Guide for Teachers

Ransom Williams was a hard-working African American farmer living in Texas before, during, and after the Civil War. Based on archeological evidence and historical records, we know that he married, bought a farm, had nine children, and raised horses in a secluded area of northern Travis County (see

We can learn a great deal about Williams’ life from artifacts found on his farm and from government documents pertaining to his family. But how can we envision the larger picture of life for this African American family living in Texas during such a tumultuous period of history? How might state-wide events have influenced the lives of Ransom Williams and his family and other African Americans? What events occurring nation-wide might have had consequences for them socially, economically, and politically?

The following activities were designed for grades 7 & 8, but can easily adapted for other grade levels:

Who, What, Where, and When?
This interactive timeline displays, local, state, and national events by decade, from the 1850s through the 1880s. Historical information, illustrative images, vocabulary definitions, and relevant primary source documents help paint a picture of life for Ransom Williams and his family during this turbulent period before, during, and after the Civil War.

Population Puzzlers
In this interactive game, students use U.S. Census data to answer four relevant questions about Texas and United States racial groups during the 1850-1890 time period. Viewing this data gives students a better understanding of Ransom Williams’ place in the larger state and national populations. The associated questions are math-based and include ‘hints’ from Dr. Dirt to help students solve the problems.

Correlated Lessons

The Ransom Williams Farmstead exhibit includes a Teachers section with several correlated lessons. These include:

Freedom Colonies and Beyond - Life After Slavery. In this classroom lesson, students learn what Freedom Colonies were and identify Texas Freedom Colonies on a map. Students work in cooperative groups to research positive and negatives aspects of African-American life within the Freedom Colonies after slavery.

After Slavery: Exercising the Rights of Citizenship in 19th-Century Texas
In this classroom lesson students explore a variety of county government records to learn how Ransom Williams, an African-American living in post-Civil War Texas, began the transition from slavery to freedom by exercising the right to vote and own property. Students will work with partners to analyze a 19th-century primary source document, then create their own county government documents and answer questions about Ransom Williams and the functions of county government.

Related Websites

Ransom Williams Exhibit on Texas Beyond History
Life after Slavery: Investigations at an African American Farmstead

National Archives
Constitution of the United States: Amendments 11-27

African American History Timeline: 1801-1900

America’s Civil War

Civil Rights Era Timeline: 1954-1971

Texas Transportation Museum

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