Slavery and the Making of AmericaPicture of slave women cultivating a village garden in Central Africa, Courtesy of the University of Virginia Library
Time and Place Slave Memories Resources The Slave Experience

K-12 Learning
Intro Historical Fiction Primary Sources Lesson Plans Virtual Museum Credits
Historical Readings: Historical Fiction
Find a wonderful set of fictitious essays, stories, and letters from slaves and slave owners portrayed in SLAVERY AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA. All of the readings, written by educators, are based on historical fact and offer elementary, middle, and high school age students engaging ways to "see" and "hear" what life was like in the time of slavery in America. PRIMARY SOURCES are also available to use with your students.
Robert and Hannah Smalls
Photo of Robert Smalls
Grades 6-8

Robert and Hannah Smalls discuss the conflicting feelings they face regarding the risks of escaping versus their desire for freedom. This reading can be re-enacted by students playing the roles of Robert and Hannah Smalls.

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Grades 9-10

Share in a slave's angst through this compelling excerpt from the journal of Hannah Smalls, the night before she and her husband escape. She conveys her fears of failure, as well as the importance of becoming free for her children.

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Photo of Titus
Grades 4-5

Eager to gain his freedom and to escape his cruel owner, Titus decides to run away at the age of 22. In a dialogue where he reveals his plan to a friend, Titus argues that escaping will allow him to live a free life while his friend argues that escaping may not be worth the risk.

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Grades 6-8

Students follow a narrative between Titus and a friend as he reveals his escape plans. TITUS: (points to head) "It's all up here ... I know every river and swamp between here and Delaware. From there, I'll find people willing to help get me to Maryland and Virginia. No one else has to know that I escaped."

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Lizzie & Mum Bett
Photo of Lizzie & Mum Bett
Grades 3-5

This one-act play allows students to learn about Lizzie, a young slave girl, who is attacked by her slave owner, Hannah Ashley. It depicts her responsibilities, how she was viewed in her household and how her sister, Mum Bett, protected her during the attack.

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Grades 6-8

Lizzie writes a letter to their parents to ease their fear over rumors about the attack and to tell them of the injury sustained by Mum Bett. Lizzie also tells them about her feelings toward the slave owners and the dreams that she and her sister share about freedom.

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Slave Owners
Photo of a slave owner reading a newspaper while one of his slaves is beaten.
Grades 6-8

To understand how slave owners justified holding other humans in bondage read an imaginary exchange of letters between a plantation owner and small-scale slave owner as they justify their actions.

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Grades 9-12

"Would it not be ironic if the very people who decry slavery found themselves without shirts, pants, and dresses as a result of their success? I confess that the charge of hypocrisy falls with ease upon Northerners who decry our institution, yet treat their workers poorly and push us to keep the costs of our cotton low."

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