As middle school teachers, we have found our social studies books to be inadequate, void of any real African-American History. Young African-American, Anglo Saxon, Hispanic, and Chinese students are made to feel that the African-American’s history began with slavery, and that slavery was not an institution that grossly affected real, thinking, and feeling human beings. Most social studies curricula do not address the historical origins of the African-American. If they are mentioned, it is often only to note how illiterate, slothful and pagan they were. Those curricula often fail to address the role of the slaves in building the thirteen colonies, while speaking at great length about how the colonists fought against Britain forlLife, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In an effort to correct this misrepresentation of a people and to instill pride and a positive self-image in our African-American students, we will provide information about the primary role that African-Americans played in American history and in liberating themselves from one of the most oppressive conditions that any race of people ever endured, slavery.
First, we will address the issue of slavery. We will discuss the capture and selling of Africans by Africans, as well as by whites. We will briefly discuss Africa’s system of slavery and compare its counterpart in Africa. We will then discuss the triangular trade, the dehumanizing saga of the middle passage, and its psychological effect upon the African captive.
Second, we will discuss the underground railroad, the method through which many slaves obtained liberation. Our focus will be on the emancipators and their role in the mind/body liberation of the slaves. We use the term mind/body liberation to describe a revelation that occurred in the minds of the slaves who became aware of the oppressive conditions of slavery and who refused to accept these conditions by verbally expressing dissatisfaction, staging rebellions and/or by escaping.
Although he know that black emancipators had the help of Quakers and northern abolitionists in their quest for liberation, the most serious workers for freedom were among the black slaves.
. . . . for who would have been the most serious workers for freedom if not the Negroes whose own salvation was at stake, and in particular, those developed and leading blacks who were fully aware of the historical importance of their nation in America? The underground railroad was the most dangerous front in the whole conflict, short of the Civil War itself. After all, the people who escaped over the Road were black. If is true, as it has been estimated, that more than 50,000 slaves fled from the South to the free states and Canada, then it has to be true that the Negro people, in this situation alone, produced at least 50,000 individual revolutionary acts. And what other people in America up to that time, yes, including even the founding fathers, in their great struggle against Britain, exceeded or equaled such a demonstration or illegal protest?1
Our unit will use personal accounts drawn from slave narratives and anti-slavery speeches, to dispel the myths of the “ignorant and slothful” slave. Beginning with the men and women who chose to be swallowed by the waves of the sea, rather than to live as slaves. We will also discuss the motivating factors of each emancipator in choosing the road towards freedom and the avenues each pursued in freeing other slaves. Taken from the autobiographical theme of our seminar, we will follow this mind/body liberation through the lives of Nat Turner, Sojourner Truth, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and William Still.
Through the use of films, field-trips, plays, an original Black History Rap, a series of African-American History questions, coupled with lesson plans and detailed information of the subject at hand, we intend to achieve the following objectives;
1. Students will be able to discuss why Africans were used as slaves in America.
2. Students will be able to discuss the underground railroad.
3. Students will be able to identify major black emancipators.
4. Students will be able to compare and contrast work done by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Sojourner Truth, their language, audiences addressed, and degree of effectiveness as speakers.
5. Students will be able to compare and contrast Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner’s reasons for and means used to achieve liberation, as well as degree of their effectiveness.
6. Students will be able to compare and contrast Frederick Douglass and William Still’s method for speaking against slavery, preserving history, and work with anti-slavery societies and their level of involvement.
7. Students will be able to define terms such as emancipation, abolition, triangular trade, middle passage and the like.