African in America logo
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 struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

- Frederick Douglass, 1849*


What impact do you think slavery had on white people who didn't own slaves? On those who did own slaves? Why might someone who wasn't a slaveowner support slavery? Why might someone be opposed to the spread of slavery, but not opposed to slavery itself?

Who was involved in the abolitionist movement? In what ways do you think abolitionists differed on the strategies and goals of their movement? Why do you think they disagreed?


Why did the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 and the Dred Scott decision of 1857 result in more direct action against slavery by black abolitionists?

Revisit the discussion about the abolitionist movement that students had prior to watching the program. What new information can they add?


Is the Constitution a pro-slavery or anti-slavery document? Frederick Douglass's evolving position on this question was one of the major issues that eventually led to the bitter split between him and his mentor and friend, William Lloyd Garrison. Have students use their own analyses of the Constitution, as well as the speeches, letters, and editorials of Douglass and Garrison, to write an essay about whom they agree with and why.

The debate on Henry Highland Garnet's "Address to the Slaves of the United States" lasted for four days before Garnet's call to arms was rejected by the 1843 Negro National Convention at Buffalo. Why did delegates such as Douglass oppose the address, even though they did not oppose armed resistance? What other conflicting ideas about strategies separated the delegates? Have students research the anti-slavery positions of Douglass, Garnet, and other black abolitionists. Ask students to imagine that they are attending the convention. Have them prepare a brief speech stating their position on the views expressed in the debate.

Ask students to imagine that they are runaway slaves or anti-slavery sympathizers in the 1830s. Then have them write autobiographical narratives in the tradition of historical characters whom they have studied. The narratives will describe how they ran away or how they helped runaways, and should include how old they are, what work they do, what skills they have, and where they live.

Students should base their narratives on historical evidence, such as authentic narratives, letters, and period newspaper articles. You may also want to have students read one of these historical novels, based on real incidents and people: Long Journey Home: Stories from Black History, by Julius Lester (New York: Puffin, 1998); Letters from a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs, by Mary E. Lyons (New York: Aladdin, 1996); Underground Man, by Milton Meltzer (San Diego: Odyssey Classics, 1990); Harriet Tubman, by Ann Petry (New York: HarperTrophy, 1996).

Students who are writing as runaway slaves should consider these questions:

Students who are writing as anti-slavery activists should consider these questions:

*quoted in Timothy J. Paulsen, Days of Sorrow, Years of Glory 1831-1850. (New York: Chelsea House, 1994), 106.

Part 4: Narrative | Resource Bank Contents | Teacher's Guide

Africans in America: Home | Resource Bank Index | Search | Shop

WGBH | PBS Online | ©