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Lesson Plans
Economy vs. Humanity
Exploring the Triangle Trade and The Middle Passage
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

Prior to the teaching, bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson and create an Microsoft Word document with all of the Web sites as hyperlinks for students to access the sites. Make sure that your computer has the necessary media players to play the sound clips, such as Real Player, and the appropriate software to view the
documents, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. CUE the FREEDOM: A History of US #5 videotape to the opening shot of the episode. There is a shot of the ocean, and "The Slave Trade" appears in the lower left corner.

When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.
Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

The Triangle Trade

Step 1:

Explain to your students that you will be examining the American Slave Trade and how enslaved people arrived in the United States. Explain that you will be watching a video about this topic, and distribute the student response sheets. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, instructing them to watch the video and record the answers to the questions in the section of the sheet marked "Leg 1." They must record when the American Slave trade began, what product was exported from America, where those ships sailed, and for what products the goods were exchanged. INSERT the video FREEDOM: A History of US #5 into your VCR. PLAY the video at the opening frame of the episode, when you see a shot of the ocean and "The Slave Trade" in the lower right corner. PAUSE the tape after the narrator says, "In England the tobacco was exchanged for guns and cloth and trinkets," and there is a picture of a ship on the screen. CHECK for comprehension by discussing the questions and answers to those questions. (The American slave trade began in colonial days, the ships were sailing for England and were filled with tobacco, and these goods were exchanged for guns, cloth, and trinkets.) If the students do not have the answers to the questions, REWIND that segment of the video and let them watch it again. In the discussion, be sure to go over the answers to all of the questions on the student response sheets, as well as address any additional questions or observations students may have.

Step 2:

After the students fully understand the first leg of the Triangle Trade, provide them with another FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, directing students to watch the video and record the answers to the questions in the section of the sheet marked "Leg 2." They must record where the ships sailed after they left England, for what products the British goods were exchanged, and what the man's captors received as payment. RESUME PLAY from the point when the narrator says, "Then the ships sailed south for Africa," and there is an image of a man and a ship on the screen. PAUSE the video after the man says, "They appeared to me the ugliest creatures in the world," and you see a line drawing of a slave sale. CHECK for comprehension by discussing the questions and answers to those questions. (After the ships left England they sailed for Africa, the goods were exchanged for African men, women, and children, and the captor's payment was liquor and blue and red cloth.) If the students do not have the answers to the questions, REWIND that segment of the video and let them watch it again. In the discussion, be sure to go over the answers to all of the questions on the student response sheets, as well as address any additional questions or observations that they may have.

Step 3:

After the students have a clear understanding of the second leg of the Triangle Trade, provide them with a third FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, instructing them to watch the video clip and record the answers to the questions in the section of their response sheets marked "Leg 3." They must record where the ships sailed after they left Africa, what that leg of the journey was called, the conditions that the Africans endured during the trip, and what happened to the Africans when they arrived in America. RESUME PLAY from the point where the narrator says, "On the final leg of the great triangle," and there is an image of the ocean on the screen. STOP the tape after you hear the men singing, and you see the picture of a man covered in a net. CHECK for comprehension by discussing the questions and answers to those questions. (The ship left Africa and sailed to America, and the journey was called The Middle Passage. The enslaved Africans endured horrific conditions; they were cramped into the bottom of the ship, they could not lie down, and they were given very little food and water. When the Africans arrived in America, they were auctioned off as slaves.) If the students do not have the answers to the questions, REWIND that segment of the video and let them watch it again. In the discussion, be sure to go over the answers to all of the questions on the student response sheets, as well as address any additional questions or observations that they may have.


Learning Activities

The Experience on a Slave Ship

Step 1:

Explain to your students that you will be taking a closer look at what happened to the Africans who traveled to America on the Middle Passage, and that you will be examining some images from the Web site, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/historyofus/web05/
segment2.html
. The pictures are entitled "A British Slave Ship" and "Slaveship Wildfire." Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, instructing them to look at the pictures and answer the questions on their student response sheet for "Slave Ship" and "Slaveship Wildfire." For "Slave Ship" they must record the date of the diagram, how many people could be put on the ship both legally and illegally, and what they think that life was like on the ship. For "Slaveship Wildfire" they must record the date of the engraving and where the ship was sailing. They must also describe the people on the ship. Once the students have had ample time to look closely at the pictures and record their responses, discuss what they see in the pictures and the answers to the questions on their response sheets. ("Slave Ship" is dated approximately 1788. The slaveholders could fit 454 people on the ship legally, and an additional 35% illegally – approximately 159 people. Life on the ship was cramped and very dangerous. "Slaveship Wildfire" is from Harper's Weekly, 1860. The ship was heading to Key West, Florida. The people on the ship were seemingly emotionless, and they were naked.) Explain that crossing the Atlantic Ocean on the Middle Passage often took months, and that conditions were very poor.

Step 2:

Explain to your students that they will now be reading an account of a person on one of the Middle Passage voyages. These accounts are from the Johns Hopkins Teacher Resources that accompany the series, and are available through the "For Teachers" section in the "Student Pages" portion of Webisode 5.
(http://www.pbs.org/wnet/historyofus/teachers/pdfs/segment5-2.pdf) The first account is from John Barbot, a slave trader, and the second account is from Olaudah Equinao, an African who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Your students will be working in pairs, with one member of the pair reading the account aloud, and the other member of the pair looking for definitions to new words in the dictionary. Half of the pairs will read Barbot's account and report back to the large group, and the remaining pairs will read Equinao's account and report their finding back to the large group. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, directing them to read their assigned account, define the vocabulary words, and record a summary of the account on their student response sheet. They must include specific details from the account in their summary. Once students have read their papers, defined the words, and written their summary, lead them though a discussion on what they read. The pairs that read Barbot's piece should share their finding with the other members of the class, and they in turn will share their summaries of Equinao's piece. They should record the information that their classmates share with them on their student response sheets. Discuss the readings with the class. How are the two accounts similar? How are they different? Why did they see similar events in a different way? How do their earlier predictions about experiences on a slave ship compare to what these men wrote?

Step 3:

Next, explain to the students that you are going to look at another perspective on the Middle Passage. Reverend Robert Walsh was on a ship that intercepted slave ship off the coast of Africa to prevent them from making them from making their way across the Atlantic Ocean. These ships were deployed after the United States had outlawed the importation of slaves in 1808. He recorded what he saw in a document entitled "Aboard A Slave Ship, 1829," which is available at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/historyofus
/web05/features/source/docs/C04.pdf
. Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, instructing them to read the first person account, define new vocabulary words, and write a summary of Reverend Walsh's observations, recording specific examples that the author shares. When students have completed their summaries, CHECK for comprehension and discuss what they read. How many people were on the ship? How long had the ship been at sea? How many people died in that time? What were the enslaved Africans feeling? How were they being treated on the ship? What were the conditions like? What happened when they were allowed to come out of the hull and onto the deck? What happened when water was put out on the deck? Why did the people react in this way? In comparison with the Feloz, what were other slave ships like?


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

After reading these first-hand accounts and examining the images of a slave ship, students will have a fuller understanding of the Middle Passage. Instruct your students that they will be writing in role, taking on the persona of a United States citizen in 1807. Using specific examples from the three accounts, as well as information from the printed images and the video, have them write a persuasive letter to Congress, urging them to outlaw the importation of slaves from Africa. When they have completed their letters, have students share them with the whole class.


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

SOCIAL STUDIES/ECONOMICS
Slavery existed in many countries, but the Plantation System of slavery seen in the United States was unique. It was because of the Plantation System that there was a need for so many slaves, and this was also a factor as to why they were treated so harshly. Have your students research the Plantation System of slavery and how it affected the economy of the United States.

ENGLISH/LITERATURE
The experiences of enslaved people, both on the Middle Passage and in the United States, have been chronicled in many different pieces of literature. Have students read a variety of genres relating to the slave trade and the slave experience, such as poems, memoirs, essays, fiction, and non-fiction. Some pieces that could be used are: "slaveship," a poem by Lucille Clifton; excerpts from Frederick Douglass' autobiography "The Narrative of the Life of a Slave;" and excerpts from the Federal Writer's Project collection of Slave Narratives, available from the Library of Congress (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/snhome.html). Have students compare and contrast the experiences that are presented in these different pieces.

SOCIOLOGY/CULTURE
Many Africans brought customs and cultural practices with them to the United States, and were able to preserve these customs, despite the harsh circumstances they lived in. Many of these customs and cultural ideals still are present today. Have your students research the African culture and customs that exist within the United States, and create informative posters about what they learn.


Community Connections
  • If possible, take your students to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a branch of the New York Public Library. In addition to their research materials, they have a number of rotating exhibits focusing on African American writers and culture.
  • People who spoke out against the Slave Trade and slavery itself were instrumental in bringing about the end of such things. As a class, identify issues that plague your community, state, or country, and contact the appropriate community groups and governmental officials to register your point of view and try to enact change.