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African American Lives 2 -- Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
In Search of Our Roots -- Buy the companion book now from ShopPBS


Gift to the Future
(Continued)
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LEARNING ACTIVITY:

1) Ask your students to review the list of items they developed to include in the time capsule. Ask your students which items on the list would not have been part of the "material culture" 150 years ago, in 1858. As a class, eliminate from your list on the board the items that would not have been available 150 years ago. (Accept all student answers; if the class has questions about the availability or development of certain objects, assign some students to research where and when those objects first became available).

2) Ask your students what objects of material culture might remain from the lives of their ancestors 150 years ago. What objects, artifacts, or evidence might still be in existence? (Possible student answers include buildings or houses, furniture, clothing, jewelry, family heirlooms, documents, books, photographs, etc.) Ask your students if any of them know of any objects or artifacts currently in existence that date from their ancestors 150 years ago. (Student answers will vary.) Ask students to hypothesize why so many of the elements of the material culture 150 years ago no longer exist. (Student answers will vary; possible answers could include that items were destroyed or thrown away, fallen apart or decomposed, been sold, etc.)

3) Explain to your students that they will soon be examining some documents from earlier generations in an online interactivity. Tell your students that while preparing for the recent documentary series African American Lives 2, teams of historians, librarians, and researchers had to examine thousands of photographs, diaries, and legal documents to develop family histories for a group of well-known African Americans.

4) Distribute the "What They Left Behind" student organizer to your students. Divide your students into five groups (the groups can be the same student groups from the Introductory Activity, if you wish). Ask your students to log on to the African American Lives 2 "Analyzing the Evidence" interactivity at http://www.pbs.org/aalives/evidence/index.html. Assign Group #1 to Piece 1: "Native Americans Owned Slaves." Assign Group 2 to the Piece 2: "Getting Paid." Assign Group 3 to Piece 3 "Griffin Brothers Execution." Assign Group 4 to Piece 4: "Last Will and Testament." Assign Group 5 to Piece 5: "Say Cheese." Explain to your students that in the interactive, they will be asked a series of questions about the document; accompanying each question is a hint that will help them select the correct answer. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to examine their assigned primary sources and complete Questions 1-3 on the "What They Left Behind" student organizer. Give your students 15-20 minutes to complete this task.

5) After your students have completed the interactivity, ask each group to briefly report on their primary source, as well as the information they gathered about preserving elements of our own material culture for future generations. As each group reports, question to the students on why they think this object of past material culture has survived to the present day. Do they think it was preserved in legal records? In a library? At a business? In an attic? (Accept all student responses.) Explain to your students that the items featured in the interactive were preserved for a variety of reasons: some (like Pieces 1 and 3) are government records, which stay on file for many years; some (like Pieces 2 and 4) are legal records, which are retained by cities, counties, and towns; and one (Piece 5) is a family heirloom that was passed down from one generation to the next.

6) Remind your students that not all pieces of material culture from the past are documents; artifacts, objects, photographs, tools, and clothing all are part of material culture. Surviving objects and artifacts, like documents, can provide additional information about what life was like in the past. Tell your students that they will now be watching some video segments from African American Lives 2 which illustrate some of the artifacts and objects found while researching the family histories of the celebrity guests.

7) Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify which documents and artifacts help tell the story of actor Morgan Freeman's great-great grandparents, and to hypothesize why these documents and artifacts have survived to the present day.

PLAY Clip 1, "It's Still There," for the class.

Clip 1: "It's Still There"

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Check for comprehension, and ask your students what documents and artifacts help tell the story of Morgan Freeman's great-great grandparents. (Students should identify several documents and artifacts that help tell the story of Morgan Freeman's great-great grandparents, including the 1860 and 1870 censuses, land records and deeds from Attala County recording land sales in his family, and the gravestones of Alfred and Ceeley Carr.) Ask your students why they think these documents and artifacts have survived to the present day. (The censuses are preserved by the government, and records of land sales are often preserved by counties, cities, or towns. The gravestones have most likely survived because they are stone, heavy, and isolated.) Ask your students to record the reasons why these artifacts have survived to the present day in the space provided on the "What They Left Behind" student organizer.

8) Tell your students that Morgan Freeman's ancestors left behind another document that helps tell the story of his family's history. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify the document that provides insight into his ancestor's life, and hypothesize why the document has survived to the present day.

Play clip 2 for the class.

Clip 2: "A Rare, First Hand Account"

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Check for comprehension, and ask your students what document provides insight into his ancestor's life. (An interview with his great grandmother conducted during the Federal Writer's Project in the 1930s or 1940s.) Ask your students why they think the documents survived to the present day. (Student answers will vary; guide students to realize that the document exists because of a concerted story-collection effort by the Federal government.) Ask your students if they think it is common for people to find first-hand interviews with their ancestors. (It is not common; Henry Louis Gates states in the clip that Freeman is the only person he knows of with access to such a document.) Ask your students to record the reasons why this artifact survived to the present day in the space provided on the "What They Left Behind" student organizer.

9) Explain to your students that African American Lives 2 profiles a number of individuals in addition to Morgan Freeman, including actor Don Cheadle, publisher Linda Johnson Rice, and an "ordinary citizen" named Kathleen Henderson. One commonality these guests all have is that their ancestors were slaves. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify the artifacts in the clip that provide information about the slave owners of the guests' ancestors, and hypothesize why these artifacts have survived to the present day.

Play clip three for the class.

Clip 3: "A Mean Old Guy"

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Right-click here to download this video in Quicktime format.

Check for comprehension, and ask your students what artifacts in the clip provide information about the slave owners of the guests' ancestors. (Paintings and photographs.) Why do your students think these artifacts have survived to the present day? (Student answers will vary; there is no way to know definitively from the film where the paintings and photographs were found. Perhaps they were passed down from one generation to another. Perhaps they are in the collection of a museum or historical society. Someone held onto them for over 100 years.) Ask your students to record the reasons why these artifacts have survived to the present day in the space provided on the "What They Left Behind" student organizer.

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Major corporate funding for African American Lives 2 and its outreach initiatives is provided by The Coca-Cola Company and Johnson & Johnson. Additional corporate funding is provided by Buick.
The Coca-Cola Company Johnson & Johnson Buick
KUNHARDT Thirteen/WNET New York