theme is centered on African-American freedom fighters.
1. Black American
Historical Figures
Vocabulary + Listening Comprehension Activities
Jenna Rayburn Kirk, M.A. CCC-SLP
2. Activity Directions:
Print one copy of every card. This download includes activities for listening comprehension and
vocabulary related to American Black Historical Figures. Twelve different historical figures are
Listening Comprehension: Read to your student or have your student read one of the 24
different information cards. Use the teacher comprehension question sheet (pages 15-16) to ask
comprehension questions and lead discussion. Identify the highlighted vocabulary word in the
passage. Scaffold support to have your student use context clues to identify the meaning of the
term. Review the vocabulary terms when finished by matching the word to its definition.
Copyright © 2013-2020 Jenna Rayburn Kirk, MA, CCC-SLP, Speech Room News, LLC
3. Booker T. Washington is best known for Booker was recruited to open a new
opening the Tuskegee Institute. school for black students in Tuskegee,
Washington grew up on a plantation Alabama. In 1881, Booker moved to
during the Civil War. After the war, Union Tuskegee. At first, he was the only
Soldiers arrived at the plantation and told teacher. The school didn’t have any
his family they were free. books, supplies, or even a building.
Washington taught in a church.
While 4 million enslaved people were freed
in the South, there were not many jobs. In the beginning, the Tuskegee Institute
Booker’s family moved to West Virginia focused on teaching students trades such
to work in the salt mines. Washington as farming, construction, and sewing.
went to college at the Hampton Institute, Booker traveled around the South giving
where he eventually became a teacher. speeches and growing his school. He
Booker T. Booker T. worked hard to help educate many
people. He was even the first African-
Washington Washington American man on a U.S. postage stamp!
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Frederick Douglass was a former enslaved Douglass escaped slavery in 1838 by
person, who became an advisor to the running away to New York. He disguised
president. Born in Maryland, his mother was himself and carried papers that showed
a an enslaved person. He didn’t know who his he was a free black seaman.
father was or his exact birth date.
In New York, Douglass met with people
Douglass was moved around frequently. who were against slavery. He began to
When he was 12 years old, Douglass’ master’s
speak at meetings. While his story of
wife, Sophia Auld, began to teach him the
slavery made him a very good speaker, it
alphabet. When Mr. Auld found out he forbid
the teaching because it was against the law. also put him in danger. His previous
Douglass was very smart and he eventually owners could find and recapture him.
taught himself to read and write. Douglass Douglass traveled to Ireland and Britain
formed strong views on slavery once he to avoid being captured. Douglass
started reading articles and newspapers. continued to fight for civil rights. He went
Frederick on to work with President Lincoln and
Douglass President Johnson on the subject of
Douglass Speech Room News black suffrage. Speech Room News
© 2013 Speech Room News
4. plantation enslaved person
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a large area of land a person forced to work for
where crops are grown, no pay, to obey commands,
usually in a hot part of and to lose his or her
the world freedom.
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speech escape
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a spoken expression of to get away from some
ideas, opinions, etc., that is place where you are
made by someone who is being held or kept
speaking in front of a group
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5. Jackie Robinson was born in 1919 in Georgia. Jackie Robinson left the army in 1944 and
Jackie’s mother raised him and his 4 siblings. began to play baseball in Kansas City as
Robinson played sports with mostly white part of the Negro Baseball League. The
teammates. On the field people would cheer Dodgers wanted him to play for their team
for him. When he left the field, however, he but needed someone who could stand up to
faced racism and hatred for the color of his the insults and racism without fighting back.
skin. Robinson went to college at UCLA where
he was a track, baseball, football, and When he first joined the minor leagues he
basketball star. faced a lot of racism. Sometimes the other
team wouldn’t show up for the game
After college, Robinson was drafted to the because of him. Even though people yelled at
Army at the start of World War II. He went him and threatened him, he led the league in
through officer training school and was sent to batting and won the MVP award. In 1947, he
Texas. In Texas, he joined the 761st Battalion. joined the Dodgers. That year they won the
This battalion was made up of only black pennant and he was named Rookie of the
Jackie soldiers because they weren’t allowed to serve Jackie Year.
alongside white soldiers.
Robinson Speech Room News
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Harriet Tubman was born an enslaved Harriet Tubman decided to use the
person on a plantation. She had a very Underground Railroad to escape slavery. The
difficult life. She lived in a one-room cabin Underground Railroad wasn’t a real railroad,
with her family which included 11 children. but a number of safe homes that hid
enslaved people as they traveled North.
When she was six, she was loaned out to
Enslaved people would move from house to
another family to take care of a baby.
house at night, hiding until they reached one
Tubman was mistreated by her owners of the free states in the north. Harriet used
and worked plowing fields, loading the Underground Railroad to escape to
produce into wagons, hauling logs, and Pennsylvania in 1849.
driving oxen.
In 1850, Tubman began working as a
When she was 13, Tubman was in town ‘conductor’ on the Underground Railroad. This
and received a serious head injury. A meant she helped others make it to freedom.
plantation owner tried to throw an iron She was very brave while helping others,
Harriet weight at one of his enslaved people, but Harriet including her family and 300 other enslaved
hit Harriet instead. The injury nearly killed Tubman
Tubman her. Speech Room News Speech Room News
6. racism mistreat
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poor treatment of or to treat someone or
violence again people something badly; abuse
because of their race
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threaten Underground
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to say you will harm
secret aid to escaping
someone or do something
enslaved people provided
unpleasant especially in
in the years before the
order to make someone
Civil War
do what you want Speech Room News Speech Room News
7. Jesse Owens participated in the 1936
Jesse Owens was born in Oakville, Alabama in Olympics in Berlin, Germany. The 1936
1913. His family moved to Cleveland, Ohio when Olympics were happening while Germany
he was nine. Jesse began running track during was under the power of Adolf Hitler and the
middle school. His track coach, Charles Riley, let Nazi Party before World War II. Hitler’s
him practice before school. philosophy included beliefs about the
superiority of the white race. He expected
In the National High School Championships, Germans to dominate the Olympics and
Jesse tied the world record for the 100 yard
other races to be inferior.
dash at 9.4 seconds. Jesse went to college at
The Ohio State University. At OSU, he continued
to break world records and dominate the Owens was the dominant athlete in 1936. He
sport. He won eight individual championships in won four gold medals including 100 meter
2 years. During college, he was known as the sprint, 200 meter sprint, 2x100 meter relay,
“Buckeye Bullet.” The track and field stadium at and the long jump. Years later, in 1976,
Jessie OSU is called the Jesse Owens Memorial Jessie Owens was awarded the Presidential Medal
Stadium. of Freedom by President Ford.
Owens Speech Room News
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Marcus Garvey launched the Universal Negro
Marcus Garvey was born in 1887 in
Improvement Association (UNIA) with the
Jamaica. He immigrated to the United
goal of unifying “all the Negro peoples of the
States when he was 28 years old. During world into one great body and to establish a
his time in Jamaica, Garvey admired country and government absolutely on their
Booker T. Washington’s philosophy of own.”
self-improvement for people of African
descent. In Jamaica he formed the The UNIA gave grand parades in Harlem.
Jamaica Improvement Association. Garvey was the ‘Provisional President of
Africa’ and others in the group included
When Garvey came to the USA, he knights of the Nile, Dukes of the Niger and
continued to learn and share ideas. His Uganda, duchesses etc. Garvey and all the
members wore elaborate military uniforms
political goal was to take Africa back
while they held parades and street
from European domination so that
ceremonies. By 1919, there were over 30
Africans would have freedom and branches of the UNIA in the US, Caribbean,
Marcus independence. Marcus Latin America, and Africa.
Garvey Speech Room News
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8. dominate immigrate
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to have control or power to come to a country to
over someone or live there
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inferior unify
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of little or less importance to cause people or things
or value to be joined and brought
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9. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most famous
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an activist for
Civil Rights during the 1950s and 1960s. King speech was titled, ‘I have a Dream.” King
was very smart. He skipped two grades in helped to organize the famous march on
high school and went to college at Washington in 1963. Over 250,000 people
Morehouse when he was 15 years old. After attended the march to show the
graduating from Morehouse, King went on to importance of Civil Rights. to legislators.
be a minister. He got married in 1953 and had Martin gave his “I Have a Dream” speech
4 children with Coretta Scott. at this march. One year later, in 1964 the
Civil Rights Act was passed.
King’s first major civil rights action was
leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott which
King was the youngest person to ever
started when Rosa Parks refused to give up
be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in
her bus seat to a white man. Martin led the
boycott of the transportation system. Martin 1964. Just a few years later, in 1968 he
Martin During the boycott, King’s house was was assassinated in Tennessee. There
Luther bombed and he was arrested. When the U..S.
Luther are over 730 streets in the USA named
Supreme Court finally ruled to end King, Jr. after King. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is
King, Jr. segregation, King prevailed. Speech Room News a national holiday. Speech Room News
Rosa Parks grew up in Alabama. Her Rosa Parks had grown up with racism in the
mother was a teacher and her father a South. Parks and her husband joined the
carpenter. Rosa’s mother wanted her to National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People (NAACP). Parks first led a group
attend high school, but that wasn’t easy
of students to the Freedom Train where they
for African-American girls living in stood in the same line as white students.
segregated Alabama at the time. She
attended the Montgomery Industrial In December 1955, Rosa made her most famous
School for Girls before going to the stand on a bus. She had settled into her seat
Alabama State Teacher’s College in order on a bus. All seats on the bus had filled up
to try to get her high school diploma. when a white man got on the bus. Rosa
refused to stand up when the bus driver
When Rosa’s mother became ill, she had
required it. Rosa would not give up her seat to
to leave school to care for her. the white man and the police were called. Rosa
was arrested, which led to a boycott by others
In 1932, Rosa married a barber named of the city buses. After 381 days, the U.S.
Rosa Raymond Parks. Rosa worked part time Rosa Supreme Court ruled the segregation laws were
and went back to school finally earning unconstitutional.
Parks her high school diploma. Speech Room News
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10. activist segregate
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a person who uses or
supports strong actions to separate groups of
(like protests) to make people because of their
changes in politics or race, religion, etc.
society Speech Room News Speech Room News
march boycott
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to walk with a large group to refuse to buy, use, or
of people who are participate in something
protesting or supporting as a way of protesting
something Speech Room News Speech Room News
© 2013 Speech Room News
11. Ruby Bridges was six years old in 1960. Bridges When Ruby Bridges started school at William
grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana and lived only Frantz, on November 24, 1960, she had to be
a few blocks from the William Frantz Elementary escorted by four U.S. federal marshals. When
School, the white public school in her Bridges and her mother got to the school that
neighborhood. When Bridges started morning there were many protesters. People yelled
Kindergarten, she went to Johnson Lockett and threw things at Bridges because they did not
Elementary School. This segregated school was want black children to attend the white public
far from her house but all the kids on her block school. When some parents found out Ruby
went to Johnson Lockett. Bridges was attending their child’s school, they
pulled their own children out of school.
In the spring of her Kindergarten year at
Johnson Lockett, the state of Louisiana ruled the On the second day of school, Bridges met her
schools would be required to desegregate. The teacher, Mrs. Henry. When they got to the
schools started testing students to try to find classroom, there were no other children in the
children to be sent to the white schools. Bridges room. Bridges couldn’t go to the cafeteria or
was one of the five children chosen to attend the recess. Bridges was lonely most of the year.
white school. Members of the NAACP convinced Eventually a few white children did return to school
Ruby her parents that going to William Frantz would Ruby but they would not play with Bridges because of
give all other black children opportunities in the the color of her skin.
Bridges future. Speech Room News
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Sarah E. Jacob was born an enslaved Sarah E Goode’s folding bed idea has
person in 1850. She was freed after the been used for years following her death.
Civil War. Goode opened a furniture store In 1916, thirty years later, a similar style
in Chicago, Illinois. In Chicago, she met and of bed was patented. The Murphy bed
married Archibald Goode, a carpenter. was also a bed made to be used in small
spaces. It was concealed behind a closet
Goode noticed that people who lived in door or wall, rather than inside a piece of
apartments in the city had very little furniture. We wouldn’t have the hide-away
space for full sized beds. She invented a couch beds if not for Sarah E. Goode.
folding cabinet bed. When the cabinet bed
was folded up it looked like a desk Not much else is known about Goode’s
including space for writing and storage. life. She died in 1909 in Chicago. You can
The bed was widely used and Goode think of her anytime you sleep on a
applied for a patent. She was awarded a pullout couch!
Sarah E patent on July 14, 1885. Goode was the Sarah E.
first African American woman to receive
Goode a US patent for her invention. Speech Room News
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12. opportunity invention
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an amount of time or a new idea or product
situation in which created for the first time
something can be done;
chance Speech Room News
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protest conceal
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to show or express to hide something or
strong disagreement with someone from sight
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© 2013 Speech Room News
13. Sojourner Truth was born in 1797 in a Dutch Sojourner Truth tried to escaped slavery
settlement in New York. She was born enslaved and but her children did not. Soon after finding
named Isabella Baumfree. When Sojourner was
her freedom, she found out that her son,
nine, she was sold to a farmer named John Neely. He
often beat her for not following orders. Truth
Peter, has been sold to a plantation owner in
couldn’t follow the orders. because she didn’t speak Alabama. In New York, selling enslaved people
English. Truth was smart and quickly learned the across state lines was illegal. She took her
language by listening to others speak. case to court and won. Peter was returned
to New York. Taking a white man to court
Sojourner was sold 4 different times. Her last owner, was very rare at this time and she became a
John Dumont, would not let her marry a man she story of triumph.
loved named Robert who lived on a nearby farm.
Dumont made her marry another enslaved man on Truth began giving speeches and working on
his farm named Thomas. They had 5 children. Around
Civil Rights for all people. Her most famous
1925, Dumont promised to set her free in one year,
but he did not follow through with his promise.
speech was given at the Ohio Women’s Rights
Sojourner was so angry, she escaped to a nearby Convention in 1851. Her speeches helped
people understand the cruel and immoral act
Sojourner neighbor. Sojourner slavery was.
Truth Speech Room News
Truth Speech Room News
Thurgood Marshall went to college at Lincoln
Thurgood Marshall was born in 1908 in University in Pennsylvania. He loved being on
Maryland. Marshall’s father worked as a the debate team and in a fraternity. He was
steward at an all-white country club and married in 1929 and then wanted to attend law
his mother was a Kindergarten teacher. school at the University of Maryland. The law
school wouldn’t admit him because he was
His grandfather was an enslaved person
African-American. Marshall went to Howard
who escaped during the Civil War. University instead and graduated first in his
class in 1933.
Marshall was a great student in school.
He loved to argue and joined the debate Marshall opened a small law practice in
Baltimore. His first big case was against
team. His parents hoped he would follow
University of Maryland. He took them to court
in his brother’s footsteps and become a for discrimination and not admitting another
dentist, but he decided to become a African-American student. When he won the
lawyer. case it was just the beginning of his fight
against segregation. In 1967, he became the
Thurgood Thurgood first African-American Supreme Court Justice.
Marshall Speech Room News
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14. free debate
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a discussion between
not held as a slave or
people who express
different opinions about
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something Speech Room News
triumph discrimination
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the practice of unfairly
a great success, treating a person or
achievement or important group of people
victory differently from other
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people or groups. Speech Room News
© 2013 Speech Room News
15. Comprehension Questions
1. What is Washington best known for? 1. When did Owens begin running?
2. Where did Washington grow up? 2. Were did he go to college?
3. Why did he move to Alabama? 3. Which Olympics did he participate in?
Booker T. 4. What was the school like when he moved to Tuskegee? Jesse 4. How did he do in the Olympics?
Washington Owens
1. When was Douglass’ birth date? 1. Where was Garvey born?
2. Who taught Douglass to read? 2. What did Garvey believe?
3. Was he always a slave? 3. What did Garvey form?
4. Which Presidents did Douglass work with? 4. How did Garvey and his associates dress/act to gain
Frederick Marcus
Douglass Garvey support?
1. What was King like as a boy?
1. What sports did Robinson play in college? 2. What was King’s job?
2. What did Robinson do after college? 3. What’s the name of King’s most famous speech?
3. What happened when Robinson joined the minor 4. How did King die?
Jackie leagues? Martin Luther
Robinson 4. What happened when he joined the Dodgers? King, Jr.
1. Where did Parks grow up?
1. How was Harriet Tubman injured? 2. Was school important to Parks?
2. Was she treated fairly on the planation? 3. What group did Parks join?
3. How did Tubman escape slavery? 2. What led to the bus boycott?
4. What did she do after she escaped?
Harriet Rosa Parks
© 2013 Speech Room News
16. Comprehension Questions
1. What school did Bridges attend?
2. Why didn’t she attend the school closest to her home?
3. What happened when Bridges took the test?
Ruby 4. What was it like when she switched schools?
1. Where did Goode live?
2. What did she invent?
3. What ‘first’ did Goode achieve?
4. Why did people need foldable bedding?
Sarah E.
1. How old was Sojourner when she was first sold?
2. Why did her new owner beat her?
3. Why did she take the slave owner to court?
Sojourner 4. What was the outcome of the court case?
1. What were Marshall’s parents’ jobs?
2. What did Marshall’s parents want him to be?
3. Did Marshall get into the law school he wanted?
4. What was Marshall’s first big law case?
© 2013 Speech Room News
17. Thank About the Author:
Jenna Rayburn Kirk, MA, CCC-SLP is an ASHA certified
Speech-Language Pathologist. She works full time as a school
SLP in Ohio. Jenna was an invited speaker at the American
Thank you Speech and Hearing Association Convention in 2016. She’s
presented at the national, state, and local level about a
Let’s Connect on Social Media! your
variety of topics related to school-based speech and
language therapy. Jenna has created over 450 resources for
her fellow SLPs and is the top SLP seller on TpT.
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