Cart 0

The Dis-Connection of Our Roots

Author: Stephanie M. Robinson


John Barry Elementary School

Year: 2020

Seminar: New Approaches to the History of Slavery: The View from the Penn and Slavery Project

Grade Level: 4

Keywords: African American History, roots, Slavery

School Subject(s): African American History, African American Literature, American History, English, History, Social Studies

Slavery is a topic that has many roots. My prospectus offers a curriculum unit that recognizes and attempts to address how and why African Americans/Blacks are disconnection from their historical and genealogical roots. Basically, every U.S.  racial and ethnic group know their roots, where their families originated from, and why and how their families came to America except African American/Blacks. As an African American/Black, I feel disconnected from my roots musically and educationally. As an African American, /Black I have heard White people say, “You need to go back to Africa.” But, exactly where is it I should go? I do not know who my African family is nor where they originated from. I do not know our tribal name or tribe. I cannot pinpoint what part of Africa my family originated from. I have no connection to my roots. What I do know for certain is my ancestors were brought here as slaves. They knew were they came from, but their history was lost in obscurity. My African brothers and sisters do not see me as having a connection to their roots. They feel Africa is not the Motherland of African-Americans/Blacks. And now, we have generations of African-American/Black students saying casually “You treat me like a slave”, or “I am not your slave,” not fully understanding the impact of those words, nor what slavery actually entailed.

Download Unit: Stephanie-Robinson.pdf

Did you try this unit in your classroom? Give us your feedback here.

Full Unit Text
Content Objectives


In the beginning, when Native Americans were enslaved by the Europeans, in North America, they were constantly escaping because they knew where home was, and they had local allies. But the Africans, who were first brought to North America in 1619 as part of the Transatlantic Slave Trade did not have the same familiarity or resources.  They were taken from their villages, and brought across a great ocean to territories that were unfamiliar to them. Their roots, culture, language and identity were lost in transitions under conditions known as slavery.

With this interruption to their lives, Africans were kept in bondage because enslaved people had few resources to offset their dependence upon the people who claimed to own them and kept them enslaved.

During this dark period in time, Africans were placed onto cargo ships, and housed in the most despicable conditions. Some tried to revolt as in the movie “Amistad” which was about a slave rebellion in the nineteenth century. Others decided death was better than being a slave, and jumped into the murky waters. During the Transatlantic Slave Trade there were more than 12 million Africans who were uprooted from their native lands in West and West Central Africa, along the coast from Senegal and Gambia to Angola, and every country in between (Haley, 1976). According to Smallwood (2008), “The Atlantic passage, then, was not a “Middle Passage” but an “experience of motion without discernible direction or destination” for enslaved people who did not know what would come next.

The “transformation of the African into the African American actually began on African soil” (Gomez, 1998). The enslaved African was placed into specific locations with other enslaved Africans from different ethnicities and culture. The one thing they shared was being black and African. Upon arrival to the Americas, they were not given the opportunities to read or write. The slaveholders and slave owners did this in order to keep the slaves from gaining freedom, as well as a form of control. The slave traders and slaveholders separated generations of families, and kept them under miserable and oppressive conditions. Their right breast was burned and branded with the royal coat of arms, and their left breast or arm was branded and burned with the mark of their ownership (Gomez, 1998). They were also baptized for a fee of 300 reis (Portuguese and Brazilian money) because the white slave owner felt it was best to convert them with their Christian Indoctrination. Once baptized, they were branded once again when they stepped out of the cold water. They received a brand and burn of a small cross on each chest (Gomez, 1998).

Throughout the turmoil and displacements, the slaves never forgot their villages or native land. They were stripped bare to the bone, and treaty unjustly under horrific conditions, but they prevailed. The only thing they owned was the memory of how to craft musical instruments from their native country. These instruments included drums, banjos, balafo, panpie, percussive, string and wind instruments (Mintz & McNeil, 2016). Music and story-telling became a connection to their roots. In their native land, Africans used music during work, celebrations, ceremonies, and entertainment. This was the connection to their roots. Story-telling and songs that were passed down from generation to generation kept them bounded them together, and helped them to remember their home-their roots.

Without a past and a known lineage, people find it difficult to envision a future. The call and response of African American song and music became an intricate web of communication for the African people who were separated from their friends, family and culture. The movie “Roots” is a prime example of the importance of knowing your lineage and where you came from. It depicts how generations upon generations of slaves, and eventually freed Blacks were able to learn who they were, and how to document their heritage by passing down songs and storytelling from one generation to the next, even if the families were separated. It taught the importance of family traditions, and kept family and friends united and connected to their culture. Eventually, the United States abolished the transatlantic in 1808. But, as a nation, the United States continued to enslave and traffic in African-descended people until 1865 when the Civil War ended, and the Union prevailed. The African diaspora caused the slave trade to have a vast impact on the global culture.


This unit will showcase the importance of call and response in songs that the slaves passed down from generation to generation throughout their trails and tribulations. The unit enable students to become familiar with the evolution of call and response, and its influence to present day genres of music.

Specific Learning Objectives

Students Will:

  1. Understand the meaning of call and response from Slavery to present day.
  2. Learn the connection of call and response in secular and religious music.
  3. Be able to make their own call and response song or activity.
The Slave Trade

Slavery is the act of people being owned by someone. The slaves were not treated as humans, but as property. Throughout the history of slavery, slave owners have always prospered on the hard work of slaves. The slave owners were physically, mentally and emotionally abusive to their slaves. Long before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, prior societies such as the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans had slaves. During the 19th century, Russia also had enslaved people know as serfs. They were freed in 1861, four years before slavery was abolished when the South lost the Civil War to the North (BBC, 2014). Commodities like sugar and salt were lucrative business before the slave trade. But, once the slave trade began, slaves became the most important commodity.

During the 15th and 16th century, the Spaniards and the Portuguese began colonies in the New World known as the Americas. They grew crops to make money, but they needed people to farm the lands. Slavery became an acceptable practice of working the fields because the slaves worked for free. This was the beginning of the slave trade. Around 1502, the Spaniards and Portuguese began importing slaves to the Americas. Chambers (N.D.), stated African rulers, “sold their own people into bondage as well as criminals, house servants and debtors.” Slavery in Africa was prevalent before Europeans begin trading with the African Kings for commodities such as sugar, weapons and slaves, who were often captives from other warring tribes. According to Mintz and McNeil (2016), women were more of a commodity to the African Kings than men because women bore children and performed the majority of the duties in the fields. The African Kings also used slaves in other areas such as for their royal courts.

Slavery in Africa involved slaves serving as soldiers, servants, artisans, and officials (Mintz and McNeil, 2016). Young girls were also in servitude to the kings. They were used as “debt collateral.” Debt collateral involved the young girls used as laborers, or married at a young age into the family of the owners. Their family debt was paid off by the servitude of the young girls. Mintz and McNeil (2016) stated slavers were also held under the servitude system known as “clientage.” Clientage involved the slaves owning a “share of their crop or their labor to an owner or a lineage, and they were allowed to participate in society’s political activities.” They were not treated much different from “freed” people under the rule of the African Kings. Thus, when the African Kings traded the captives, debt collaterals, and clientage to the Europeans, they did not realize their people would be involved in a horrid and devasting experience.

The Africans who were sold into slavery did not go of their own free will. They were tricked into slavery not only by the African kings and rulers, but also by their friends and family. They were told they were going to a party, or the men on the ship wanted to talk to them. Any means necessary was used to get them on the boats, and sold into captivity (Nunn & Wantchekon, 2009). The people who were sold or captured into slavery did not foresee the interruption to their lives as they knew it.


Table 1: Data on the method of enslavement among Koelle’s informants
Manner of Enslavement Percentage
Kidnapped or seized 40.3%
Taken in a war 24.3%
Sold/tricked by a relative, friend, etc. 19.4%
Through a judicial process 16.0%


Notes: The data are from Sigismund Koelle’s (1854) Linguistic Census. The transatlantic slave trade began in 1430 with the Portuguese traveling to Africa to trade for gold. By the 1500’s, they realized enslaving Africans, and trading them to neighboring countries and territories was much more lucrative and profitable. By the 1500’s more than 81,000 Africans were traded to Europe, nearby Atlantic and to Muslim merchants in Africa” (Boddy-Evans, 2020). Portuguese traders ultimately transported more than 4.5 million Africans (about 40%) of the total transatlantic trade) to undesirable conditions. From these beginnings to 4 ½ centuries later, more than 13,000,000 Africans became victims of one of the most heinous of crimes involving torture and human bondage.

For more than 200 years from 1440 to 1640 Portugal monopolized the slave trade. Even after the slave trade was abolished in America on January 1, 1808, Portugal continued importing slaves for profit. However, even though Britain was involved with the abolition of slavery, “During the 18th century, Britain became the worst transgressor by importing more than 2.5 million Africans out of a staggering 6 million” (Boddy-Evans, 2020). By the time the 17th century rolled around numerous countries such as Portugal, France, England, Denmark and Holland were trading commodities for slaves.

Slave ships carried as many as 250-600 slaves cramped into small spaces, shackled to one another with hardly any room to move (BBC, 2014). The slave ships were normally 5 feet 3 inches high, and 4 feet 4 inches wide (Diagram 1). The journey from Africa to America was a grueling 4,000 miles, and during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade there were more than over 54,000 voyages (BBC, 2014) to import slaves from Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas. During the long journey, 20 up to 30 percent of slaves died during the treacherous journey.

Gomez (1998) states about 60 percent of Africans were imported to the Americas between 1721 and 1820, and 80 percent came to the New World between 1701 and 1850.

Aboard A Slave Ship

Diagram 1 Photo by Russell Boyce.  Source: Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Database; International Slavery Museum, Historic Jamestown; British Library (2019)

Slaves who were imported to North America had the worst rate of surviving the long journey because the journey from Africa to North America was long, and could take at least 35 days, and up to two to three months. Frankel (2009) stated more than 13,000,000 million slaves were deported and transferred to the Americas (Table 1).

Number of Slaves Leaving African Ports


African Port Number of Slaves Departing Percentage
Senegambia (Arguin), Sierra Leone 2,000,000 15.4
Windward Coast 250,000 1.9
Ivory Coast 250,000 1.9
Gold Coast (Ashanti) 1,5000,000 11.5
Slave Coast (Dahomey, Adra, Oyo) 2,000,000 15.4
Benin to Calabar 2,000,000 15.4
Camerooons/Gabon 250,000 1.9
Loango 750,000 5.8
Congo/Angoloa 3,000,000 23.1
Mozambique/Madagascar 1,000,000 7.7
Total Leaving African Ports 13,000,000 100


Table 1.1   Frankel (2009)

Trauma of the Middle Passage

Imagine being separated from your family and friends, probably never to see them again. Think about the anxiety you would experience knowing you would never see your parents, grandparents, siblings or friends. This is what Africans experienced when captured and taken hostage from Africa, put on slave ships, and packed in like sardines in a can to make a very long journey to a foreign country they had no knowledge about. They were not aware that they would be sold into slavery to work on plantations as free labor. From sun up to sun down there given minimal food and water. They had to sleep, eat and live in their own excrement. If they were allowed to walk around to stretch their limbs, it would be for entertainment purposes to keep the enslavers entertained. They had many diseases such as smallpox, measles, and scurvy, as well as bouts of diarrhea. But, through it all the worst they experienced were starvation and dehydration. With these poor and horrid conditions, some of the slaves revolted. They created mutiny, jumped overboard, attempted suicide, and even though food was rationed, they refused to eat (Mintz & McNeil, 2016). They felt death was better than living. By the time they reached the Americas, they were covered in sores, malnourished, and suffering from various other illnesses and diseases.

Imagine coming to a country where no one looks like you or speak your language. This is how the Africans may have felt upon arriving to the Americas. According to statistics (Frankel, 2009) 11, 313,000 arrived in the Americas (table 1.2). There were 1,687,000 not accounted for. The word slavery is an abomination that resonates pain, suffering and trauma 400 years later. From 1650 to 1808, Africans were brought to the Americas via the Middle Passage.

Slave Exports from Africa Over Time: The Atlantic Trade

*The data was derived from the W.E.B. Dubois database of slaving voyages, which was later combined with other databases to form the comprehensive Voyages database of nearly 35,000 slaving expeditions, estimated to represent 80% of the total


Period Number of Slaves Accounted for Percentage
1450—1600 409,000 3.6
1601-1700 1,348,000 11.9
1701-1800 6,090,000 53.8
1801-1900 3,466,000 30.6
Total Slave Exports 11,313,000 100


Table 1.2 Frankel (2009)

Smallwood argues that enslaved African communities in the Americas reflected the “serial repetition of one-way departures” in which the “voices of saltwater slaves, could not reverberate back to Africa” (p. 201). Once the Africans arrived to the Americas, they were dehumanized. They were bound together by ropes, naked, hungry, dehydrated, exhausted and mentally, physically and emotionally deprived. They lost family and friends to death by illness and diseases, emaciation, or they jumped into the murky waters to escape a fate they were uncertain of. Their previous lives as they knew it were no more.

Once they reached the Americas, they were separated from their new acquaintances, and placed with other Africans who may not have spoken their language. They were placed onto “slave blocks” to be branded, sold like cattle, and given new names.  According to Chambers (N.D.) the Africans were stripped of their freedom, original name, religion and ethnicity.

During their time of transitioning to a new way of life, Frankel (2009) stated that slaves from the Caribbean and Latin America were placed onto plantations to work in the following fields, which did not include tobacco or rice plantations:

First Employment of Slaves in the Americas


First Employment Number of Slaves Percentage
Sugar Plantations 6,000,000 54.5
Coffee Plantations 2,000,000 18.2
Mines 1,000,000 9.1
Domestic Labor 1,00,000 9.1
Cotton Fields 500,000 4.5
Cocoa Fields 250,000 2.3
Building 250,000 2.3
Total 11,000,000 100.00


Table 1.3 Frankel (2009)

Working on the plantations was tedious and required long hours of manual labor. The slaves were not allowed to learn how to read or write because the slave owner did not want them to think about freedom or independence. They used these as a tool to keep the slaves in their possession, and to maintain control over them. The slave owner also created children with the enslaved women. The children were also slaves, and could be sold or made to work in the fields. Slaves did not have any rights, and the owners-maintained power and control over them.

When they worked in the fields, if they became tired, slowed down, or passed out in the fields from dehydration or exhaustion, the overseer would beat them with a horsewhip; marring their bodies for life. In order to make the long days seem shorter, they would tell stories involving Africans flying back to Africa. If an African was born in the Americas, they did not possess the power to fly, only native-born Africans had super-natural powers to fly so they could return back to African (Gomez, 1998). Virginia Hamilton wrote a book about the mystical powers of Africans flying to escape slavery titled, “The People Could Fly” (1985).

Call and Response

The Africans would sing songs that are known as Call and Response. This was a way for them to communicate with one another, and creating a culture, ethnicity, family and friends. The Library of Congress (LOC, N.D.) states “music was their only escape-their only relief during the grueling workdays”. The slaveholders thought the singing meant the slaves were happy working for free labor, and did not protest their singing. Frederick Douglass stated ‘Make a noise” was a phrase owner of slaves would tell the slaves when they became too quiet (Mintz & McNeil, 2016). They encouraged the slaves to sing songs while in the field, or on the plantation. They were unaware some of the songs were about escape and freedom. Tibbs & Chauncey (2016) stated during the 1800’s, slaves received detrimental punishment for their words in songs and speech because the slave owner did not know nor understood their intentions or motives.

Slavery did not stop the Africans from enjoying music. Music was their voice for sorrow, for happiness, for escape to better conditions. They sang. When the Africans were forcibly taken to America, they bought with them many traditions, including music and storytelling. When working in the fields on the plantations, they would use songs that incorporated “field hollers-call and responds chats tinged with falsetto whoops called “arwhoolies.” (LOC, N.D.).

Call and Response is when a lone singer or group of singers sing verses in a song, and the rest of the singers respond by repeating what was previously stated, by using an aforementioned verse (Robinson, 2015). When slaves sang songs during their long voyage to the Americas, they were trying to distinguish their tribal family and friends from other tribes. Music was their way of expressing their joys, pains and sorrows during their enslavement on the slave ships. When the slaves were sold, and placed onto plantations, they used call and response in their work and spiritual songs to express their desire to be free. The slaves used stories from the Old Testament to address the conditions they were in such as “Come Along, Moses “about the plight of the enslaved Israelites, and the spiritual “Sampson” (also spelled “Samson”), who was the strongest man, betrayed and put in chains” (LOC, Songs).

When they worked in the fields, there would be a man or woman designated as a “Field Holler”. The Field Holler would lead the song (call), and the other workers would response to the song. One such song was “Hoe Emma Hoe” (YouTube, 2011). The field holler and the field workers would sing these songs when working in the cotton fields. Sambol-Tosco (2004) stated “In 1739, South Carolina went so far as to prohibit the beating of drums or dance for fear that their rhythms would be used to incite rebellions” Tibbs & Chauncey (2016) stated the Slave Codes prohibited slaves from talking, speaking or singing in ways that would suggest a threat to social order or forms of actions. These actions by the slaveowners criminalized the slaves from speaking.

After a long day of work on the plantations, they sang songs, mainly spirituals, to feel better about their enslavement. Slaves would often sing songs of praise, or prayed for help and guidance during stressful and strenuous situations. They also put codes into songs to relay secret messages to other slaves such as being beaten by the master, not getting enough food to eat, being sold to another slave owner, or being separated from their family (Ponomarenko, 2005). Music and story-telling became a way of life even though some of the slave masters were unsure about the intentions of the music. Slave songs later became the musical foundation for many genres of music from the past to the present. The call and response are included in gospel, ragtime, rap, hip hop, jazz, blues, country, and rock and roll. When you listen to music of different genres- the singer uses call and response to make the song dynamic, innovative, collective and engaging. Over four hundred years later, call and response is still being used in secular and religious songs. Even though the slaves may have used music and story-telling to describe their dismay about being in bondage, call and response became a part of American culture.

Present Day Call and Response

Call and Response is used in the classrooms for the teacher to get students attention or responses. When the teacher says “Good Morning” and students respond “Good Morning” in return this is call and response. Call and response is also used during times of protest or to make a political statement. In the 1960’s James Brown created a song “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud”. He would sing “Say It Loud”, and the background singers would respond with “I’m Black and I’m Proud”. Call and Response was also used in the military when the troops are running or marching. This type of call and response is known as cadences. It is also used in sporting events and concerts. During sporting events or concerts, call and response is the singer sings a verse, and then holds up the microphone for the audience to respond. Or, when the commentator at a sporting event makes a comment, and the spectators respond in unison. What started as a way for slaves to voice their dismay with their conditions, or to speak about freedom using call and response in codes has evolved it being used in everyday music and a way of life.

Teaching Subject Matters Using Call and Response

When you think about dialogue involving language arts or math, you are using call and response. In the area of language arts, when a student is asked to spell a word such as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, the teacher will say the word slowly, ensuring to say each syllable, have the student break down the word by clapping out the number of syllables in the word, call on individual students to say the word, and then having the group repeat the word after it has been said. Call and Response is also used in math. When you use call and response during a math activity such as multiplication, the teacher may have one student state a multiplication fact such as “5 x 5”, and another student would respond with “25” by making a beat or clapping the answer. In the area of Science, when learning the periodic element table, the teacher can say the word and the students snap the symbol meaning.

Call and Response in the classroom setting is a fun and educational tool to use to get student’s attention, to assist with transitioning from one activity to the next, to introduce new material as well as strategies to memorize content. Call and Response can be verbal or non-verbal depending on its intentions. When it is verbal, it requires a vocal response. When it is non-verbal, it can be displayed by using gestures, hand clapping, and inaudible cues.

Teaching Strategies

Teaching Strategies for call and response will be utilized to reinforce behaviors, assist students with learning how to utilize their short- and long-term memory, teach new concepts in order for students to recall learned skills, and apply what they have learned to real world events.

Growth Mindset
  • Growth Mindset will offer students the opportunities to try new things in the classroom, and assist them with applying effort, persistency, and learning new concepts. Growth mindset will be used as best practice technique to offer students positive feedback when applying new skills. It will allow students to listen to the words the speak by using censorship, as well as be mindful about what they are thinking. Growth Mindset will be utilizing by having the students put their thoughts to words to create a call and response activity.
Formative Assessments
  • Formative assessment will be used to check student’s comprehension skills. Formative assessment will assist students with having one to one time to ensure they are comprehending what is being taught. The types of formative assessments that will be used for call and response lessons will focus on:
  • Socratic Strategy. The students will be asked open-ended questions to articulate what they are thinking, and how they listen to and respond to the teacher and their peers.
  • Think-Pair-Share-Students will answer open-ended questions and be allowed at least a minute or two to think about the question. The students will be paired with a peer, and they are allowed at least three to five minutes to think and solve the question. When time is up, the class will discuss it as a whole class activity where they share their findings and thoughts.
Entry and Exit Tickets
  • The entry and exit tickets give the students the opportunities to reflect and summarize what they want to learn, and what they have learned. The exit ticket is a great learning tool because the teacher can use what is written to plan for the next lesson to ensure students are grasping the concept and understanding the lesson taught.
Summative Assessments
  • Summative Assessments-When a unit is completed, students will be tested on what they learned as a whole. Summative Assessments motivate students to pay attention to what is being taught and challenges them to apply what they have learned.
Active Learning Strategies
  • Students will be engaged in active learning such as:
    • Reciprocal Questioning which will be used by having the students come up with questions about the lesson.
    • The Pause Procedure will be used so students can utilize Think-Pair-Share to discuss what they have learned, ask questions about the lesson and effectively solve the problem.
    • Muddiest Point will be used so students can let the teacher know what was not clearly conveyed about the lesson.
  • Technology will assist with improving student engagement with fully understanding the concept being taught. It will allow students the opportunity to listen to a call and response activity, as well as putting the learned skills to write a call and response activity. Technology will also be used for students by having them take virtual field trips to the past, and learning about how the slaves used call and response when working in the fields. It will be used to assist students with watching mini-lessons, and creating their own mini-lesson relating to call and response.
Convergent Thinking
  • Students will learn how to take what they have learned, and used it to reach a solution. Depth of Knowledge will be used to assist students with conveying what they have learned and applying it to the outcome of the lesson.
Divergent Thinking
  • Students will think critically and brainstorm to create solutions to the lesson.
Modeling- I Do, We Do, You Do
  • The teacher will model what call and response sounds like (I Do) to set the tone of the lesson. With We Do, the teacher will work with the students to understand the lesson being taught. This will allow the students to understand the lesson by giving them a visual about what the lesson is about. With You Do, the students will demonstrate their understanding of the lesson by working independently.
Guided Practice
  • The students will independently create an activity about call and response. The teacher will give the students opportunities to practice the skill, and offer guidance, feedback and support to assist students with independent practice.
  • Homework is a great teaching strategy to allow students to check for understanding about what they have learned. Homework should be given to students to practice what they learned.

Classroom Activities


The lesson will focus on the history of slavery, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and Call and Response during and after slavery.


Students will be able to:

  • Identify why slaves were placed into slavery
  • Analyze the cruelty of slavery
  • Discuss Call and Response during slavery
  • Discuss Call and Response used in modern day music

Time needed for Anticipatory Sets

  • 5 or more consecutive days with 90 minutes blocks
  • 15 minutes daily for DO NOW
  • 30 minutes for Writing/Class Participation Activity
  • 45 minutes for Reading/Literacy Activity
  • Homework
Day 1

Anticipatory Set

The lesson will focus on the movement and enslavement of the African people during the Trans- Atlantic Slave Trade, and its beginnings to the history of slavery. Lesson will also discuss how slavery ended 245 years later after the 13th amendment was written to abolish slavery.

Students Will:

Day 2

Anticipatory Set

Students will engage in discussing about how slavery affected Africans who were captured, traded and brought to the Americas. They will discuss how they would feel if they were being transported thousands of miles to a foreign country, being stripped of their name, and trapped in slavery. They will also discuss what if slavery never existed.

Students Will:

  • Complete a DO NOW activity by writing a paragraph, 4-5 sentences, about how they would feel if they had to live the life of a slave after watching “This Woman is Believed to be America’s Last Slave” (3:58)
  • Engage in open discussion about what they wrote, and how the woman in the video felt about being a slave.
  • Watch video “What If Slavery Never Existed”
  • Get into groups and discuss the perils of slavery, and why it should not have existed.
  • Students will create graphic organizers on the non-existence of slavery and what it would look like if there was never slavery.
  • Complete homework sheet:
  • Teacher made formal assessment
Day 3

Anticipatory Set

Discussion will focus on the use of folklore and its importance to the salvation of the slaves, and their escape from the bondage of slavery. The lesson will teach symbolism, characterization, and similes and metaphors in story-telling. The discussion will focus on the meaning of the 13th Amendment and The Emancipation Proclamation.

Students Will:

  • Complete a DO NOW about the meaning of symbolism, similes, and metaphors in storytelling.
  • Watch the video “The People Could Fly” by Virginia Hamilton as told by Rose McGee

  • Follow along with the handout on “The People Could Fly”.
  • Get into groups and discuss the symbolism, similes and metaphors in the story.
  • Separate from the group, and write on their DO NOW sheets examples of similes, metaphors and symbolism from the video.
  • Watch the video on the 13th Amendment and the Emancipation Proclamation
  • Discuss the differences between the 13th amendment and the Emancipation


Day 5

Anticipatory Set

Distinguish between call and response in the music of and contemporary music. Discuss similarities and differences of slavery call and response and present day call and response.  A question and answer session will be distributed to activate prior knowledge.

Students Will:

  • Listen to “Summertime” (DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince)- (4:00)
  • Complete a DO NOW-write 4-5 sentences about what parts of the song used call and response to grasp the listener attention.
  • Listen to “Summertime” again, and create verbal and non-verbal movements to the song. To indicate when it is a call, students will respond in unison. When it is a response, students will stomp feet or clap hands.
  • Discuss what they learned about call and response. They will share out with the group.
  • Will listen to Evolution of Call and Response-A West African Tradition
  • Complete homework assignment:

  • Teacher made assessment to check for understanding of curriculum unit
Day 6

Anticipatory Set

The importance of Call and Response during slavery.  With call and respond someone sings the phrase, and the group responds in unison. Open dialogue and critical thinking will be used to understand what constitutes call and response in song, work, and play, and why the slaves felt compelled to use Call and Response.

Students will:

  • Watch and listen closely to the video “Hoe Emma Hoe”: (1:17) to hear call and response during work time in the fields.
  • DO NOW-Based upon the title of the song and the words to the song, students will write what they think is the meaning of the song.
  • Formulate a circle, and teacher will give a call (i.e. Hello), and have students give a response (i.e. How are you?). This is a demonstration of a verbal call and response.
  • Teacher will give a call and students will clap and stomp a beat to respond. This is a demonstration of a non-verbal call and response.
  • Record what they learned on a KWL chart. They will complete the K and W section only.
  • Read handout about call and response during slavery.
  • Complete the “L” section of the KWL chart, and turn in as Exit Ticket.
  • Homework-Complete worksheet on Call and Response during Slavery

  • Teacher made assessment for students to write a song on their understanding of Call and Response during slavery. Use beat from: “We Are Slaves” (Fat Steve Beats)

Extra Bonus

Anticipatory Set

Listen to the songs and review the lyrics “I Be So Glad…When the Sun Go Down” music only

Written by – Nicole King

‘This is a 1930’s recording of Ed Lewis’ rendition of an old slave song. The call and answer structure of the song is reminiscent of the slaves’ communication in the fields. The lyrics of the song repeatedly express that relief comes when the sun goes down because you do not have to work and you have the fleeting opportunity to rest. Slavery is an instance of the imprisonment of identity. Hegemonic beliefs placed people of color into a position of inferiority, and indeed even diminished their status as people. Thus, slavery as a form of incarceration served an economic purpose and reflected the importance of expanding industrialization in the United States.’ Retrieved from:

“When the Sun Goes Down” Tied Up Kids Performance (2016) music with dramatization-

Students Will:

Review lyrics of the song, and listen for the call and response.

Answer questions relating to when call and response occurred in the song.

cultural lives of slaves, oral history, responses to slavery (coping mechanisms), emotional lives of slaves, call and response, similes, metaphors, characterization


African American Song. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

Boddy-Evans, Alistair. “A Short History of the African Slave Trade.” ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2020,

Chambers, G. (). The Transatlantic Slave Trade and Origins of the African Diaspora in Texas.

Dos Reis Dos Santos, J.  (2018). How African American Folklore Saved the Cultural Memory and History of Slaves. Retrieved from:

Frankel, N. 2009. The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery in America. Retrieved from:

Gomez, Michael A. Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South. The University of North Carolina Press, 1998. Retrieved from:   upenn/ebooks/reader.action?docID=3039488&query=.

Haley, A. 1976. Roots: The Saga of an American Family.

Hall, J. 2015. Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment. Retrieved from:

Hamilton, Virginia, Leo Dillon, Diane Dillon, and Jane B. Bierhorst. The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales. New York: Knopf, 1985. Print.

Reading Through History (2014). History Brief: The Impact of the 13th Amendment. Retrieved from:

Mintz, S., & McNeil, S. (2018). Digital History. Retrieved on 7/10, 2002 from

Koelle, Sigismund Wilhelm, Polyglotta Africana; or A Comparative Vocabulary of Nearly Three Hundred Words and Phrases, in More than One Hundred Distinct African Languages (Church Missionary House, London, 1854).

Nunn, N. & Wantchekon, L.  2011. “The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa,” American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3221-52, December.

Ponomarenko, J. “Coded Slave Songs,” 56-79 1 (2005): 45-107.

Tibbs, D. F., & Chauncey, S. (2016). From slavery to hip-hop: punishing black speech and what’s “unconstitutional” about prosecuting young black men through art. Washington University Journal of Law & Policy52, 33+. Retrieved from upenn_main&sid=summon.

Smallwood, Stephanie E. and Fett, Sharla (2008) “Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora,” African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter: Vol. 11: Iss. 1, Article 29.

Songs Related to the Abolition of Slavery. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

Sutherland, C. (2018). Stono Rebellion (1739). Retrieved from:

Annotated Bibliography

Attention Getters/Call and Response (2019). Retrieved from:

Fat Steve Beats, (2017).   “We Are Slaves.” Retrieved from:

Information will be used for students to create a call and response song to the beat.

Hazard A. (2014). “The Atlantic slave trade: What too few textbooks told you” .

Information to be used for students to learn about the transatlantic slave trade.

Hoe Emma Hoe Retrieved from:

Song is used to demonstrate call and response when slaves worked in the fields.

Odum, H. 2014.  Negro Workaday Songs.

Discussion on what were workday songs.

Robinson, Tiearea J. “The healing element of the spirituals.” Journal of Pan African Studies, vol. 8, no. 7, 2015, p. 5+. Gale Academic OneFile, AONE?u=upenn_main&sid=AONE&xid=d0f6bd7f. Accessed 10 July 2020.

Sara’s Moniker (2016) Evolution of Call and Response-A West African Tradition. Retrieved from:


Alternate History Hub (2017). What If Slavery Never Existed. Retrieved from:

Boyce, R.  (2019). Diagram 1. Source: Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic   Slave Database; International Slavery Museum; Historic Jamestown; British Library.

This Woman Is Believed to be America’s Last Slave: 3:58

Frankel, N. (2009). Table 1.1. Number of Slaves Leaving African Ports.

Frankel, N. (2009). Table 1.2. The data was derived from the W.E.B. Dubois database of slaving voyages.

Frankel, N. (2009). Table 1.3. First Employment of Slaves in the Americas.

Lewis, E. (1930). I Be So Glad When the Sun Goes Down. Retrieved from:

Six Facts You Learned About the Atlantic Slave Trade. Template retrieved from:

Robinson, S. (2020). Call and Response During Slavery.

Robinson, S. (2020). Call and Response-Past and Present.

Robinson, S. (2020). I Be So Glad When the Sun Goes Down.

Robinson, S. (2020). The 13th Amendment/Emancipation Proclamation.

Robinson, S. (2020). The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade .

Robinson, S. (2020. What If Slavery Never Existed?



CC.1.2.6. B, CC.1.2.6. G, CC.1.2.6. J, CC.1.2.6. K, CC.1.3.6. A, CC.1.3.6. G


CC1.4.6 B, CC.1.4.6.C, CC.1.4.6. D, CC.1.4.6. E, CC.1.4.6 F. CC.1.4.6 H, CC.1.4.6. T, CC.1.4.6. U

History and Social Studies

CC.8.5.6-8. A, CC.8.5.6-8. B, CC.8.5.6-8. D, CC.8.5.6-8. G, CC.8.5.6-8.H, CC. B, CC.8.6.6-8.C, CC.8.6.6-8. D, CC.8.6.6-8. G

Equipment, materials and other technology needed