LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

This lesson focuses on the economic and cultural contributions of early Americans whose work and achievements have been traditionally “unsung,” as well as the way in which certain groups’ efforts have been honored or silenced by historical monuments. The spotlight of this lesson is the Monument of Unsung Founders located on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. This monument honors the work of slaves and freed people of color whose labor was essential to the building of the university. The lesson is best taught in tandem with a previous reading assignment introducing the economic and cultural contributions of groups including, but not limited to, African Americans, women, Native Americans, yeoman farmers, and small merchants.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • describe the economic and cultural contributions of various groups in colonial and revolutionary North Carolina.
  • work with primary sources (monuments) and read for bias and historical context.
  • design a historical monument that recognizes the contributions of an “unsung” group or person to early North Carolina and the United States.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

One 45-minute class


  • Drawing paper
  • Colored pencils
  • Pencil/pens
  • Notebook paper

Technology Resources


  1. Divide students into pairs. Depending on the number of computers available, this activity can be done with one computer per pair or one computer per student (or, alternately, with printed copies of the information found on the webpages for the Unsung Founders Monument and the Memorial to Founding Trustees).
  2. Direct students to the Unsung Founders Monument. Have them answer the following questions as they explore the information on the site concerning the Unsung Founders Monument:
    1. Who is this monument recognizing?
    2. Why are these people called the “unsung founders”?
    3. Why do you think the artists designed this monument so that the figurines are struggling to hold up the table (rather than riding a horse or standing upright, like many monuments)?
    4. What year was this monument created? Why do you think it took so long for this group’s contribution to be recognized?
  3. As students finish answering these questions, call on students to give their answers, ensuring that they understand the basic concept behind the memorial.
  4. Students should then view the Memorial to the Founding Trustees.
  5. Give them the following information: This monument is also on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. It recognizes the university’s first board of trustees. Many of these men are also honored by the names of buildings on campus. A large majority of these men were planters, meaning they owned 20 or more slaves. Only 6% of white North Carolinians were planters. 69% of white North Carolinians did not own slaves.
  6. Have the students answer the following questions:
    1. Why do you think this group achieved such prominence and recognition?
    2. How does money influence which groups’ contributions are honored with monuments?
  7. When each pair or group is finished working, bring the class back together. Complete a Venn diagram or a double bubble map comparing and contrasting the two monuments.
  8. Using the information from these monuments and what has been learned previously, have the students work in pairs to design a monument to a group or individual whose economic and cultural contributions to early North Carolina have been “unsung.” Have them sketch their monument design on a blank sheet of paper and include an inscription (like the ones on the monuments on the website).
  9. Have them answer the questions listed on the board on the back of their sketches.
  10. Write the following questions on the board and ask students to answer them on back of the sketch of their “unsung founders” monument:
    1. Why did you choose this person/these people to honor with your monument?
    2. What are the figures in your monument doing? How does this relate to their contribution?
    3. Where would you locate your monument? Why?
  11. If there is time at the end of class, have student pairs present their designs and inscriptions and explain their answers to the questions.


  • Evaluate student answers against the information provided through class activities.
  • Gauge student participation in class discussions.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Reading: Informational Text

        • Grade 8
          • 8.RIT.1 Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
        • Grade 9-10
          • 9-10.RIT.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 8

        • 8.C.1 Understand how different cultures influenced North Carolina and the United States. 8.C.1.1 Explain how exploration and colonization influenced Africa, Europe and the Americas (e.g. Columbian exchange, slavery and the decline of the American Indian populations)....
        • 8.H.1 Apply historical thinking to understand the creation and development of North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.1.1 Construct charts, graphs, and historical narratives to explain particular events or issues. 8.H.1.2 Summarize the literal meaning of...
      • United States History I

        • USH.H.1 Apply the four interconnected dimensions of historical thinking to the United States History Essential Standards in order to understand the creation and development of the United States over time. USH.H.1.1 Use Chronological thinking to: Identify the...