The objective of this unit is to have high school students examine several nineteenth-century slave narratives and selected narratives from the WPA Slave Narrative Collection to obtain a more accurate, well-balanced account of the nature of the institution of slavery in the antebellum South and its impact on black men, women and children, individually and collectively.
This unit is designed to be used for classroom discussion as well as for independent research projects on American Negro slavery. By utilizing the primary sources of the slave narratives, students will be able to draw their own conclusions about slavery in the United States. Through the reading of several slave narratives, students will be exposed to a variety of personal experiences of people held in bondage in different sections of the South during different time periods. Teaching history through the personal narratives helps make history more real to students. It helps them grasp more fully the fact that slaves were real people who were owned and controlled entirely by others. From the class discussions and projects, and their own independent research, students will be able to reconstruct a coherent pattern of slave life in the United States prior to the outbreak of the Civil War.