“The Great Migration” by Minnie Bruce Pratt
By calling her poem “The Great Migration,” Minnie Bruce Pratt immediately brings to mind the period of 1900–1970, when millions of African Americans left the South to seek work and better lives in the North. It, therefore, seems surprising that the first stanza of her poem contains a question in Spanish, “De donde eres tu?” Where are you from? In this way, Pratt begins associations to other migrations—from Guatemala and Chile to the United States—and by connection, to those migrations anywhere people go in search of better lives. In the end, Pratt’s speaker offers a small gesture of kindness to someone “she’d never have known back home.” Migrations within—and to and from—the United States are a part of our common heritage. Pratt’s poem helps illustrate this ebb and flow.
The following sequence of activities is designed to help students think about the associations with migration that Minnie Bruce Pratt brings to mind in her poem. This lesson plan provides a sequence of activities that you can use with your students before, during, and after reading “The Great Migration.” Use the whole sequence, or any of the activities, to help your diverse learners enter, experience, and explore the meaning of the poem. Feel free to adjust each activity to meet the needs of your particular students. This lesson can be adapted for secondary students in grades 6–12.
This lesson is an adaptation of an original lesson by the Academy of American Poets Educator in Residence, Madeleine Fuchs Holzer.
How does where we were and are inform who we are and will be?
Students will create tableaux as a means to understand a historic migration expressed in the narrative of a poem.
Students will compare the experience of reading a poem on a page to hearing a poet read a poem.
Students will explore poetry as a way to develop empathy.
Students will express their understanding of the migration experience through original poetry.