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Slavery and the Making of AmericaPicture of slave women cultivating a village garden in Central Africa, Courtesy of the University of Virginia Library
Time and Place Slave Memories Resources The Slave Experience

K-12 Learning
Intro Historical Fiction Primary Sources Lesson Plans Virtual Museum Credits
Lesson Plans
Elementary Middle School High School
Elementary Lesson Plan 1
Criminal or Hero, Runaway or Freeman Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students
Introductory Activity:

1) To begin, ask your students guiding questions to give them a framework for understanding the history of slavery:

  • Ask your students if any of them know the year in which slavery ended in the United States.
    Answer: Accept all student responses, guide them to realize that slavery ended throughout the United States in 1865.

  • Ask your students what event led up to the abolition of slavery in the United States.
    Answer: The Civil War.

  • Ask your students how many years it has been since slavery was abolished in the United States.
    Answer: Subtract 1865 from the current year. In 2005, slavery will have been abolished for 140 years.

  • Write the number on the board. Ask your students if they know, roughly, when the first permanent European colonies were established in North America.
    Answer: In the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

  • Ask your students if they know when the first African slaves arrived in the New World.
    Answer: Explain to your students that the first African slaves arrived in the New World in the 1620s.

  • Ask your students how long slavery DID exist in North America, if it was abolished in 1865.
    Answer: Subtract 1620 from 1865; slavery existed in North America for 245 years. Write this number on the board, point out that the period of slavery in American history lasted far longer than the period without slavery (thus far).

  • Ask your students where, geographically, American slavery was concentrated in the years leading up to the Civil War.
    Answer: In the Southern United States.
2) Distribute the copies of the blank map of the United States to your students. Ask your students to label as many of the states as they can, and use a colored pencil, crayon, or marker to color in the states where they think slavery existed in the years leading up to the Civil War. Assure your students that this is not a quiz. Give your students ten minutes or so to complete this task.

3) Ask your students to name some of the states that they colored in as "slave states" on their maps. Ask your students to log on to the Free States and Slave States Before the Civil War Web site at http://www.learner.org/ biographyofamerica/ prog10/maps/. If you do not have access to computers prepare this Web page as a handout. Ask them to check the maps they colored in against the information on the Web site, and determine how many states they correctly identified as "slave states." Check for comprehension, and ask your students how many states they correctly identified as slave states. Again, ask your students where, geographically, American slavery was concentrated in the years leading up to the Civil War. Ask your students if slavery existed anywhere else in the United States prior to its abolition.

4) Ask your students when Americans declared their independence from the British. (July 4, 1776.) Ask your students how many colonies there were at that time. (Thirteen.) Distribute the blank map of the Thirteen Colonies at http://www2.worldbook.com/ assets/handson_help_gfx/ activityimages/colmap.gif to your students, and ask your students to label as many of the Thirteen Colonies as they can, and use a colored pencil, crayon, or marker to color in the colonies where they think slavery existed in 1776. Again, assure them that this is not a quiz. Give your students 10 minutes or so to complete this task.

5) Ask your students to log on to the Status of Slavery in the Thirteen Original States Web site at http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/ ~atlas/america/ interactive/map18.html. Ask them to determine how many of the original thirteen colonies permitted slavery in 1776. Give your students five minutes or so to complete this task.
  • Ask your students how many of the thirteen colonies permitted slavery in 1776.
    Answer: All thirteen original colonies permitted slavery in 1776.

  • Double-check with your students and ask your students if slavery was permitted in Northern states such as New York and Massachusetts.

  • Ask your students if they were surprised by this information.

  • Ask your students if they can give you any information about what slavery was like in Northern states during the time of the Revolution. Did slaves run away? Was it similar to the plantation system in the South?
    Answer: Student answers will vary; in all likelihood they will have very little information about slavery in Northern states at the time of the Revolution.

  • Ask your students why they think people are far more familiar with the history of slavery in Southern states.

  • Ask your students if they think the understanding of slavery's history might depend on an individual's point of view or perspective. How and why?
6) Ask your students to log on to the Timeline of Slavery Web site at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ features/99/railroad/tl.html. If you do not have access to computers prepare this Web page as a handout. Ask them to record five facts about the early history of American slavery up to the year 1800 on their map of the Thirteen Colonies. Give your students ten minutes or so to complete this task. Check for comprehension, and ask students what information they gathered about the history of American slavery up to the year 1800.

7) Explain to your students that in this lesson, you will be examining the life of a Northern slave during the time of the Revolution, why he chose to run away, and what happened when he did. You may collect the two maps completed by the students for assessment purposes.

Learning Activity:

1) Insert SLAVERY AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA, Episode 2, "Liberty in the Air" into your VCR. As they view the video segment ask your students to identify the reason why 50% of slaves ran away, and why there were well-worn paths connecting plantations and farms. START the tape, at approximately 17 minutes, when you see the back of a woman with poles protruding from her neck running through the woods, and you hear drum beats. PAUSE the tape, at approximately 18 minutes, when you hear the narrator, Morgan Freeman, say " ... extended these contacts," and you see a small boat floating on a river. Check for student comprehension, and ask your students the following questions:
  • Why did 50% of slaves ran away and why were there well-worn paths connecting plantations and farms?
    Answer: 50% of slaves ran away in an effort to reconnect with their loved ones; slave sales and cross-plantation marriages-which led to the separation of slave family unity -- led to the development of paths between farms and plantations. Slaves were desperately trying to stay in touch with their friends and family members.
  • Do they remember what the first woman in the video clip was wearing?
    Answer: She was wearing a collar with long poles extending from it. If your students do not remember, REWIND the clip and show it to them again.

  • What do they think this device was, and why she was wearing it?
    Answer: Guide your students to realize that the collar is a torturous device that was most likely put on the woman by her owner as a punishment. Aside from hampering her breathing, it would also make it difficult for her to move around.

  • Why would a slave owner think that this collar might be an effective tool for keeping a slave from running away?
    Answer: The poles would slow down a fugitive slave, and also make hiding difficult.

  • Why would a slave owner have gone to such extreme lengths to keep a slave from running away?
    Answer: Slaves were economic assets; when a slave ran away, it was the equivalent of losing valuable property.

  • What punishments might a runaway slave face if they were caught?
    Answer: Student answers will vary; guide students to realize that runaway slaves could face whippings, beatings, torture, or even death if caught.
2) Ask your students if they can define the word "irony," or describe what makes a situation "ironic." (Accept student answers; guide your students to realize that when something is ironic, there is a contradiction between what is said and what is meant ... it can be simplified to mean "saying one thing and doing another.")

3) As they watch the next video segment ask your students to determine why Titus' situation was ironic. PLAY the tape, at approximately 18 minutes, from the previous pause point. PAUSE the tape, at approximately 20 minutes, when you hear Morgan Freeman say, "how to make their voices heard, in the growing cacophony for liberty," and you see two women in a whitewashed kitchen. Check for student comprehension, and ask your students the following:
  • Why was Titus' situation ironic?
    Answer: Titus's situation was ironic because while he was growing up as a slave, some British colonists were beginning to protest the restrictions on their freedom, while at the same time, they were holding people in slavery.

  • Where and when did Titus grow up?
    Answer: In Monmouth County, New Jersey in the 1770s.

  • What tools or skills did Titus' owner gave him that might have inadvertently aided him in his escape?
    Answer: Titus' owner sent him to market alone. Titus learned how to support himself by selling skins and crops he had grown, and his independent travels enabled him to develop a mental map of the area and its waterways.

  • How was Titus' owner stricter than other Quaker slave owners at the time?
    Answer: Unlike other Quakers, Titus' owner refused to free him at age 21, and did not allow him to learn to read or write.

  • Why might the mid-1770s have been an ideal time for Titus to run away?
    Answer: The colonies were on the verge of having a war with England. Titus' owner and other colonists might have had bigger problems to worry about than catching an escaped slave.
4) Be a little cagey, and ask your students who the "good guys" and who the "bad guys" were in the American Revolution. Ask your students what the Patriots were fighting for. Remind your students again, that the Revolution could be considered ironic, since the Patriots were fighting for freedom while simultaneously holding slaves. Ask your students if they have any thoughts on who slaves might have sympathized with in the Revolution ... the Patriots or the British? Why?

5) Ask your students to log on to the Runaway Ad for Titus Web site at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2h1.html. If you do not have access to computers prepare this Web page as a handout. Ask your students to read the primary source document and identify the key events and individuals it describes. Give your students five minutes or so to complete this task.

6) Discuss the primary source document with your students by asking the following questions:
  • What does the document appear to be?
    Answer: A notice about a runaway slave named Titus.

  • When do they think this document was written?
    Answer: It was published in November 1775.

  • What town did Titus live?
    Answer: In Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, New Jersey. Caution your students that the "s's" look like "f's" in a lot of 18th century type.

  • Can they give you a physical description of Titus? He was a light-skinned 21 year old, approximately six feet tall, wearing a gray coat and brown pants. He was also thought to be carrying a bundle of clothes.

  • Who was looking for Titus, and what was his relationship to Titus?
    Answer: John Corlies, who was Titus' owner and master.

  • What was the reward for the return of Titus?
    Answer: Three pounds.
7) As they prepare to watch the next video segment ask your students to predict what might have happened to Titus. FAST FORWARD the tape, at approximately 28 minutes, until you see a puff of white smoke as a cannon fires, and you hear the boom of a cannon. Before they view the clip ask your students to identify why George Washington changed his mind and allowed black soldiers to fight on behalf of the patriots. PLAY the tape. PAUSE the tape, at approximately 31 minutes, when you see a group of men on horseback, and you hear a male voice say, "it has a tremendous effect, and word spreads to other colonies." Check for comprehension, and ask your students the following questions:
  • Why did George Washington change his mind and allow black soldiers to fight for the patriots?
    Answer: Washington changed his mind when he heard that the British were offering slaves freedom if they fought for them.

  • Why did many colonists want blacks to be allowed to fight?
    Answer: Because many white colonists didn't want to enlist.

  • Why was seeing black soldiers fighting for the patriots disconcerting for many colonists?
    Answer: It represented a disordered society ... their world had been turned upside down.

  • If they were a slave during the Revolution, for which side would they have fought?
8) As they watch the video ask them to identify what happened to Titus during the Revolution, and to determine whether or not they think he ended up being a "good guy" or a "bad guy." PLAY the tape, at approximately 31 minutes, from the previous pause point. STOP the tape, at approximately 32 minutes, when you hear Morgan Freeman say, "he had fought in the Revolution for five years," and you see the two men on horseback. Check for student comprehension, and ask your students the following questions:
  • What happened to Titus during the Revolution?
    Answer: He fought on the British side in Lord Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment, then returned to New Jersey with a band of guerilla raiders, who raided property and stole goods and cattle for the British. They terrorized their former owners, kidnapped patriots, and, most importantly, liberated their enslaved families and friends. Titus came to be known as "Colonel Tye," and he died after being wounded in a battle.

  • Was Colonel Tye a "good guy" or a "bad guy?"

  • Do they sympathize with Colonel Tye?

  • Do they think the system of slavery was wrong?

  • Do they think that Colonel Tye was justified in returning to his home to free his family and friends?

  • Do they think it was acceptable for Titus to fight for the British? Why?
Explain to your students that sometimes history is not cut-and-dry, and that matters sometimes cannot be explained as "right" or "wrong," or in black and white terms. It depends on the point of view, or perspective, of the individual. Despite the fact that Titus fought for the British, who are commonly thought of as the enemy in the Revolution, he was rightfully liberating his family and friends while simultaneously exploiting his oppressors.

9) Ask your students to consider what different perspectives Colonel Tye's contemporaries would have had on him. What would the opinion of Colonel Tye have been if you asked a British officer? A slave in Monmouth County? A slave-owner in Monmouth County?

10) Ask your students to log on to the "Titus at the Market" essay at http://www.pbs.org/slavery/ teachers/readings.html. Ask them to read the essay and determine what the man at the market's perspective is on Titus. Allow your students 10 minutes or so to read the essay. Check for comprehension, and ask your students what the man at the market's perspective is on Titus. Ask them if they think the man's perspective is surprising? Why?

Culminating Activity/Assessment:

1) Ask your students to remind you of how long slavery lasted in North America. (245 years.) Ask your students if they think slaves were, like Titus, running away throughout that 245-year history. Tell you students that they will now be examining a pair of Web sites to investigate the circumstances faced by other runaway American slaves.

2) Ask your students to log on to The Underground Railroad site at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ features/99/railroad/. Divide your class into three groups: Locations, Hardships, and Individuals. Ask them to take a voyage on the Underground Railroad and to record information about the locations, hardships, or individuals they encounter on their journey, based on their group's assigned topic. Allow your students 10 minutes or so to complete this activity. Check for comprehension, and ask each group to share information about the locations, hardships, or individuals they encountered in their voyage. (Prior to teaching the lesson, log on to the Web site and complete the activity to familiarize yourself with the locations, hardships, and individuals described.)

3) Ask your students to log on to the Flight to Freedom Web site at http://ssad.bowdoin.edu:9780/ projects/flighttofreedom/. Ask them to complete the online activity, and jot down some information on the experiences their character has. Allow your students 10 minutes or so to complete this activity. Check for comprehension, and ask your students to share some of the experiences their character had in their "flight to freedom."

4) Remind your students that different individuals had different perspectives on slavery throughout its 245-year history in North America. Slaves who chose to run away had a variety of reasons for doing so, and a variety of experiences once they made their decisions. Present your students with the hat full of "It Depends on Your Point of View" CHARACTER PROFILES STUDENT ORGANIZER, and ask each student to select a character profile without looking.

5) Instruct your students that, as a homework assignment, they are to write a journal entry or create a scene, similar to the "Titus at the Market" reading, from the perspective of the Character Profile they have selected. Students should utilize information and knowledge gained from the video and Web sites in this lesson to make their journal entry or scene as historically accurate as possible. Collect student journal entries for assessment purposes.

Note: The time periods for the character profiles range from the 1770's to the 1850's. Explain to the students that the time period during the 1770's was during the Revolutionary War when Titus escaped and information can be gathered from the video, the reading, and the newspaper ad for Titus. The Underground Railroad and the Flight to Freedom Web sites will provide information for profiles from the 1850's time period.

Cross-Curricular Extensions

MUSIC AND VISUAL ARTS
Investigate the roles that music and visual arts, such as quiltmaking, played in the lives of slaves. Use the resources in the SLAVERY AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA Web site feature The Sounds of Slavery and listen to Laura Smalley's personal narrative about running away.

SCIENCE
Investigate the history and science of the discovery of the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan. Begin by listening to an excellent radio news story at http://www.npr.org/templates/ story/story.php?storyId=1455525.

LANGUAGE ARTS
Consider reading one of the classic slave narratives, including "The Life of Olauduh Equiano", "The History of Mary Prince", "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass", or "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl."

SOCIAL STUDIES
Research the lives of the historic figures on the "Flight to Freedom" Web site, including Anthony Burns, Ellen Craft, Harriet Tubman, Moses Roper, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Josiah Henson, or Austin Steward.

Community Connections
  • Visit your local museum or historical society and investigate what was going on in your area at the time of the American Revolution.

  • Visit your local library and research whether or not there are any journals or diaries available from historic figures in your community.

  • Begin keeping a "family journal" of relevant events and happenings in the life of your family.

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