The African American Experience at Arlington National Cemetery

369th regiment

Lesson Plan: African American Celebrated Unit – 369th Infantry Regiment, World War I

The 369th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Harlem Rattlers” and “Harlem Hellfighters,” had one of the most distinguished records of any unit in the history of the United States Army. The 369th saw extensive combat in both World War I and World War II. Most of the men in the regiment were African American, although it also included Puerto Ricans.

  • Resources include a PowerPoint slide deck and handout. Students learn about the 369th Infantry Regiment and make connections to their prior knowledge in order to explore the significance of this military unit in historical and cultural context.
  • 1 class period, 15-20 minutes total
6888 battalion

Lesson Plan: African American Celebrated Unit – 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, World War II

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, popularly known as the “Six Triple Eight,” was an African American unit of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II. The 6888th became the only non-medical African American women’s unit to serve overseas during the war.

  • Resources include a PowerPoint slide deck and handout. Students learn about the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion (World War II) and make connections to their prior knowledge in order to explore the significance of this military unit in historical and cultural context.
  • 1 class period, 15-20 minutes total
buffalo soldiers

Lesson Plan: African American Celebrated Unit – “Buffalo Soldiers”

In 1866, Congress established the U.S. Army’s all-Black 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments and the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments, later known as the “Buffalo Soldiers,” to serve on the western frontier. The last of the original four Buffalo Soldier units was disbanded in 1951.

  • Resources include a PowerPoint slide deck and handout. Students learn about the Buffalo Soldiers and make connections to their prior knowledge in order to explore the significance of this celebrated military unit in historical and cultural context.
  • 1 class period, 15-20 minutes total
tuskegee airmen

Lesson Plan: African American Celebrated Unit – Tuskegee Airmen, World War II

From 1941 to 1946, nearly 1,000 African American military pilots completed their training in Tuskegee, Alabama. More than 350 of them served overseas during World War II; 84 lost their lives. Despite facing segregation and discrimination, the Tuskegee Airmen were recognized for their skills and valor and continue to be honored today.
 

  • Resources include a PowerPoint slide deck and handout. Students learn about the Tuskegee Airmen and make connections to their prior knowledge in order to explore the significance of this celebrated military unit in historical and cultural context.
  • 1 class period, 15-20 minutes total
usct

Lesson Plan: African American Celebrated Unit – United States Colored Troops, Civil War

The term United States Colored Troops, or U.S.C.T., was the official U.S. Army name for Civil War regiments composed of African Americans. Although African Americans had fought in the military since the Revolutionary War, the formation of the U.S.C.T. represented the first time the U.S. Army actively recruited them. Their service opened the door for future generations of African Americans in the military.

  • Resources include a PowerPoint slide deck and handout. Students learn about the U.S.C.T. and make connections to their prior knowledge in order to explore the significance of this celebrated military unit in historical and cultural context.
  • 1 class period, 15-20 minutes total
freedmans village

Lifelong Learners: Freedman’s Village at Arlington

Freedman’s Village was a community of formerly enslaved African Americans established on the former Arlington estate in 1863. Through historical photos and personal accounts, learn about life in the village and the circumstances surrounding its eventual closure.

section 27

Lifelong Learners: The Freedpeople of Section 27

In Section 27 of Arlington National Cemetery, thousands of headstones inscribed with “citizen” or “civilian” mark the resting places of free or formerly enslaved African Americans who died in and around Washington, D.C. from 1863 to 1867. Read about who these people were and how they came to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and then explore a burial record for this section.

freedmans village

Lesson Plan: Freedman’s Village at Arlington

Freedman’s Village was a federally administered temporary community of formerly enslaved African Americans established on the former Arlington estate in 1863. In 1887, the government decided to close Freedman’s Village and to evict the residents. After analyzing documents and summarizing the arguments on both sides of the question—should Freedman’s Village be closed or remain open?—students choose their own stance and respond to a reflection question. For an extension opportunity, students can write a letter to the secretary of war detailing what they think should be done.

  • Elementary School: 1-3 class periods, 45-120 minutes total
  • Middle School: 1-2 class periods, 60-90 minutes total
  • High School: 1-2 class periods, 60-90 minutes total
freedpeople section 27

Lesson Plan: The Freedpeople of Section 27

Although Arlington National Cemetery is a military cemetery, it contains a section where thousands of African American civilians were buried between 1864 and 1867. Through a class lecture and exploration of a burial record, students explore what life would have been like for those individuals buried in Section 27 and other free African Americans during the years surrounding the Civil War. Students will write a short obituary for one of the African American civilians on the burial record.

  • Elementary School: 1 class period, 45-60 minutes total
  • Middle School: 1-2 class periods, 70-90 minutes total
  • High School: 1-2 class periods, 70-90 minutes total
woody williams

Lesson Plan: Reconstruction Timeline

This timeline activity about the history of Reconstruction (1865-1877) is adaptable and can be used as an introduction, a review or at any time throughout a Reconstruction lesson/unit. Cards can be printed and ordered to give students an overview of important events during the Reconstruction era. For students who need an extension or will be visiting Arlington National Cemetery, an optional set of Freedman’s Village timeline cards can also be printed and used.

  • 1 class period, 15-30 minutes



The Spanish-American War

span am war

Lesson Plan: A Splendid Little War? – Middle School

Students use primary sources and a worksheet to analyze historical perspectives on the Spanish-American War (1898) and the United States’ expansion as a world power. Students complete a worksheet individually, with a group and through a teacher-led discussion.

  • 1 class period, 40-50 minutes total
spanish american war

Lesson Plan: A Splendid Little War? – High School

Students use primary source documents and other resources to learn about the historical arguments for and against the United States entering the Spanish-American War in 1898, as well as the worldwide American expansion that followed.

  • Resources include personal accounts, historical photographs, political cartoons, historical commentaries, and a student worksheet.
  • 1-2 class periods, 75-90 minutes total
spanish american war

Lifelong Learners: Historical Opinions of the Spanish-American War

A collection of primary source excerpts represent a variety of historical opinions on the Spanish-American War and American expansionism. As learners read, they will consider how Americans reacted at the time, and how these arguments about the role of the United States as a world power continue today.

spanish american war

Lifelong Learners: Nurses in the Spanish-American War

Through historical photographs and written accounts, learn about the role of female nurses during the Spanish-American War and how nursing expanded opportunities for women in the military.

spanish american war

LifeLong Learners: Personal Accounts of the Spanish-American War

Explore photographs and a collection of personal accounts of the Spanish-American War that tell the story of the conflict firsthand. Students of all ages, including lifelong learners, can explore these primary sources to understand how Americans experienced the war in different ways.

spanish american war nurses

Lesson Plan: Nurses in the Spanish-American War

Students use primary source documents and other resources to learn more about the role of female nurses during the Spanish-American War. The lesson also explores the expansion of training and career opportunities for women before and after the war, as well as the different experiences of white women and women of color. Resources include quotes, images and cards with profiles of individual nurses. Students complete a gallery walk or work in groups on a jigsaw of teacher-curated resources.

  • Elementary: 1 class period, 45-60 minutes total
  • Middle: 1-2 class periods, 60-75 minutes total
  • High: 1-2 class periods, 60-75 minutes total
woody williams

Lesson Plan: Spanish-American War Timeline

This timeline activity about the Spanish-American War is adaptable and can be used as an introduction, a review or at any time during a lesson/unit. Cards can be printed and ordered chronologically to give students an overview of events in the war.

  • 1 class period, 15-30 minutes total
united states

Lesson Plan: What is the United States of America?

Students use maps to explore the concept of the United States of America as a nation and to learn about its geographic boundaries over time. Students color in a map, while the teacher leads a PowerPoint-guided lesson and discussion of geographic expansion from the colonial period through today.

  • 1 class period, 35-45 minutes total


Exploring Arlington

grave markers

Guides to Arlington National Cemetery

Whether you are planning to visit the cemetery or exploring it from home, download our guides to understand more about the history, traditions, and operations of Arlington National Cemetery.

henry johnson

Walking Tour: African American Military Heroes

Throughout U.S. history, African Americans have fought bravely for the United States and distinguished themselves in battle. On this walking tour, meet and honor the service of these individuals, including Tuskegee Airmen, members of the 369th Infantry Regiment (the “Harlem Hellfighters”) Medal of Honor recipients and more.

  • Length: 5 miles
  • Starting point: Section 40 (0.4 miles from Welcome Center)
  • Because this walking tour is quite long, we recommend completing it in smaller sections.
first

Walking Tour: African American Firsts

This walking tour celebrates African American men and women buried at Arlington National Cemetery who were “first” in their field. Meet the first African American four-star general, the first African American Supreme Court Justice, the first boxer to appear on a U.S. postage stamp and others as you honor these pioneers.

  • Length: 5 miles
  • Starting point: Section 33 (0.5 miles from Welcome Center)
  • Because this walking tour is quite long, we recommend completing it in smaller sections.
freedmans village

Walking Tour: Segregation & Civil Rights

The history of African Americans at Arlington National Cemetery parallels and reflects the history of African Americans in the United States, with sites related to slavery, Reconstruction, segregation, the civil rights movement and the continued contributions of African Americans to our society today. On this walking tour, explore Arlington’s past as a plantation, learn about the Freedman’s Village that occupied a portion of the grounds following the Civil War, and meet some trailblazers of the civil rights movement.

  • Length: 5 miles
  • Starting point: Section 36 (0.2 miles from Welcome Center)
  • Because this walking tour is quite long, we recommend completing it in smaller sections.
freedmans village

Walking Tour: The Spanish-American War

Arlington National Cemetery contains more monuments and burial sites related to the Spanish-American War than any other location in the continental United States. On this walking tour, you’ll learn about the tremendous historical impact of this short war by visiting the graves of individuals who played prominent roles in it, as well as the USS Maine Memorial, the Spanish-American War Memorial and other monuments.

  • Length: 1.2 miles
  • Starting point: Section 24 (1 mile from Welcome Center)

Watch our videos to see the different stops on the Spanish-American War Walking Tour.