K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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.

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  • Slave songs: In this lesson, students learn more about the religious observances of slaves in the United States by presenting hymns from Slave Songs in the US digitized in the Documenting the American South Collection. This is a great lesson to introduce the intersection of religion and slavery in a US history or African American history class.
  • The African American experience in NC after Reconstruction: The documents included in this lesson come from The North Carolina Experience collection of Documenting the American South and specifically focus on African Americans and race relations in the early 20th century. The lesson juxtaposes accounts that relate to both the positive improvements of black society and arguments against advancement. Combined, these primary sources and the accompanying lesson plan could be used as a Document Based Question (DBQ) in an AP US history course.
  • An introduction to slave narratives: Harriet Jacobs' Life of a Slave Girl: In this lesson, students will learn about the life experiences of slaves in the United States during the 1800s by reading the story of a North Carolina slave woman who eventually escaped.

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • read and interpret a primary source document.
  • analyzing a painting.
  • demonstrate an understanding of slavery and resistance in American history.

Teacher planning

Time required

90 minutes


  • Access to the painting Forward by Jacob Lawrence
  • Autobiography of Henry Parker from the Documenting the American South website
  • Markers or color pencils
  • Poster board or construction paper
  • Notebook paper and pencils

Technology resources

  • Computer lab or individual student computers
  • Computer with internet connected to a multimedia projector (optional)


Students should be familiar with the institution of slavery in the United States. They should also know how the enslaved Africans were able to resist the oppression of slavery.


  1. Have students access and examine the primary source document Autobiography of Henry Parker on the Documenting the American South website.
  2. In three or more sentences, have the students answer the following question on their notebook paper: Explain the conditions of the underground railroad based on the experiences of Mr. Parker.
  3. Next, have students should access and examine the painting Forward by Jacob Lawrence.
  4. As the students look at the painting, have them write down what they believe to be going on in the painting. They should spend three minutes writing down their thoughts.
  5. The students should then draw a picture of what they think happened before the painting and draw picture of what they think happened after the painting. (This should be done on either construction paper or poster board).
  6. After drawing the pictures, have the students write a story similar to the Autobiography of Henry Parker. The story should detail the life of one of the people in the painting and should be at least three paragraphs in length.


Assess the quality and degree to which the students have drawn two pictures similar to the painting Forward. Also assess if they have written a three-paragraph narrative about the life of one of the people in the painting.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • American Humanities

        • 12.C.4 Understand how American culture has sought to balance individual rights with the common good. 12.C.4.1 Deconstruct the concepts of freedom, equality, and justice in American literature, philosophy and the arts. 12.C.4.2 Explain how discrepancies in...
      • 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...
        • USH.H.4 Analyze how conflict and compromise have shaped politics, economics and culture in the United States. USH.H.4.1 Analyze the political issues and conflicts that impacted the United States through Reconstruction and the compromises that resulted (e.g.,...

    • Visual Arts Education (2010)
      • Proficient Visual Arts

        • P.CX.1 Understand the global, historical, societal, and cultural contexts of the visual arts. P.CX.1.1 Understand the role of visual arts in United States history as a means of interpreting past eras within an historical context. P.CX.1.2 Understand how personal...

    North Carolina curriculum alignment

    Social Studies (2003)

    Grade 11–12 — African American History

    • Goal 2: The learner will develop an understanding of the justifications and ramifications of slavery between 1619 and 1860.
      • Objective 2.02: Discuss and evaluate the various ways Africans in America resisted slavery.