Local historian and retired social studies teacher Paul LaRue is working with an Ohio organization to help release a lesson plan that teaches students about African-Americans in World War I, just in time for Veterans Day.
The World War I Centennial Committee in Ohio, in partnership with the Ohio History Connection, said they are proud to announce the launch of the first in a series of free lesson plans that will highlight Ohio’s role in the Great War. The lesson plan, put together by LaRue, is named “Searching for Homer Lawson: African American World War I Combat Troops” and features the American Legion Post 653 named after Homer Lawson.
“What is neat about this is that it is about African American World War I veterans, which is a topic that doesn’t get a lot of attention,” LaRue said. “But as a way of doing this I also put a focus on our community and its concept of place. If you notice the name on the post it is Homer Lawson. He was a young African American man who was born in Washington Court House and served as a soldier in World War I when he was killed in France. So what is interesting is that a lot of these American Legion and VFW Posts are named after someone, in many cases veterans who lost their lives in combat.”
The committee had anticipated the upcoming Veterans Day and wanted to make the first of these lesson plans available to teachers who needed to teach students about the significance and meaning of the day. Veterans Day honors America’s veterans for their patriotism and willingness to serve for the common good, and it provides students with the opportunity to examine the meaning of civic ideals. Ohio law requires that each school devote at least one hour or one standard class period on or around Veterans Day to understand the meaning and significance.
“We want to give opportunities to teachers anywhere to talk about the role of African American World War I soldiers but also find ways in which it is connected to their own communities,” LaRue said. “A lot of times I feel that people think history happens somewhere else and they don’t realize it is closer than that. It is kind of interesting that Homer Lawson lost his life in a battlefield in France even though he was a local community member. Lots of communities have these kind of connections. Especially with Veterans Day, it is important for students to see that these men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice were from their own community.”
The lesson plan has been distributed to schools across the state, including Fayette County school districts. The goal of the committee, according to LaRue, was to get this in the hands of teachers for Veterans Day. LaRue said that it could be the case that perhaps they had a Veterans Day plan for their classroom, but this lesson works in many areas. If they wanted to use it for Black History Month in February, Memorial Day at the end of the school year, or just at some point throughout the year, the teachers have access to this lesson. With photos, readings and other resource links, it is full of information that students can understand and use to its maximum potential.