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The Slavery Project: Why It All Matters

Author: Nora Karasanyi


A. Phillip Randolph Career and Technical School

Year: 2020

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

Grade Level: 9-12

Keywords: “Negro Spirituals”, abolition, abolitionist, awakening, bondage, discrimination, emancipation, existence, freedom – spiritual, inequality, justice, kidnapping, memory book, monologue, oppression, physical, proclamation, racism, Reverse Underground Railroad, Slavery, subservient, suffrage, Underground Railroad

School Subject(s): English, Writing

On June 19, 1865, news of freedom finally reached enslaved people in Galveston, Texas — over two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. “Today, we commemorate Juneteenth as a time to reflect on and celebrate the end of slavery in America.”

-Theresa Greenfield Democratic candidate – Iowa

U.S. Senate Campaign, June 19, 2020


The Juneteenth celebration in 2020 came at a time when America was at crossroads. Events following the killing of George Floyd by police on May 25, 2020 challenged the status quo. As indicated by public outcry and peaceful protests that exploded in response to police killings of African Americans across the country, the effects of slavery are engrained in the fabric of American society and will continue to goad the national conscience until there is a semblance of equality for all Americans. Black Americans and other minorities are seeking justice, accountability, and change. What change does America need as a nation in 2020 and moving forward? What change do students of all races in America need?

Download Unit: Nora-Karasanyi.pdf

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Full Unit Text
Content Objectives

Lessons in this unit endeavor to capture the essence of slavery and its impact on human life of both enslaved and enslavers. Students will read of the Underground Railroad and the Reverse Underground Railroad and hear the stories of abolitionists, and enslaved freedom seekers – the resilience of those who were trodden upon and the triumph of those who escaped. Through performed monologues, students will experience a moment in the life of a slave. Then they will create a memory book to delve deeper into the life of that slave. They will discuss how their lives intercept with slave narratives and “Black Lives Matter.” Racism in the United States is not a new fight, but this is a new day! In 2020, the country is having an awakening and the youth of this generation are front and center in what many are calling a “movement” rather than a “moment” – against police brutality, economic inequality, and social discrimination among other ills that have harmed African Americans and other minorities. This is a developing story as history continues to unfold…

Content Objectives


As a TIP Fellow for the school year 2019-2020, I attended the New Histories of Slavery Project Seminar. This is a seminar that highlights the nature of slavery in general, but focuses on the practice, the impact, and the protest of slavery in Philadelphia. Of particularly note is the ongoing slavery research project conducted by a group of the University of Pennsylvania students who have been guided by Professor Kathleen Brown – Seminar Leader of my seminar. Seminar participants got to hear from these students concerning the the extent of their work and findings. The students have used primary sources to interpret the university’s role in slavery. I learned from their research that the university not only gained financially from practice, but it also developed and perpetuated a form of white supremacy rooted in science and medicine known as scientific racism. I posed the question to the students who have been working on this project for the last three years:


How do you deal with the emotional aspect associated with the topic of slavery?”

One students said:

Hard to go to bed!


Another student responded:

By studying, I’m undoing some of the pain and frustration.

It leads me to motivation.

A third added:

By allowing myself to feel those things, I learn to live and grow. Glad to see teachers get involved.


These students’ answers provide an example of what teachers might expect from older students as teachers grapple with how to present the material detailing the practice and impact of slavery.

On June 26, 2020, The New York Times published a powerful Op-Ed by Caroline Kendall Williams, a poet who uses images to exemplify the bodies of Black people who bear the scourge of slavery to this day. This dynamic piece comes at a time when the nation is grappling with the fate of Confederate monuments, with public support for pulling them down gaining momentum even as a minority of Americans want to maintain the legacy of Confederates. Ms. Kendall-Williams writes:

I have rape-colored skin. My light-brown-blackness is a living testament to the rules, the practices, the causes of the Old South.


If there are those who want to remember the legacy of the Confederacy,

if they want monuments, well, then, my body is a monument.


My skin is a monument.

The black people I come from were owned and raped by the white people I come from. Who dares to tell me to celebrate them?

One by one, the symbols of the Confederacy are being removed from public places. In Mississippi, elected officials voted to remove one such symbol from their flag in late June 2020. This kind of action provides a glimmer of hope for those like Ms. Randall-Williams who have carried racial pain in their bodies. Through her voice as a writer in residence for Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, she speaks for those who cannot.

Many of my colleagues in this seminar and I agree that slavery is a hard topic to address effectively with school students because of the hurtful subject matter. Nevertheless, we also agree that students should learn about this difficult topic because it is part of their history, and a crucial part of American history. Professor Brown’s statement in one of our classes, “Their bodies bear their history” –had a profound effect on me. This statement moved me to ponder how I can help my students extricate the life stories of people who lived through the traumatic historical experience of slavery – their unique personal story– but connect those stories to the rest of us!

What selections then should be included in my unit and how should some of the material learned in my seminar be incorporated into this unit? I created a questionnaire for my students in an attempt to establish a needs assessment.

Ninety-two students were respondents in this survey. There were five questions on the survey. Below are the five questions and a summary of the student responses.


  1. Do you think American students should be taught about slavery in school?


All but one of those respondents answered, “Yes!” to this question and gave very strong reasons for that answer. Most of the students want to learn about their history. This survey question was posed to a small number of students in one school of the Philadelphia School District. There was already need to address systemic racism in America before the deaths of Floyd and Brooks among others. The protests that followed these police murders of African Americans indicate that all states in the United States of America must address the inherent racism that was spearheaded by slavery in the country.


  1. How do you feel about the slavery unit you have been taught in a history or social studies class?


Most 9th graders stated they had not had any lessons on slavery yet or if they had talked about it, their memory was fuzzy. Juniors and Seniors expressed mixed feelings about slavery.

As shown in the previous question, students clearly need to have more exposure to the topic of slavery, but I would strongly argue for the subject to be addressed with a positive message about survival, persistence, and resilience. Along with the peaceful protesters were those elements of society that always take advantage of the situation to cause chaos. So a positive message should be clearly communicated to students. Learning to lead without retaliation is a strong order in itself given the painful nature of the topic of slavery, but it’s the only real solution that has a chance to bring positive change in the future. The poignant example of John Lewis (1940 – 2020) is worth discussing with students. He was beaten and abused, but he remained unwavering in promoting a positive message for right of African Americans to vote through non-violence means. His legacy is a good example for students to study.

The question I asked the Penn research students described earlier also supports positive ways to handle painful experiences. These students were faced with painful slavery facts, which they processed. Then they got motivated to do something positive about the university’s involvement in slavery. It is important to remind students that the study of history can be used to inform the present so that mistakes of the past can be avoided. Studying the past abuses of power can sometimes be revealing about ways to combat the abuse of power in the present!



  1. If you could tell the teacher how to teach a unit on slavery in your class, what suggestions would you give him or her?


This question was intended to provide an opportunity to students to give ideas about how a unit on slavery could be taught. Student suggestions were rich. They included tools such as videos, excerpts of slave narratives, movies, stories, and documentaries so that students could build prior knowledge using back stories to gain a clear understanding of individual personal experiences of persons in slavery and how each slave handled his or her personal situation.


  1. Do you know individual stories of slave children?


The fourth question was specifically about children. Most respondents answered, “No.” Therefore, it will be prudent to introduce the students to narratives that chronicle the impact of slavery on children. Many examples are included in the following pages.


  1. If you were assigned a slave to research and was asked to focus on the childhood period of the person’s biography, what three aspects would you highlight?


This question generated many interesting responses. Students wanted to know if children were separated from their parents, if children were physically abused, if children tried to escape, did the children get time to play outside, what kinds of jobs did the children do, what did they do to survive the pain, slavery? How did they deal with each other and what role did religion play in their lives? Were they ‘branded’ and why? What feelings did these children express? Fast forward to the present, “Are we happy with what America has become?”

As I reviewed these student answers on this last question of the survey, I began to formulate some areas of need on the topic of slavery and and its impact on children. My ideas began to develop about how I could address these areas in an English class that would supplement what students learn in the history/social studies classes. I concluded that it would be beneficial for students if the focus was not limited to children and the youth in slavery but also slave narratives of adults as well.

Richard Allen’s Stolen is a perfect starting point for teaching students about the plight of enslaved children. In this book, five boys are caught up in what Allen terms the “reverse underground railroad” scheme.

Why reverse? The more familiar Underground Railroad was conducted by people sympathetic to the freedom of slaves from the slaveholding states to the northern free states such as Pennsylvania and New York. On the reverse journey, free blacks, mostly children, were snatched often in broad daylight and conducted south against their wills to become enslaved! Thus, Alex Manlove, 8, Enos Tilgman, 10, Cornelius Sinclair, 10, Joe Johnson, 14 or 15, and Sam Scomb, a recent escapee from a plantation in New Jersey who still had family on that plantation, find themselves on the south bound journey. Bell portrays the humanity of these children and the amazing escape that four of them make back home. Unfortunately, Joe succumbed to the cruelty of their kidnappers on the journey South and died of his injuries.

It must be acknowledged that kidnapped children were physically abused. That is evidenced by the beatings of the victims in the story told in Richard Bell’s, Stolen. That is why the boys in Stolen were being transported South to meet the high demands of labor shortages on cotton and sugar plantations in the south and the west. The story of the kidnapped boys also reveals the ugly impact of slavery on people as a whole, but on children in particular. The idea that childhood is innocent is shattered by the fact that many of the boys stolen from the free Northern states to slave-holding Southern states that would not consider that these children were underage and would lose their childhood! Indeed, the narrative in Stolen would answer many of the questions posed on my students’ questionnaire. This book and excerpts from other slave narratives provide rich material for students to have vibrant discussions on the topic of slavery. More about this text is provided under section titled: Triumph.

Children were also separated from their parents. In The Price of a Child, another text I would recommend to teachers, Lorene Cary tells the story of a woman who had to leave the last of her three children in order to have any chance of escaping. Her own father had left her behind to escape. The mother of William Still, the chronicler of The Underground Railroad in Philadelphia, had to abandon her last child too escape. The list goes on and on…Many children were sold to other slave owners and had to leave their families – this was the worst kind of cruelty a person can inflict on another especially a child. Excerpts from this novel will bridge the experience of children and adults.

When students are guided to analyze slave narratives, they often find strong evidence of resilience and triumph in spite of the brutality and adversity. It seems as though history repeats itself. Children were separated from their parents in the past and it was horrific. Modern day versions of enslavement crop up in form of child soldiers, child abuse, and unsafe streets. How to deal with trauma no matter what the source – slavery or sexual abuse is a question that remains relevant today. How do people survive? Selected narratives and excerpts will be utilized to give students ample materials to connect the past to the present during group discussions as well as independent work.


Theoretical Background:


Slavery and Economics

I plan to use literary sources to teach students some of the basic content about the history of slavery. Take, for example, the fact that slavery was not simply a southern issue but a national issue because of its economic impact across regional lines. Some Northern politicians claimed that they opposed slavery and many abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, and William Lloyd Garrison spoke out against the institution, yet, the economy in the North depended on the cotton industry.

One text to take excerpts from for illustration purposes and quotes of the day is the fictitious story Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule by Jennifer Chiaverini. This book is set in 1855 (Pre-Civil War), and it is based on historical events. Many cases exemplify the connection between slavery and the national economy. The slave and mistress in this book are the same age and they have the same name, Julia. To differentiate between them, the mistress retains the name Julia and the slave girl is referred to as Jule. The story explores the issues of inequality and the idea that slaves were property that could be sold off in bad economic times. The slave eventually escapes and builds a successful beauty products business in New York, so this is a story of triumph that students could enjoy reading.

Below is an example of slavery and the national economy:


…Julia suspected that no one but she recognized the irony. The authority to grant cotton-trading permits so that Northern manufacturers could purchase cotton from loyal Unionists in the South resided with Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, but the enforcement of it fell to military officers in the field (Chiaverini 233).

Here Julia is noting that the troops sent to end slavery are actually keeping so-called Unionist southern slaveholders in business. In other words, the irony is that the North needs slavery even as it fights a war to end it.


Another example of the value of slavery to the national economy is the University of Pennsylvania. The University of Pennsylvania was strategically located in proximity to the Mason Dixon line and business dealings with the southern states. The oldest medical school in North America, Penn’s Medical School enabled and supported slavery by training southern medical students.


Slaves as Property


Slaves worked without pay for generations and generations. They could be sold at any time at the whim of their master. In the book, Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule, Jule and Gabriel, who were born slaves in this family secretly, get married. Julia was a personal slave to Julia and Gabriel normally transported the family to and from. They couldn’t dare reveal their marriage because then they might be deliberately separated. They get separated anyway!

While Jule is away caring for Julia’s family after Julia gets married, Gabriel gets sold. During a visit back home, Jule looks forward to reuniting with her husband, but Gabriel is gone! Julia’s father says it was extravagant keeping two grooms anymore. However, the real reason for selling Gabriel is revealed in Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule when Julia’s father explains, ‘Gabriel was younger and stronger. He fetched a better price.’ (Chiaverini 265 – 266) This is a clear example of commodification of enslaved people that can be taught to students.


Slavery and Abolitionist Activists


Sarah Mapps Douglass was born into a prominent black abolitionist family in 1806. According to, Douglass was an educator, an abolitionist, writer, and public lecturer. The family participated in social and political networks with both black and white abolitionists. These included Sarah and Angelina Grimke, daughters of South Carolina slave owners. Sarah Mapps Douglass was apparently much bothered by segregation in a Quaker meeting, which she and her mother attended. She eventually stopped attending although her mother continued to attend. Douglass was devoted to the education of black children and adults in New York and Philadelphia. In 1853 she took over the preparatory department at the Philadelphia Institute for Colored Youth offering courses in literature, science, and anatomy. Douglass was the first African-descended woman to be enrolled in medical school.

Another notable story with an appeal to all readers, but more particularly to children to grasp the work of activism in Philadelphia is the life of William Still, an activist who was stationed in Philadelphia and assisted freedom seekers from slavery as part of the Underground Railroad. As a member of the Vigilance Committee, he kept careful records of all the cases of freedom seekers whose cases he knew of or handled. Knowing who the escaped slaves were was personal for him. He had a personal stake in slavery.

William Still was born in Burlington County, New Jersey. His father, who had been enslaved, purchased his own freedom and changed his last name from Steel to Still to protect his wife. Still’s mother had tried to escape, but she had failed the first time. Eventually, she escaped from slavery, but she could only take two of her children with her. Still moved to Philadelphia in 1844 where later in life, his brother Peter, who had been left in slavery joined Still after his escape. The two brothers had a poignant reunion in Still’s office. This is one of the reasons why recording “Freedom Seekers” was vital to Still. Some of these records were reportedly destroyed before the Civil War for fear that the records would be used as evidence for prosecutions of abolition advocates. However, Still’s book “The Underground Railroad (1872), preserves some of the most important historical records of the time.

Still took it upon himself to record the stories of the escapes slaves he came into contact with. This work was not without risk to him. Not only did he risk his freedom, he also risked his life with slave catchers who got very encouraged by the Fugitive Law that congress passed in 1850.


As part of the Compromise of 1850 Congress passed a new Fugitive Slave Act empowering federal courts to appoint commissioners to enforce the act and forbidding state courts and officers from interfering. Federal officers were given power under the doctrine of posse commitatus conscript able bodied men to help them enforce the renditions.  (H. Robert Baker: Personal Liberty Laws an essay in Morris, Thomas D. Free Men All: The Personal Laws of the North 1780-1861, John Hopkins University Press, 1974.)


The political ramifications of the law at the expense of enslaved people is well-documented in the United States constitution in the three-fifth provision. The Fugitive Law of 1850 was merely another political vehicle to keep clamp down on enslaved people who dared to escape.


The threefifths clause is perhaps the most misunderstood provision of the U.S. Constitution. The clause provides that representation in Congress will be based on “the whole Number of free Persons” and “three-fifths of all other Persons.” The “other Persons” were slaves.

-Kathleen Brown, March 20, 2020


The northern states wanted enslaved people to count as “zero” for the purposes of counting population for representation. Southern slaveholders, in contrast, wanted to beef up their political representation in the national government. As slave economies, they had much smaller populations of white people. If only white people were counted for representation, the south would lose out politically. So southern slaveholders argued for enslaved people to count as a full person for purposes of assessing representation based on population.

-Kathleen Brown, March 20, 2020

Frederick Douglass is another example of those escaped slaves who used ingenuity to learn to read and eventually escape from slavery. Douglass was born in Talbot County, Maryland in February 1818. The exact date of his birth is not known as was the case with many enslaved people. He spent the first twenty years of his life in slavery. His initial reading lessons were rendered by Mrs. Auld who taught her son and Douglass at the same time. These lessons abruptly stopped when Mr. Auld found out Douglass was learning to read.

Douglass did not give up, however. He traded bread for lessons in the streets and by tricking white boys into teaching him what he needed to know. Throughout his life in slavery, he was unsettled and was constantly looking for a way of escape. Eventually, he disguised himself as a free seaman and with the help of forged papers, escaped to Philadelphia and later to New York. Knowledge of a ship and sailor’s talk were instrumental in aiding Douglass to navigate his escape to freedom. In 1833, he joined the Anti-Slavery Society. He was a great speaker and in 1841, his career as an orator and writer took off! In 1842, he moved to England where he continued his work as an abolitionist and though he had some disagreements with other abolitionists, he goes down in history as one of the greatest anti-slavery speakers, writers, and advocates.

Sojourner Truth was an abolitionist who worked alongside Frederick Douglass. She was just as sharp and intelligent as Douglass, although not literate, and both activists were excellent speakers. Truth’s beliefs were rooted in the bible and she carefully presented herself as a very decent and respectable woman. She was a champion for women’s rights as well as the rights of the enslaved, and she understood that those causes intersected in the persons of Black women. She didn’t record her speeches, so we must rely upon the way white women recorded them. The downside of this was that white women tended to depict her as a Black superwoman.

Nat Turner also learned to read from a master’s son and he used this learning in his religious activities. He later led a rebellion against slavery. Turner was a brave minister who felt it was his moral duty to protest the brutality of slavery because it just couldn’t be godly! He died fighting for the cause…

Ida B. Wells was a journalist who used her voice and communication skills for activism. Born a slave in Holly Springs Mississippi in 1862, her parents died of yellow fever. She became a teacher and supported her siblings. She later became a journalist and exposed the white use of the terror of lynching against black men who were enjoying some economic success—and the way white vigilantes lied about black rape of white women.

Richard Allen and Absalom Jones were members of Philadelphia’s St. George’s Methodist Church, who organized a historic walk out because of racial tensions and discrimination. In 1792, They founded the African Church as an outgrowth of the free African Society. Later, this church was affiliated with the Episcopal Church and got renamed the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. Absalom Jones became its first rector. In 1802, Jones was ordained by Bishop White as the first African American Episcopal priest. Richard Allen and Absalom Jones fought for social justice and offered social service to the community and this has continued to be the legacy of this church. The church was very actively involved in abolitionist activism and serves as an example of religious activist involvement in fighting against the institution of slavery. The African Episcopal Church of Saint Thomas in Philadelphia, PA represented the voices of black people in the church in Philadelphia among others: Resolution A-123 called on the Episcopal Church to own up to its longstanding of the sin of slavery and the using of scripture to justice the evil of enslaving others and creating discrimination and segregation. (Miridith, 2009)

Reading, religion, and courage played a significant role in the achievement of heroic enslaved heroes who lived to experience the end of slavery. This experience is portrayed in literature, for example, the story of Jane Johnson in A Price for A Child.  In this account, Jane Johnson’s real life experience is depicted as that of the character Mercer, who had been taught to read by her master.

Still and other vigilance committee members help Mercer/Johnson and two of her children to escape from her master on the docks in Philadelphia on their way to Nicaragua through New York. This slave owner who had fathered two of children was taking her with him to meet his sexual needs while on a job assignment. His wife was left back home in Virginia. The master later sues Still and the vigilance committee members for the return of Mercer and the two children claiming they belonged to him and he was planning to free them. Still refuses to give up Mercer’s whereabouts and he is jailed for contempt of court. The case becomes a public relations (PR) advertisement for the abolitionist movement. Mercer shows up in court to testify on William Still’s behalf escorted by a lawyer and government officials. Mercer testifies and in the end, the charges against Still are dropped. That act shows tremendous courage on Mercer’s part!

Mercer joins the work of abolitionists and is able to tell her story. She improves her reading comprehension by reading diligently. Her hard work to comprehend the stories of other escaped slaves becomes a point of pride for her. Here’s an excerpt to demonstrate this point:


In the next few days, she read books Harriet had sent. One was the autobiography of Henry “Box” Brown, who had had a friend mail him north in a box to escape slavery. Box Brown made a point of writing that his master had not beaten or starved him. His master had been what people might make the mistake of calling kind. But: “heaven save me from kind masters, “he wrote, “as wells as those called more cruel; for even their ‘tender mercies’ are cruel, and what no free man could endure for a moment.”


Mercer had to keep trying to comprehend the writing until she was comfortable with the reading.

By the fourth time through, however, Brown’s prose, with its flowery, ironic rage, gave itself up to her. She felt proud of him writing what he had, proud of herself for being able to read him. (Price of a Child, 186 – 187).

Harriet Tubman was a very dedicated and successful conductor on the underground railroad. She escaped slavery and felt it her duty to get as many others from slavery as she possibly could. She was believed to have helped as many as 300 other slaves escape to freedom. She also worked as a spy for the Union during the Civil war. Tubman is considered to be the modern “Moses” just like Moses in the bible led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the promised land. Another very courageous person! She is said to have never lost a passenger on the Underground Railroad!




There are many stories of enslaved people escaping to the North from the South. One of these is Henry “Box” Brown depicted in A Price for A Child, discussed above. Brown was born into slavery in Virginia. At the age of 33, he asked a friend to box him in a crate and ship him to abolitionists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He succeeded in his mission and became an abolition speaker.

The heart-wrenching story of Richard Bell’s chronicle of the five boys kidnapped and tortured, despised, and brainwashed provides the reader with only a little solace in that four of the boys were able to return home by some miracle. Their captors Ebenezer Johnson and wife Sally worked on the sophisticated reverse underground railroad with the help of a light skinned free African-descended man named Purnell and there were no records of their plot. Purnell was from Philadelphia, and he made a living collaborating with slave snatchers to kidnap free unsuspecting young men. A surprising number of black people were engaged in such evil schemes. Perhaps one shouldn’t be too surprised given that most black people needed money to survive and decent jobs were not easily available. Those who engaged in these transactions were careful to leave no tracks, so it was really amazing that four the boys returned home and were able to testify against their captors!

Anxious to get rid of the kidnapped boys and two women in their coffle, Johnson and his wife Sally sold these “prisoners” to a John Hamilton, who was a struggling land owner. This is how it happened: Sam had attempted to escape previously, but had failed because he had tried in the wrong nation lands.

Sam made the decision to run – and then he ran. This was in the Choctaw territory, a forest area that was part of western Alabama and eastern Mississippi. This was Indian country, an area that made slave traders uneasy. Native Indians had helped many fugitives in the past, but in the 1820s, that sort of help was getting more difficult to get. In Stolen, Bell writes:


In the Choctaw territory the reason for the shift was political. Despite demonstrating loyalty to the United States during the War of 1812, the eighteen thousand members of the Choctaw nation spent most of the 1810s and 1820s under siege, the targets of ever more frequent encroachments onto their hunting grounds by American farmers who built houses, cleared land, and then declared ownership rights as squatters (Bell 113).


The leaders of the Choctaw Indians were forced to compromise in order to co-exist with white neighbors. Some rich Natives purchased slave to work on their own lands and others were made a living as “slave catches and bounty hunters.” Sam could not have read warning signs that promised that members of the Choctaw nation would catch and return runaway slaves to their masters.


Later newspaper accounts say that Sam ‘“attempted to escape while in the Choctaw nation, but was caught by an Indian.’” (Bell 114)


The next time Sam disappeared, he happened to have done it on the property of John Hamilton before Johnson’s coffle reached Rocky Springs, Mississippi. Hamilton agreed to let Johnson to pitch their camp nearby: the three boys: Alex, Sam, and Enos as well as two grown women, one a slave and the other a free woman, who had been kidnapped too!

Things didn’t work out as the Johnsons had hoped! Sam had disappeared in the night! He was quickly found by Hamilton though later in the morning and the boy throwing himself at the mercy of John Hamilton, told the story of how they were free boys who had been kidnapped. Sam had watched Cornelius kidnapped in Philadelphia and Cornelius had now been sold. He told of the harsh treatment of all the boys in this coffle; he told of the brutal beating of Joe, the boy now buried on Hamilton’s property. He showed Hamilton the scars on his body… Hamilton confronted Johnson and Sally.

Although Hamilton’s motives for responding to Sam’s story were not entirely noble, he thought he could take advantage of the free labor while it would last. Hamilton allowed the body of little Joe, who had succumbed to the injuries caused by brutal beatings by one of the kidnappers, to be buried in one corner of his property. He took a chance to better his station, but it was a humane step that helped the return of three boys and a woman back to Philadelphia. Later, because of the testimony of the three boys, Cornelius was able to come home too.

Hamilton worked with a lawyer named John Henderson to facilitate and secure the release of the boys and the woman. Henderson wrote a memo describing what he had witnessed about the proceedings concerning these free people who had been forced away from their homes and were being driven into slavery save for the stop on Hamilton’s property. Lawyer Henderson wrote to the mayor of Philadelphia stating the known information he had gathered about the three boys he interviewed, what they told him about the dead boy Joe, and what the boys could remember about Cornelius, the first boy in the coffle to be sold. The mayor of Philadelphia at the time was a man named Joseph Watson, a forty-one-year-old Quaker.

Mayor Watson responded to the letter immediately and put into motion the mechanism that would eventually work in favor of the boys’ return home! It had been 180 days before parents of the kidnapped boys heard any news of them being alive! The agony of looking and not finding! The the sleepless nights spent wondering what had happened to them! After much investigation and a treacherous search for white witnesses to vouch for the boy’s honesty, Alex, Enos, and Sam were eventually put on a ship headed for Philadelphia and later Cornelius came home too. What a triumph for the families in that moment! Following this, Pennsylvania passed a new Personal Liberty Law in 1826 (it had already passed one in 1820).  This law was designed to make it harder for slave catchers to kidnap free people or even to recover escaped slaves. The national reaction to this beautiful story was the Fugitive Act of 1850, but for these four particular children and the one wife and mother, the wheels of justice had worked in their favor and in spite of it all, there was hope in humanity.

Teaching Strategies

Small groups


Currently, Randolph Technical High School is exploring the possibilities of incorporating more small group instruction in various subject areas. More specifically, the English Department is looking at the blended model in instruction. In simple terms, the blended model is the integration of in-class face-to-face interaction and online content, which is meant to supplement the in-class instruction. In both cases, feedback is offered; the online materials and activities are assessed based on the in-class material.

Emily Liebtag did some research on several schools implementing one model of blended learning as it relates to the small groups and stations model. Liebtag identified six common questions about implementation of this model. Below are three of those questions that are relevant to students who will participate in the Slavery Memory Book Project:

  • How do we find time for small group instruction?
  • How do you break up a big block?
  • How do we use data to create groups?

Liebtag and blended learning experts visited three Bay Area schools that practiced blended models and found some answers to the above questions.

Jin-Soo Huh, Alpha’s Personalized Learning Manager, offered a few lessons learned about making the most of blended learning station rotation models. First, they found that routines were key in the efficient use of students’ time. Transitions had to be perfected over time.

Second, groups should to be changed around regularly as ongoing assessments were occurring. Also, students in the same group tend to become used to each other and play around instead of working seriously. Besides, changing the makeup of groups helps to eliminate group labels such as “the dumb group” or “the smart group.”

Third, stations should use “adaptive online programs help take the planning burden off of teachers so students are able to get targeted practice.” In other words, students should not be doing the same activity online. That can be achieved through a direct instruction mini lesson.

Fourth, data should be streamlined and clear targets established for student feedback, which could be posted on a data wall, published as progress reports, or conferences. One other import aspect of blended learning and small groups is the finding that better relationships were created not only between students and their peers but also between students and their teachers. “We’ve seen that the small-group stations allow teachers to build stronger relationships with students, as well as better assess and meet the needs of individual learners (Blended Learning Universe (BLU).”

In the time of cobid-19, it is increasingly becoming clear that the type of blended online classroom will be the “flipped classroom.”

Data Driven Instruction

So far at Randolph, teachers have used Keystone and Achieve 3000 data to group students. In English and Mathematics classes, this practice will most likely continue for purposes of grouping. Like at other schools in Philadelphia, The Slavery Unit will try to fashion the English 3 class to run on a Station Rotation model. At the online station, students will engage with assignments in google classroom or google drive.

To avoid having students working on one assignment at the same time for the slavery project as cautioned above, students will be grouped as follows: Groups of three to four students will be assigned one person. While one or two groups are in google classroom engaged in a digital discussion on an essential question posed specifically for them, another group will be conferencing with the teacher about their concerns on an assigned area. Another group could be selecting 2 -3 quotes from the “Quotes Bank” for text rendering. The class will have access to the quotes preselected for analysis. Text-rendering is a strategy that helps s students to break down a text for better understanding.

Groups of 3 – 4 students assigned individual connected to slavery. Groups will be established and then students will pick the name of their “character” from a hat to avoid ill feelings about assignments. So far the list of individuals is as follows:


Frederick Douglass     Ida B. Wells    Sojourner Truth          Harriet Tubman


Abraham Lincoln       Harriet Jacobs             Sergeant William H. Carney


Cathay Williams – (first black female to enlist in the army) William Lloyd Garrison


Richard Allen             Absalom Jones            Sarah and Angelina Grimke


Octavius Cato             Henry “Box” Brown               William Still   James McCune Smith





According to Teaching Playwriting: The Essential Handbook, there are several steps to writing a successful monologue. One of the first steps is to learn as much as possible about the character or person whose voice would be heard. For a historical person, students will learn about his or her personal biography such as where and when was the person born? What are some activities this person was involved in? What challenges did the person face? In what ways did this person deal with these challenges? What triumphs did this person achieve?

The second step is to streamline three questions to aid in the crafting of the monologue. Question number one: What moment in the life of this person will be highlighted? Question number two: Why is this the moment for the monologue does the individual have something important to say? Question number three: Is this an inner or outer monologue? In other words, is the person speaking out about an inner issue or is the person directly speaking to another person? If it’s an outer person, who is the person being spoken to? I would add a fourth question: What feeling is the person expressing? Anger? Jubilation?

Another step is to know what defines a monologue, what its elements are. Put into consideration the natural poses that occur within the monologue (beats), character objectives (reasons for character actions), internal and external conflicts and the character traits that the person highlights including the language appropriate for the character.  In addition, setting and mood should also be considered.

Classroom Activities

Unit Recommendations



  • Create guided questions including those from the initial survey to introduce the unit
  • Conduct a needs assessment to determine level of need.
  1. What do students need to know?


What teaching materials and resources will meet student need(s)?


  1. Excerpts from texts including The Price of a Child by Lorene Cary and Grant and Madame Jule by Jennifer Chaiverini, both of which are works of fiction based on actual accounts of enslaved people, can be referenced.
  2. Stolen by Richard Bell
  3. Excerpts from Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons by Eddie Glaude, Jr.
  4. Other: Selections of materials from the reading list in the appendix


Student Assignments

  1. Students will be assigned a person from the unit list to research.
  2. Students will make journal entries to compile material for monologues/ memory book
  3. Students will read excerpts of slave narratives
  4. Students will learn key unit vocabulary
  5. Students will write and perform a monologue from the life of their assigned person
  6. Students create a memory book that highlights the life of their assigned person
  7. Students will use a graphic organizer to list character traits and cite evidence to support their claims.


The Slavery Unit Calendar: Tentative Pacing Guide


Teach a slavery Unit by tracing the lives of Heroes’ Journeys from a subservient existence to human triumph through courage…


In this dynamic unit, students will delve into the life experiences of slaves, former slaves, and the abolitionists via the underground railroad…


Students will be challenged to “see”, “hear”, and “feel” the humanness of each narrative they read, each quote they analyze, every picture they view, and/or any video they watch.










Subject(s): Creative Writing, Language Arts, Literature, Informational Texts, Excerpts from historical fiction.


Grades: High School


Time Standards Suggested Reading Materials/ Skills/Topics Assessment
Week 1 CC.1.2.11–12. B

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly, as well as inferences and conclusions based on and related to an author’s implicit and explicit assumptions and beliefs.


CC.1.2.11–12. I Analyze foundational U.S. and world documents of historical, political, and literary significance for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features


CC.1.3.11–12. F Evaluate how words and phrases shape meaning and tone in texts.


Slavery: Mainly using quotes from the quote bank to introduce the topic

Establish group routines and protocol to create “safe” space


Key vocabulary:

slavery, abolition, abolitionist, emancipation, proclamation, suffrage, the Underground Railroad, bondage, monologue, oppression, subservient, existence, freedom – spiritual, physical (Negro Spirituals)


The Constitution

The Fugitive Slave Law 1850

Graphic Organizers


Stolen by Richard Bell Audiobook/excerpts


Answers to Survey Question 1:

Do you think students in America need to learn about slavery? Why or why not? Use information from current events to support your answer.

Survey question 3: What materials should be used in class to enhance your learning about slavery?




Assignments in google classroom:

Quickwrite: Survey questions 1 & 3 for needs assessment.





Create a collage of student answers to survey questions one and three.


This will become a poster for the classroom.

Week 2 CC.1.2.11–12. F Evaluate how words and phrases shape meaning and tone in texts.


CC.1.4.11–12. B Write with a sharp, distinct focus identifying topic, task, and audience.




Quotes from bank to continue instilling awareness and systemic thought about the subject of the unit

Character trait handout(s)

Assign persons to groups of 3 -4 students

Assign research topics

Distribute the Quotes Bank/Excerpts handouts.

Direct Instruction: Mini lesson on steps in the research process.

Journal Entry Topics

Tone Word list

Stolen by Richard Bell Audiobook/excerpts


Question 5

Assign a notable person to each student or to each pair of students.


Group assignments rotation

Week 3 CC.1.2.11–12. D

Evaluate how an author’s point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.


CC.1.2.11–12. G Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.


CC.1.4.11–12. O Use narrative techniques such as dialogue, description, reflection, multiple plotlines, and pacing to develop experiences, events, and/or characters; use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, settings, and/or characters.



Point of View (P.O.V) First Person

External & internal conflict Autobiographical writing

Sample Monologues

Mini lesson on Monologue structure

Select Moments from the life of… (a person assigned to 3 -4 groups of students)

View clips of selected notable individuals in slides for lessons

Write a monologue to highlight one moment in the life of…


Draft monologues


Stolen by Richard Bell Audiobook/excerpts



See rubric for monologues under resources


Week 4 CC.1.2.11–12. G Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.


CC.1.4.11–12. T Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.



Memory books guidelines (Beginning, middle, end). Hero’s journey… triumphant end… reason(s) to continue living…


Plot structure

Stolen by Richard Bell Audiobook/excerpts






Writing Process


See PA Writing rubric under resources
Week 5 CC.1.4.11–12. L Demonstrate a grade-appropriate command of the conventions of standard English grammar, usage, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.


CC.1.4.11–12.M Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events


CC.1.4.11–12.O Use narrative techniques such as dialogue, description, reflection, multiple plotlines, and pacing to develop experiences, events, and/or characters; use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, settings, and/or characters.



Writing process continues…


Stolen by Richard Bell Audiobook/excerpts




Week 6 CC.1.4.11–12.M Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events.


CC.1.4.11–12. T Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.



CC.1.4.11–12. O Use narrative techniques such as dialogue, description, reflection, multiple plotlines, and pacing to develop experiences, events, and/or characters; use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, settings, and/or characters.


CC.1.4.11–12. U Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments and information.





Final drafts

Design covers

Display for peers to read






Sample Quotes/Excerpts Bank: Can be grouped according to topic:

For example:

(A)Their bodies bear their history: Caroline Kendall Williams New York Op-Ed

(B) Courage: Harriet Tubman

(C) Abolition: Frederick Douglass

(D) Freedom: The Price of a Child

(E) Inspiration: The Captives Quest for Freedom


  1. “They tell us that black women in the fields work up to the day they deliver, and then they drop ’em and keep right on going (Price of a Child, 101).” Character Sulphur


  1. “She remembered that the tiredness could not lift as it had the first and second times. For months, she took to sitting down every chance she could get.” Character Mercer who had actually gone through the experience and bore it in her body (Price of a Child, 101)


  1. “Their bodies bear their history.” (Kathleen Brown, History Professor, University of Penn)


  1. “Most of the speakers were white, occasionally accompanied by a Negro, who came onstage to display scars on his back or to testify about the evils of slavery (Price of a Child, 121).”


  1. “Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the greatest figure of the nineteenth century…And I love him not because he was perfect but because he was not and yet he triumphed…” (W.E.B. Du Bois, The Crisis (September 1922).


  1. “Personally I revere him the more because up out of his contradictions and inconsistencies he fought his way to the pinnacles of earth and his fight was within as well as without.” (W.E.B. Du Bois, The Crisis (September 1922).


  1. “This new freedom was a shaky proposition, and it had cost her son. She would never go back. If Pryor wanted to come after her, well, let him. (Price of a Child, 110)” Courage and the Fugitive Slave Law 1850).”


  1. “She’d asked one night what he’d liked best in school, and he’d recalled learning monologues and reciting them at the Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons… He remembered seeing his effect on the people in the audience and feeling his own new manhood, reflected bright as sunshine (The Price of a Child, 1139).” (Inspiration), Intro to monologues, etc.) Character Tyree to Mercer.


  1. “One fugitive wrote that the price of freedom was eternal vigilance … “She felt foolish to walk abroad on the open road with her long stride and powerful thighs, as if she were a citizen(Price of a Child, 159).”


  1. “ Behind the curtains, slave catchers and kidnappers could be hiding; people who would aid and abet her capture; people who would watch and applaud, or would look on indifferently, or, pitying her, would only shake their heads, as they might if a neighbor’s dog were hit by a dray. They’d shake their heads and suck their tongues through thin lips like a gash in their faces, and return, gratefully, to their money and milk-fed children, and even the most well-meaning of them would fall back on the rock-bottom fact of human intercourse: better you than me (Price of a Child, 159-160).”


  1. ‘There they are,’ a joyful voice rang out. Jule glanced over her shoulder and spied a colored woman gesturing to the passing column, a toddler in her arms and two older girls by her side. “Do you see how well they march?” she asked her children, beaming.’

“As the awestruck girls assured their mother that they indeed see, Jule gazed at the dark, proud, eager faces of the colored soldiers and felt her throat constricting with emotion. Their splendid uniforms, the rousing music, the bold and steady marching, the cheering crowd – in that glorious moment it seemed to Jule that there was no limit to what the people of her race could accomplish in the years to come, unhindered by slavery, when peace again reigned over a reunited nation (Chiaverini 378).”

“…Jule would pray even more fervently for them to triumph. The United States Colored Troops carried the hopes and faith of every colored person with them, for in victory they would surely disprove every false, slanderous word ever spoken about the cowardice and weakness of their menfolk (Chiaverini 379).”


  1. We live, according to Eddie S. Glaude Jr., in a moment when the struggles of Black Lives Matter and the attempt to achieve a new America have been challenged by the election of Donald Trump, a president whose victory represents yet another failure of America to face the lies it tells itself about race.


Eddie Glaude’s book: Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons For Our Own (Review by Goodreads)


Suggested Lesson Activities


  • Analyze the impact of the three-fifth provision in the constitution.


·       Consider: John Lewis (1940 – 2020) was a 23-year-old firebrand, a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, when he joined King and four other civil rights leaders at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York to plan and announce the Washington demonstration. The others were Whitney Young of the National Urban League; A. Philip Randolph (for whom A Philip Randolph Career and Technical School is named) of the Negro American Labor Council; James L. Farmer Jr., of the interracial Congress of Racial Equality; and Roy Wilkins of the NAACP. (Remembering John Lewis, rights icon and `American hero’

-Michael Warren, Associated Press Writer – Yahoo News, 7/20/20.

  • Explore: Black Activism (churches) A call to repentance for the sin of slavery, “which continues to plague our common life” was made by the The African Episcopal Church of Saint Thomas of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


  • Discuss: Black Lives Matter Movement


  • Discuss: Begin Again: Eddie Glaude, Jr.


  • Explore: the Underground Railroad and the Reverse Underground Railroad


  • Analyze and evaluate: Nat Turner’s revolt


  • Read: Freedom’s Journal (first black newspaper, 1827)


  • Read: Frederick Douglass’s newspaper


  • Analyze, discuss, evaluate: Caroline Kendall Williams New York Op-Ed: You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body is a Monument. June 26, 2020


  • Abolitionists on the speaker’s circuit trying to persuade people to renounce slavery


  • Vigilance committees in each Northern city in response to Fugitive Slave Law


  • Abraham Lincoln’s triumph in spite of all the challenges he was up against and his own character flaws.
  • The boys in Stolen return home

·       Black troops fight for the Union in the Civil War


Nora Karasanyi Compiled Slides Reference here.


Writing Rubric for Memory Book here.


Monologue Rubric here.




Annotated Bibliography


  1. Adapted from Adler, C.R. (Ed). 2001. Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read, pp. 49-54. National Institute for Literacy. Retrieved Nov. 1, 2007, from


  1. Adler, David A. A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln. New York, Holiday House, 1989. This is a brief biography of President Abraham Lincoln who was elected sixteen president of the United States in 1860. In 1861, the civil war between the south and the north broke out over the issue of slavery. This war lasted four years from 1861 to 1865. In 1865, Lincoln issued an Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery and a few days later, he was assassinated. Learning about Lincoln as a human being would provide a version of the back story to the complex issue of slavery and the official ending of it in the United States.
  2. Adler, David A. A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman. New York, Holiday House, 1992.

This biography of Harriet Tubman underscores the importance of not only rising above adversity, but also giving out to others. Harriet Tubman was committed to those he brought out of slavery. Her famous quote, “I never ran my train off the track,” said Harriet proudly, “and I never lost a passenger.”

  1. Adler, David A. A Picture Book of Sojourner Truth. New York, Holiday House, 1994.

Born in slavery as Isabella, she later changed her name to Sojourner Truth a name more representative of her life mission to travel and change the world around her.


  1. Aronson, Marc, and Marina Budhos. Sugar Changed the World. First ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.


  1. by H. Robert Baker, Robert H. Personal Liberty Laws an essay in Morris, Thomas D. Free Men All: The Personal Laws of the North 1780-1861, John Hopkins University Press, 1974.


  1. Bell, Richard. Stolen- Five Boys Kidnapped Into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home Simon and Shuster, New York, NY 2019 Tells the story of five boys who got kidnapped and were taken south into slavery on the reverse underground railroad. By some chance, they don’t end up as their kidnappers had hoped: They return home except one unfortunate child who died before he could be rescued.


  1. Berry, Daina Ramey. The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: the Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation. Boston, 2017.



  1. Blackett R, The Captive’s Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, and the Politics of Slavery. Cambridge University Press, 2018.


  1. Bolden, Tanya Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty. New

York, Abrams Books, 2013.

On the inside jacket this book is described as follows:

This book offers readers a unique look at an often misunderstood document. It scrutinizes the steps that led to Lincoln’s proclamation, the change in his views, on how to address the divided country and the plight of black people – free and enslaved – as well as the actual purpose of the Emancipation Proclamation and what it ultimately achieved.


Including excerpts from historical sources, archival images, and new research, Emancipation Proclamation discusses the key events that led to the Civil War, the role slavery played as a major negotiating factor for both the Union and the Confederacy, and the mixed signals that the president sent to American citizens, free blacks, the enslaved, and the world at large. Interwoven with Lincoln’s story is the role that so many abolitionists played in the fight for liberty, including Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Francis E. W. Harper, Wendell Phillips, Thaddeus Stevens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Charles Summer.


In this engrossing historical resource, complete with a timeline and glossary, award-winning author Tonya Bolden brings to life the cause and effect of, as well as the people behind, the Emancipation Proclamation.


  1. Cary, Lorene. The Price of a Child. Shuster, 1995. This fictional historical novel was written by a local author in Philadelphia. It tells the story of a woman who dreams about freedom. When her dream eventually comes true, she escapes. Unfortunately, she leaves her youngest child behind. It’s notable that this was the first One Book, One Philadelphia selected by the Free Library of Philadelphia for all Philadelphians to read.  The School District had this book as one of its selections for eleventh grade for some years.


The Price of a Child is based on the story of Jane Johnson. In July,1855, John Hill Wheeler, a federal bureaucrat and plantation owner who was a staunch defender of the entire system of slavery sailed into Philadelphia with his slave, Jane Johnson and her two sons. Jane Johnson sent a message to William Still, saying she wished to escape enslavement. Still and Passmore Williamson, a white abolitionist, met Johnson and her sons on the boat. When Wheeler tried to stop Johnson’s escape, a minor scuffle ensued, and Williamson and the others assisting him were all charged with riot, forcible abduction, and assault. Wheeler also filed a civil and a criminal complaint against the men who, he contended, violated the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act by “stealing” Johnson, his “property.” The trial was a cause célèbre – especially when Jane Johnson made a daring appearance in court. In the end, Johnson stayed free, and Still was acquitted, though Williamson spent a much-publicized three months in jail. Perhaps most important, Wheeler failed spectacularly in his claim that, even in Philadelphia, the slaves were his property.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, July 11, 2002
Byline: Jane Eisner


  1. Champadjiev, Sophia Teaching Playwriting: A Step-by-Step Guide to Fostering Creativity in Your Classroom.

The review states that this text was written by Sophia Chapadjiev, the Artistic Director of the Young Playwrights Festival at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. This book is a step-by-step guide that teaches basic playwriting. It’s 108 pages long.


  1. Chiaverini, Jennifer. Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule. Penguin Publishing Group, 2015, p. 7-16.

This book is set in 1855. (Pre-Civil War.) It explores the issues of inequality and the idea that slaves were property. The slave and mistress in this book are the same age and they have the same name. The slave eventually escapes and builds a successful beauty products business in New York, so this is a story of triumph that students could enjoy reading.


14. De Mulder, Sierra: 5 Reasons Spoken Word Is Powerful In The Classroom

 – Director of bluapple Poetry Programming, Jason Taylor Foundation

  1. Olsavsky, Jesse (2018) Women, vigilance committees, and the rise of militant abolitionism, 1835–1859, Slavery & Abolition, 39:2, 357-382, DOI: 10.1080/0144039X.2017.1415669
  2. 16. Williams Randall, Caroline. You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument. New York Times Op-Ed, June 26, 2020. To read her complete essay, click here.






Blended Learning


Flipped Classroom


Another Flipped Classroom Video


Sojourner Truth


Nat Turner


Richard Bell: Stolen


William Still


Nora Karasanyi Presentation


A Speech of Frederick Douglass




Recommended Reading List for Students


Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home by Richard Bell


Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Grandison and her Secret School by Janet Halfmann


Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson


The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard


Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives, and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

(Book/ or DVD)


Before She Was Harriet, by Lesa Cline-Ransome


Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford


Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson by Jen Bryant and Cannaday Chapman


Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney


Journeys for Freedom: A New Look at America’s Story by Susan Buckley and Elspeth Leacock


The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton


Many Thousand Gone: African Americans from Slavery to Freedom by Virginia Hamilton


Escape from Slavery: Five Journeys to Freedom by Doreen Rappaport


Never Caught: The Washington’s Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave by Erika Armstrong Dunbar


Brave. Black. First.: 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World by Cheryl Willis Hudson


Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos


William Still and the Underground Railroad by Kathleen Stevens


Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou by Bethany Hegedus and Tonya Engel


DK Life Stories: Katherine Johnson by Ebony Joy Wilkins


Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs


Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford


We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson


Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama by Hester Bass and E.B. Lewis


Who Was Ida B. Wells? by Sarah Fabiny


You Should Meet Shirley Chisolm by Laurie Calkhoven and Kaitlyn Shea O’Connor


Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon by Kelly Starling Lyons, Laura Freeman


Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box by Evette Dionne


The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan: Inventor, Entrepreneur, Hero by Joan Dicicco and Ebony Glenn


Sing a Song: How “Lift Every Voice and Sing” Inspired Generation by Kelly Starling Lyons and Keith Mallett


The Story of Civil Rights Hero John Lewis by James Haskins, Aaron Boyd, et al


A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks by Alice Faye Duncan


Changing the Equation: 50+ US Black Women in STEM by Tonya Bolden


One Person, No Vote: How Not All Voters Are Treated Equally (A Young Adult Adaptation)

Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden


Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate


Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen? by Sherri Smith


You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford


Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box by Michael S. Bandy, Eric Stein, et al.


Eliza’s Freedom Road: An Underground Railroad Diary by Jerdine Nolen and Shadra Strickland


Dream March: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Sally Wern Comport


Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco


Bread for Words: A Frederick Douglass Story by Shana Keller


Warriors Don’t Cry: The Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High by Melba Pattillo Beals


Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters by Andrea Davis Pinkney


Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, written by Himself


Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom: Or, the Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery by William and Ellen Craft


BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford


Black Heroes: A Black History Book for Kids: 51 Inspiring People from Ancient Africa to Modern-Day U.S.A. by Arlisha Norwood


Hidden Figures (Young Reader’s Edition) by Margot Lee Shetterly


The Seeds of America Trilogy (Chains, Forge, Ashes) by Laurie Halse Anderson


Sugar by Rhodes Jewell Parker


Dear Martin by Nic Stone


Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney


Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter


Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs


Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Ann Petry


The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois

Women, vigilance committees, and the rise of militant abolitionism, 1835–1859 by

Jesse Olsavsky

Gaither Sisters Trilogy (One Crazy Summer, P.S. Be Eleven, Gone Crazy in Alabama) by Rita Williams-Garcia


Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington


Letters from a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs by Mary E. Lyons