About one-third of Patriot soldiers at the Battle of Bunker Hill were African Americans. Census data also reveal that there were slaves and free Blacks living in the North in 1790 and later years. What were the experiences of African-American individuals in the North in the years between the American Revolution and the Civil War?
Release of the film Green Book (2018) inspired renewed interest in the experiences of African Americans when traveling in the United States during the 20th century. This inquiry-based lesson combines individual investigations with whole or small group analysis of primary sources and visual media to investigate the compelling question: How have the intersections of race and place impacted U.S. history and culture?
This lesson will focus on the views of the founders as expressed in primary documents from their own time and in their own words. Students will see that many of the major founders opposed slavery as contrary to the principles of the American Revolution. Students will also gain a better understanding of the views of many founders, even those who owned slaves – including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – who looked forward to a time when slavery would no longer mar the American Republic.
In this lesson, students analyze Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration of the Negro Panel no. 57 (1940-41), Helene Johnson’s Harlem Renaissance poem “Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem” (1927), and Paul Laurence Dunbar’s late-nineteenth-century poem “We Wear the Mask” (1896), considering how each work represents the life and changing roles of African Americans from the late nineteenth century to the Harlem Renaissance and The Great Migration.
In this lesson, students examine the contrasting view of two free black men in nineteenth century America abolitionist David Walker and black nationalist John Day. After reviewing background information and primary sources about the two polices, students will argue for or against the most beneficial policy for nineteenth-century African Americans.
The realities of slavery and Reconstruction hit home in poignant oral histories from the Library of Congress. In these activities, students research narratives from the Federal Writers' Project and describe the lives of former African slaves in the U.S. -- both before and after emancipation. From varied stories, students sample the breadth of individual experiences, make generalizations about the effects of slavery and Reconstruction on African Americans, and evaluate primary source documents.
Kerry James Marshall's painting Voyager, depicting two partially obscured Black figures standing aboard a ship, refers to an actual ship, Wanderer, which was among the last slave ships in the United States, illegally transporting more than 400 individuals from West Africa to Georgia in 1858—even though the importation of enslaved people had been banned in 1808. Use the painting as an entry point to discuss the Transatlantic slave trade and introduce students to the NEH-funded database Slave Voyages project.
This lesson focuses on the shift toward mass production in northern factories and on southern plantations that occurred during the first half of the 19th century. Using an economics-focused approach to examining U.S. history prior to the civil war, students examine the role of slavery, industrialization, regionalism, and political responses that ultimately led to the start of a war.
Use Aaron Douglas’s mural Into Bondage to introduce the stories of famous Harlem Renaissance figures, including Langston Hughes, and to explore the history and importance of Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the end of Black enslavement in the United States.