Thursday, December 06, 2018

For Texas Teachers: A Framework for Teaching American Slavery

As per my last post, America Is Racist. So What Do We Do Now? Activist Lawyer Bryan Stevenson Has Some Answers, you now know if you didn't already that the State Board of Education (SBOE) voted last November to change the way that our students will be learning about slavery, with slavery for the first time ever getting taught as playing a central role in the Civil War.  

It's hard to believe that this wasn't already a given, but we're Texas and often is regarded—and regards itself—a Southern state—in addition to a Southwestern one—primarily because we, too, had slavery and in particular, for parts of East Texas, share in a number of cultural characteristics with the South.

In any case, since beginning in Fall 2019 slavery will get taught correctly, teachers need materials and so this is a powerful curriculum out of the Southern Poverty Law Center below that you can draw from.  Consider taking your students, as well, on a field trip to Montgomery, Alabama to visit the The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a lynching memorial that opened up this year on April 26, 2018.

But since none of this affects textbooks, I encourage you to engage your State Board of Education member and demand leadership on the board on this important history.  Note: if you don't know who represents you, you can find that out here.

Demand African American Studies.  Since April 11, 2018 (read my reflection on this here), we officially now have African American Studies on the books but it needs standards attached to it so that its actionable for teachers in the classroom—and also that books can be considered for adoption, too.  Demand Native American American Studies and Asian American Studies, too, as these are also now on the books, as well.

As the Reverend Martin Luther King once expressed, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."  And it bends, my friends, because we bend it, individually and collectively, in ways big and small.
I really hope that Texas teachers consider using this resource and others in their social studies and ethnic studies classrooms and beyond.  Young people need to know this for college and it promises to make them better human beings.

-Angela Valenzuela

A Framework for Teaching American Slavery

Most students leave high school without an adequate understanding of the role slavery played in the development of the United States—or how its legacies still influence us today. In an effort to remedy this, we developed a comprehensive guide for teaching and learning this critical topic at the middle and high school levels. (Scroll down to see the outline of the framework or to download the full document.)
Here are a few key elements of the framework and the accompanying resources:
Key Concepts and Summary Objectives  Important big ideas and critical content students must know to understand the historical significance of slavery. (Select the Summary Objectives below to see teaching suggestions and additional resources.)
Primary Source Texts  The Teaching Hard History Library features over 100 student-friendly sources, all with text-dependent questions.
Teaching Tools  Browse six sample Inquiry Design Models, based on The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards.
Podcast  Hosted by Professor Hasan Jeffries, this series brings us the lessons we should have learned in school through the voices of leading scholars and educators.
Student Quiz  Use this 12-question quiz as a formative assessment.
Webinar  Join Professor Hasan Jeffries and former Teaching and Learning Specialist Lauryn Mascareñaz for this on-demand PD.
Printable Cards  Download and display these cards to let people know you have the courage to teach #HardHistory.

Key Concepts

  1. Slavery, which was practiced by Europeans prior to their arrival in the Americas, was important to all of the colonial powers and existed in all of the European North American colonies.
  2. Slavery and the slave trade were central to the development and growth of the economy across British North America and, later, the United States.
  3. Protections for slavery were embedded in the founding documents; enslavers dominated the federal government, Supreme Court and Senate from 1787 through 1860.
  4. “Slavery was an institution of power,” designed to create profit for the enslavers and break the will of the enslaved and was a relentless quest for profit abetted by racism.
  5. Enslaved people resisted the efforts of their enslavers to reduce them to commodities in both revolutionary and everyday ways.
  6. The experience of slavery varied depending on time, location, crop, labor performed, size of slaveholding and gender.
  7. Slavery was the central cause of the Civil War.
  8. Slavery shaped the fundamental beliefs of Americans about race and whiteness, and white supremacy was both a product and legacy of slavery.
  9. Enslaved and free people of African descent had a profound impact on American culture, producing leaders and literary, artistic and folk traditions that continue to influence the nation.
  10. By knowing how to read and interpret the sources that tell the story of American slavery, we gain insight into some of what enslaving and enslaved Americans aspired to, created, thought and desired. 

Pre-Colonial and Colonial Era (to 1763)


Students will recognize that slavery existed around the world prior to the European settlement of North America.


Students will be able to describe the slave trade from Africa to the Americas.


Students will be able to discuss the labor and culture of enslaved people during the colonial era.


Students will be able to demonstrate the impact of slavery on the economies of French, British and Spanish North America.

The American Revolution and the Constitution (1763-1787)


Students will identify ways that slavery was a key component of the escalating conflicts between England and the North American colonies in the period from 1763 and 1776.


Students will describe the ways African Americans participated in the Revolutionary War in support of both sides.


Students will demonstrate the ways that the Constitution provided direct and indirect protection to slavery and imbued enslavers and the slave states with increased political power.

Slavery in the Early Republic (1787-1808)


Students will examine the way the Revolutionary War affected the institution of slavery in the new nation. Students will examine the ways that slavery shaped domestic and foreign policy in the early Republic.


Students will examine the rapid expansion of cotton slavery across the southern United States.

The Expansion of Slavery (1808-1848)


Students will understand the contours of the domestic slave trade as part of the nation’s economic and geographic expansion.


Students will be able to describe the principal ways the labor of enslaved people was organized and controlled in the antebellum United States.


Students will understand the growth of the abolitionist movement in the 1830s and the slaveholding states' view of the movement as a physical, economic and political threat.


Students will understand that enslaved people resisted slavery in ways that ranged from violence to smaller, everyday means of asserting their humanity and opposing the wishes and interests of their enslavers.


Students will be able to discuss the culture of enslaved Americans and its impact on American culture in general.

The Sectional Crisis and Civil War (1848-1877)


Students will examine the expansion of slavery as a key factor in the domestic and foreign policy decisions of the United States in the 19th century.


Students will discuss the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln and the subsequent decision that several slave states made to secede from the Union to ensure the preservation and expansion of slavery.


Students will examine the evolving Union policies concerning slavery and African-American military service and understand that the free black and enslaved communities affected the Civil War.


Students will examine the ways that people who were enslaved claimed their freedom after the Civil War.


Students will examine the ways that the federal government’s policies affected the lives of formerly enslaved people.


Students will examine the ways that white Southerners attempted to define freedom for freedpeople.


Students will examine the impact of the Compromise of 1877 and the removal of federal troops from the former Confederacy.


Students will examine the ways in which the legacies of slavery and of white supremacy continue to affect life in the United States.

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