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

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Learning outcomes

Students will demonstrate an understanding that slaves could have a variety of jobs and roles.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

One to two hours


  • Narrative of Lunsford Lane from the Documenting the American South website
  • Guided reading worksheet
  • Computer with internet access connected to a multimedia projector
  • Computer lab or individual student computers (if not printing out copies of the narrative)

Teacher background

Lunsford Lane’s story is about a slave who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. Though his master owns as many as three plantations outside of Raleigh, Mr. Lane is not a plantation slave. Rather, he works for his master in the city dwelling. His story provides an example of an ingenious, determined, and disciplined slave who’s vision and creativity affords him the opportunity to earn money and eventually buy his freedom.

With this primary source, we expand students’ notions of the kinds of jobs held and skills acquired by slaves, extending beyond the plantation, and the roles they played within their family units. This lesson can be tied to several goals and objectives in both US History and African American History.

Many students think that slaves only worked on large plantations as fieldhands, while in reality slaves performed many other types of work including highly skilled jobs. Lunsford Lane provides an example of a slave who lived in the city of Raleigh with his master.

In addition to meeting a non-plantation slave, students are introduced to a slave who learns to read, becomes an entrepreneur, buys his freedom, and records his life story. Here we catch a glimpse at a human being held as a slave, who became determined to be free, and how that determination shapes his life.

This is an incredible story.


Students should have an understanding of slavery in the United States and the division it ultimately creates within the country.


  1. Introduce Lunsford Lane and his story, showing the narrative on the DocSouth website. Give a short biographical sketch of Mr. Lane, explaining that he was a slave in Raleigh, North Carolina and that his story provides a glimpse into the life of a non-plantation slave. Explain that he was quite an entrepreneur and eventually saved enough money to buy his freedom.
  2. Emphasize that this lesson looks only at the first part of Mr. Lane’s life — focusing on his life as a slave and his efforts to buy his own freedom and that of his family. This lesson is not designed to examine the total story provided by Mr. Lane. Rather, we use this is an example of an urban slave experience, in contrast to the plantation slave experience, as well as an example of a slave who bought his freedom.
  3. Provide students with a copy of the Guided Reading Worksheet and access to the selected pages from Lunsford Lane’s narrative (pages 1-24). Students should work either independently or in groups to answer the questions.
  4. The teacher should discuss the questions posed by the guided reading worksheet with the class. Projecting certain text passages onto the screen for class discussion would be useful.


Assess students based on their responses on their Guided Reading Worksheets, as well as their participation in whole-class discussions.

Supplemental information

Teacher may give additional assignments that are of a creative nature such as the following:

  • Draw a sketch of how you imagine Lunsford Lane looked.
  • Pretend you are Lunsford Lane speaking to a group of slaves about how he purchased his freedom. Write the speech, including details of what you might have encouraged other slaves to do.

If internet access is not available for all students, a hard-copy of the primary source can be printed out from the DocSouth website.

This lesson plan was created at the 2004 Documenting the South Summer Writing Institute and made possible through funding provided by NC ECHO, Learn NC, the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education, and the UNC-Chapel Hill library system.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • History/Social Studies

        • Grades 11-12
          • 11-12.LH.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
        • Grades 9-10
          • 9-10.LH.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • 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.3 Understand the factors that led to exploration, settlement, movement, and expansion and their impact on United States development over time. USH.H.3.1 Analyze how economic, political, social, military and religious factors influenced European exploration...
        • USH.H.5 Understand how tensions between freedom, equality and power have shaped the political, economic and social development of the United States. USH.H.5.1 Summarize how the philosophical, ideological and/or religious views on freedom and equality contributed...

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.
    • Objective 2.03: Analyze the role of African Americans in the development of the United States as a new nation.
  • Goal 3: The learner will demonstrate an understanding of African American life and cultural contributions through 1860.
    • Objective 3.01: Compare and contrast African American urban and rural communities in the North and the South.
    • Objective 3.02: Discuss and analyze the black family in antebellum America.
    • Objective 3.04: Identify the contributions of African Americans in science and the arts.

Grade 11–12 — United States History

  • Goal 1: The New Nation (1789-1820) - The learner will identify, investigate, and assess the effectiveness of the institutions of the emerging republic.
    • Objective 1.02: Analyze the political freedoms available to the following groups prior to 1820: women, wage earners, landless farmers, American Indians, African Americans,and other ethnic groups.