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Part 1: 1450-1750
<---Part 2: 1750-1805
Part 3: 1791-1831
Part 4: 1831-1865

Narrative | Resource Bank | Teacher's Guide

Introduction | Questions and Activities | Lesson Focus | Resources | Program Index

Teacher's Guide Contents
The following index describes each episode of Africans in America, divided into approximately 20-minute segments, so that you can more easily select clips to use in the classroom.

In addition to using this tool, you may want to purchase the PBS VIDEOindex® version of the series, available from PBS Video at (800) 344-3337. This special version includes a comprehensive, printed index identifying people, places, events, issues, and topics and the segments in which they appear for each video of the series, as well as a time-coded video so that you can choose the exact location where a specific segments are located.

We have also expanded the list of Notable People and Curriculum Links available in the printed Teacher's Guide. You may use the segments on the Notable People, who are mentioned in the program, to create lessons or to add to your existing lessons. The Curriculum Links are topics and events covered in the series that you can use to expand and broaden units you teach.


Segment One (approximately 15 minutes)

Starting image: A woman being tied to a wooden stake

• The colonial economy depends on slave labor. In the South, slavery has become a way of life. By 1715 nearly two-thirds of the slave population has been born on American soil. Resistance and rebellion against slavery continues.

• The early life of Venture Smith, a slave, is contrasted with the early life of George Washington, a southern gentleman.

Segment Two (approximately 15 minutes)

Starting image: A pastor walking through a field

• The "Great Awakening" movement inspires new ideas about religion and individual rights.

• In 1752 Venture's wife Meg argues with her white mistress. Venture intercedes, fights his master, is sold, and moves to Connecticut.

• Washington rises in stature and wealth through his marriage to Martha Custis Dandridge.

• In 1765 white men demonstrate in the streets of Charleston against the Stamp Act. Slaves see their own freedom as linked to the nation's freedom and protest for liberty as well.

• Venture Smith buys his freedom for 71 pounds and 2 shillings.

• Restrictive laws known as "Black Codes" are imposed on free blacks in Connecticut.

Segment Three (approximately 16 minutes)

Starting image: Ropes from a ship

• On March 5, 1770 British troops kill 5 men in what becomes known as the Boston Massacre.

• Slaves send petitions to the Massachussetts Colonial Assembly asking for freedom from slavery, just as the colonists want to be free from English rule. In 1772 slavery is ruled illegal in England.

• Phyllis Wheatley, a slave , receives critical acclaim for her first book of poetry.

• On April 19, 1775 nine black New Englanders fight alongside white neighbors in the first battles of the Revolution.

• Washington, leader of the colonial army, prohibits the participation of slaves or free black men. British General Lord Dunmore issues a proclamation that blacks who join British troops will be given their freedom.

Segment Four (approximately 15 minutes)

Starting image: Candles burning

• Christian conversion becomes popular among enslaved Africans. The African Baptist Church is established despite restrictions against meetings.

• The Continental Congress calls for a wartime halt to the slave trade because a war fought for "the rights of man" cannot include a slave trade.

• On July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence is issued. Authored by Thomas Jefferson -- passionate defender of freedom but slaveowner -- it argues for the "inalienable rights of men" but doesn't include blacks.

• By 1778 thousands of soldiers desert the Continental Army; Washington is forced to admit black soldiers in return for their freedom.

• Venture Smith buys freedom for himself and his family. A new baby becomes the first member of Venture's family to be born free. Venture buys land and slaves to work it with him.

Segment Five (approximately 15 minutes)

Starting image: Aerial short of lush landscape

• Hundreds of slaves join British ranks and 20,000 Africans risk their lives to reach the British lines.

• On October 17, 1781, General Corwallis surrenders at the Battle of Yorktown.

• Slaves hope to gain passage back to Europe with the British. Only 3,000 slaves are allowed to make the journey; their names are registered in the "Book of Negroes."

• In 1780 Pennsylvania extends freedom to black children born from that year forward when they reach their 28th birthday. In 1783 Massachussetts outlaws slavery; Connecticut and Rhode Island soon follow.

• The government tries to balance the number of free states and slave states. The Constitution prevents the Congress from voting to end the slave trade for at least 20 years.

• Washington is elected president in 1789; he dies in 1799. Venture Smith dies six years later, leaving his land to his family, but declaring that freedom is his most precious commodity.

Part 2: Narrative | Resource Bank Contents | Teacher's Guide

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