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.
A lesson plan for grade 8 Social Studies
- read and interpret a primary source document to learn about individual experiences of African Americans in the pre-Civil War era
- collaborate with peers to share their understandings and develop different perspectives on the reading
Time required for lesson
One to two days
- Copies of an excerpt of Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl — one per student
- Notebook paper
Computer connected to a multimedia projector (optional)
- The teacher will need to select the excerpt from Incidents in the Life of a Slave girl for the students to read during this lesson.
- Students should have learned about the importance of using primary documents to investigate historical events and eras to better understand history.
- Place students in groups of three to four students, depending on size of class. Have students sit with their groups.
- Give each student a copy of the excerpt from Harriet Jacobs’ narrative and a copy of the Life of a Slave Girl Discussion Handout.
- Allow time (depending on ability) for students to completely read the excerpt=(10–20 minutes).
- Have students first answer the questions on the handout independently.
- Next, have students discuss the reading with their small groups. Have the students add to their handouts the ideas and answers they discussed as a group.
- Have each group find another group to pair up with. Allow for collaboration between the groups (10–20 minutes).
- End the discussions and engage the whole class in a dialogue about their perspectives and what they discussed.
- Collect their completed Discussion Handouts.
Assessment can be based on student completion of Discussion Handout and contributions to discussions. You may choose to create their own quiz based on the reading.
- North Carolina Essential Standards
- Social Studies (2010)
- 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...
- 8.H.2 Understand the ways in which conflict, compromise and negotiation have shaped North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.2.1 Explain the impact of economic, political, social, and military conflicts (e.g. war, slavery, states’ rights and citizenship...
- Social Studies (2010)
North Carolina curriculum alignment
Social Studies (2003)
- Goal 3: The learner will identify key events and evaluate the impact of reform and expansion in North Carolina during the first half of the 19th century.
- Objective 3.04: Describe the development of the institution of slavery in the State and nation, and assess its impact on the economic, social, and political conditions.