In this lesson, students learn firsthand about the childhoods of Jacobs and Keckly from reading excerpts from their autobiographies. They practice reading for both factual information and making inferences from these two primary sources.
Slave narratives are a unique American literary genre in which former slaves tell about their lives in slavery and how they acquired their freedom. Henry “Box” Brown escaped from slavery by having himself shipped in a crate (hence, the nickname “Box”) from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1849.
This lesson uses Day as a focal point for students to learn about ways that free blacks attained their free status and “crafted freedom” for themselves and others through their craft and entrepreneurial skills, through political activities, through leveraging their social position and contacts, and through their art and creativity.
In 1845, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, and Written by Himself was published. In it, Douglass criticizes directly—often with withering irony—those who defend slavery and those who prefer a romanticized version of it.
In this lesson students do a close reading of “Learning to Read,” a poem by Francis Watkins Harper about an elderly former slave which conveys the value of literacy to blacks during and after slavery. The activities also prompt students to examine the nature of century in the 21st century and the value they put upon it.