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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
Knowledge is Power Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students
Introductory Activity:
"What Is This Thing Called Knowledge?"

1) Ask your students to provide synonyms for knowledge and write your students' responses down on a blackboard as they are suggested. Ask your students how one acquires knowledge. Suggest that knowledge also includes expertise. Ask your students what areas of knowledge they are experts in that aren't necessarily learned in school.

2) African slaves in America did not simply contribute their labor. They brought with them many new cultures and skills and learned and adopted other cultures and skills from the European and Native American cultures they encountered. Insert SLAVERY AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA, Episode 1, "The Downward Spiral" into your VCR. CUE the tape 34 MINUTES into Episode 1. This video segment, which will last approximately 20 MINUTES, concerns the establishment of slavery in the Carolina colonies. Divide your students into groups of three and give each group a copy of the student organizer SLAVERY IN THE CAROLINAS.

3) Following the conclusion of the 20 MINUTE VIDEO SEGMENT involve the students in a discussion of the material covered in the student organizer. You may collect the student organizer completed by the students for assessment purposes.

Learning Activity:
"Learning to Navigate a New Nation and New Ideas"

The late 1700s were a time of great intellectual ferment for Americans. Influenced by the ideas of John Locke, American leaders developed a political philosophy based on a rhetoric of natural rights and equality that they used to press for their political independence from Great Britain. And the religious upheavals of the 18th century introduced a strain of evangelical Christianity that preached an equality of condition, in which rich and poor, black and white were considered equal in the eyes of God. These arguments held a strong appeal to African Americans, who employed the rhetoric of both Christianity and the enlightenment to argue against slavery.

1) Insert SLAVERY AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA, Episode 2, "Freedom is in the Air" into your VCR. CUE the tape to the beginning of Episode 2. This video segment, which will last approximately 10 MINUTES, concerns Thomas Jefferson and his personal slave, Jupiter. Divide your students into groups of three students each and provide each group with the student organizer entitled LEARNING TO NAVIGATE. Have your students respond to the questions in the student organizer as they watch the documentary.

2) Following the conclusion of the 10 MINUTE VIDEO SEGMENT involve the students in a discussion of the material covered in the student organizer. You may collect the student organizer completed by the students for assessment purposes.

3) Insert SLAVERY AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA, Episode 2, "Freedom is in the Air" into your VCR. CUE the tape 38 MINUTES into Episode 2. This video segment, which will last approximately 7 MINUTES, concerns David Walker. Divide your students into groups of three students each and provide each group with the student organizer entitled DAVID WALKER. Have your students respond to the questions in the student organizer as they watch the documentary.

4) Following the conclusion of the 10 MINUTE VIDEO SEGMENT involve the students in a discussion of the material covered in the student organizer. You may collect the student organizer completed by the students for assessment purposes.

5) Divide your students into the same groups of three. Give half of the small groups copies of the excerpts from David Walker's Appeal. Give the other half of the groups copies of the document titled PETITION TO MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR THOMAS GAGE AND THE GENERAL COURT. Have your students read through their documents and list, in two columns, arguments or rhetoric that might have appealed to the era's Christian values and arguments that might have appealed to the era's democratic values. Allow 10 MINUTES for this activity.

6) Bring your students together again and invite the groups to report on their findings. Ask them which arguments they thought were especially convincing. You may collect the student organizer completed by the students for assessment purposes.

Culminating Activity/Assessment: "Test Your Knowledge"

Time Allotment: Two 45-minute class periods

1) In this culminating activity students will develop a set of questions that will test their knowledge of slavery in America. Divide your students into groups of three and assign each group a specific topic. Possible topics might include:
  • Abolition Movement
  • The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
  • Culture and the Slave Community
  • Slavery in the North
  • Slavery during the Colonial Era
  • The Politics of Slavery
  • The Plantation System
  • Slavery in the Courts
2) Provide your students with research time in the school library or a multimedia classroom. Have them research their topic using materials covered in this and the other lesson plans on the Slavery and the Making of America website, as well as from material they might find online. (The SLAVERY AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA website has a collection of recommended websites on slavery and abolition.) Each group should create a list of five questions and answers related to their topic and rank those questions according to degree of difficulty. Encourage your students not to create questions that are too difficult for their fellow students to answer. Let your students know that these questions and answers will be collected for assessment purposes.

3) Have your student groups turn in their five questions and answers. Check them for accuracy and degree of difficulty and have the groups redo their questions if you feel they are inaccurate or if the answers are too obscure. Similar to the game Jeopardy, create a grid with columns listing the topics researched by the various groups. Indicate, in columns, the points assigned to each topic, 10 points for the easiest question on up to 50 points for the most difficult question.

4) Have the groups take turns selecting and answering questions on the grid to ensure that by the end of the game each group has had an opportunity to answer the same number of questions. (Groups are not allowed to pick questions that they themselves have developed.) If a group correctly answers a question, assign them the point score related to that question. If a group incorrectly answers a question, deduct that amount from their team score and give the next group the opportunity to answer that question or select another question to answer. Continue until each question has been selected. The group scoring the most points is the winner.

5) If, at the end of the game, the questions to any of the topics remain unanswered, have the groups who researched that topic provide the answers to the rest of the class.

Cross-Curricular Extensions

LANGUAGE ARTS
Read the "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave" or other slave narratives and discuss how the authors set about educating themselves.

Community Connections
  • Discuss the role that the public libraries play in the community. How is the library used for self-education?

  • Investigate the history of the public school system in your city or town.

  • Have students ask their parents or other adults they know what special forms of knowledge they received from their parents or other family members.
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