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

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Rationale for the exhibit:

My students and I were, at first, daunted by the task of creating a "Virtual Museum" being unsure of the technological requirements. We started by studying the slave experience from capture to plantation life. My students were shocked by the level of cruelty exhibited by slave traders and masters throughout the middle passage, the sale of slaves and life on Southern plantations. This emotional reaction is what led us to our theme.

The students were each given an image from PBS which was assigned via "luck of the draw" as it seemed most equitable. They then examined the images and spent some time brainstorming their emotional reactions. Students were then instructed to write between 50 – 100 words that described the image as though it was their own experience making sure to draw from their background knowledge, the material we had studied and their initial emotional reactions. The student’s products were excellent in their depiction of both the historical information they had learned about in class and the horrors of slavery on a personal level. Some of the reactions included:

  • "It made me realize how courageous and motivated some slaves were to improve their lives by escaping." -Christiana.

  • "It gave me a visual of what the events actually looked like." -Joey.

  • "It showed me how white plantation owners really treated their slaves. It was also a new experience to narrate pictures." -Jake.

  • "I learned what Liberia was." -Billy.

  • "It made me realize that some whites were against slavery." -Alexia.

  • "I learned to vary my word choices." -Jamie.

  • "I learned how to use exclamation points and rhetorical questions." -Josh.

  • "I think I learned more about history." -Brandon.

The students who participated in this project are part of a talented and gifted program drawn from the entire town in Stratford, Connecticut. They are selected to enter into the Advanced Learning Program of Stratford (ALPS) usually in 3rd grade and stay together as a class through 8th grade. This makes them an extremely cohesive group. While the students have differing strengths and talents; all have a high level of commitment to education and learning. I would like to thank my students for working quickly and diligently on these images and narratives. I am fortunate to work with such a talented and committed group of young boys and girls.

Teacher: Beth Gilman, Wooster Middle School
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