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In the Classroom > Unit Overview
Lessons: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15

The Second Turn, 1780-1820
Lesson 14: Indians and African Americans 1780-1820

Unit Central Questions: In This Lesson:

What do primary and secondary sources teach us about the characteristics of "everyday life" of individuals living in Deerfield at the four turns of the centuries?

What do these characteristics reveal about changes in the town since its beginning as an English settlement?

Lesson Length
Key Ideas
Activity 1
Homework Assignment

Lesson Length

One 30-minute session.

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Key Content Ideas Taught in this Lesson and Teacher Background

Until 1783, the opportunities of African Americans living in Deerfield, Massachusetts remained largely constrained by slavery (slaves were sometimes called "servants for life"). Some African Americans had been freed at this time. In 1783, slavery was abolished in Massachusetts as a result of the Quock Walker vs. Jennison decision.

Native Americans are not obvious in town records, and their absence signifies their dispersion to Canada, to Schaghticoke (near Albany, NY), or to other parts of New England. Those Native Americans who remained integrated themselves into the general population and, in effect, became invisible in records.

For more information, read:
Teacher Background Essay: Native American and African Americans, 1780-1820

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Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will understand that:

1. Opportunities for African Americans remained severely limited by slavery until 1783, although we do have evidence of a freed slave, Abijah Prince, living in the town. [Teacher note: Refer to Lesson 6 for more about Lucy Terry and Abijah Prince]
2. In 1783 Massachusetts abolished slavery, with the Quock Walker vs. Jennison decision. Although freedom improved the lot of African Americans, legal rights did not insure social equality or opportunity.
3. According to a 1790 census, people of color are listed in the column "All other free persons."

Students will be able to:

1. Students will be able to read and interpret a 1790 census record.

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In Preparation for Teaching

1. Read teacher background essays
2. Make copies of census for students.

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Primary and Secondary Sources:

1. Teacher Background Essay: Native American and African Americans, 1780-1820
2. Copies of the section of the 1790 Massachusetts census in which the town of Deerfield appears.
3. Picture of 19th century Native American basket.


1. Student notebooks.
2. Chalkboard or chart paper

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Activities Materials in Context

Activity 1

1. Write the title "Quock Walker vs. Jennison" on the board or chart. Explain that sometimes laws are made by the legislature in a state or the country. Sometimes a practice is challenged in court, and the decision of the judge causes a change in what has been allowed up until that point. When judges dealing with a property issue in the case of Quock Walker vs. Jennison ruled that a slave could not be sold with the rest of a person's property, the effect was the abolition of slavery in the state of Massachusetts. That decision took place in 1783.
2. Pass out copies of the 1790 census.
3. Have students work in pairs to look over census document, noting headings.
4. Discuss first column, noting names with which we are now familiar such as Wells, Stebbins, Dickinson, and Williams.
5. Ask students to note second column listing free white males over 16. Ask students who this might include. Who might be living in the households in addition to family members? (servants, boarders, and other workers)
6. Ask students to note third column listing free white males under 16 years of age. Who might this include other than family members? (apprentices, indentured servants, household and farm workers)
7. Ask students to note fourth column listing free white females. Why is there no mention of age? (There was little distinction between women and girls.)
8. Note the last two columns. Ask students why there are no numbers in the "Slaves" column. (1783 decision)
9 . Ask who might be included in the "All other free persons" column. (African Americans and possibly Indians, although many Indians had moved to Canada, the Berkshires, or other parts of New England by this time. They might have been counted in other places in the document.)
10. Ask students to make a list of the families who had numbers in the "all other free persons column."
11. Do they think there were Native American people in Deerfield, Massachusetts in this time period? Distribute image of the basket made by a Native American. This is one of a number of baskets made by Native Americans from the northeast and owned by people in Deerfield. How do they think Deerfield residents obtained these baskets? Do they see these people reflected in the 1790 census? Why?

Homework Assignment:

Using the census document and their notes, instruct students to write a summary paragraph in their social studies notebook with the title "African-Americans and Indians in Deerfield, Massachusetts During the Years 1780-1820."


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1790 Massachusetts census












Native American basket




Student notebooks



Use the homework assignment to assess the degree to which individual students have achieved the intended learning outcomes.


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