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In the Classroom

Lessons About African Americans

These lessons are designed to serve as examples of different ways you can teach about the slavery of Africans and African Americans in New England in the 18th century. Students use both primary and secondary sources as they examine different aspects of New England slavery, with the goal of incorporating names, faces, and personal experiences into their study of this topic.

The Three Great Women lesson is intended for grades K-2. In Exchange for Rum, about the triangular trade, is best for grades 4-6. The remaining lessons are designed for students in grades 8 through high school.

A note on primary and secondary sources:
Primary sources were created during the time being studied. Secondary sources were done after the fact, but the author may have studied a primary source to produce the secondary source.

The Lessons

Three Great Women

Grade level: Kindergarten - Grade 2
Students will hear about the lives, struggles, and accomplishments of three African-American women who lived in colonial Massachusetts; Lucy Terry Prince, Phillis Wheatley, and Elizabeth Freeman (Mum Bett).

In Exchange for Rum

Grade level: 4 - 6
Students explore how specific commodities, including slaves, were part of the Triangular Trade. They will also consider the value of these commodities.

Petitioning Freedom

Grade level: 8 - High School
Students will understand that African slaves in Massachusetts petitioned unsuccessfully for freedom at the same time that the American colonies declared independence from Britain. They will understand that these Black petitioners were familiar with and inspired by the Declaration of Independence.

Jin and Cato's Lives as Northern Slaves

Grade level: 8 - High School
Jin and her son Cato were slaves living in Deerfield, Massachusetts, in the 18th and early 19th centuries. By examining primary and secondary sources about them, students will understand that slave life in the North in the 18th century was different from the lives of slaves in the South during the same period.

Ministers Owned Slaves

Grade level: High School
Students will argue the cases for and against slavery from the standpoints of those living in New England in the early 18th century. They will understand that many Northern ministers thought it their Christian duty to keep slaves.

The Cost of Success: Examining the Lives of Two Accomplished Slaves

Grade level: High School
Lucy Terry Prince and Phillis Wheatley were Massachusetts slaves who accomplished great things but at what cost? Students will understand that although enslaved people had no control over their own lives, sometimes opportunities or situations occurred which would have otherwise been denied them.

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