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


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  • Spirituals and the power of music in slave narratives: In this lesson, students will learn about the importance of music in the lives of slaves by reading slave narratives and listening to recordings.
  • Slavery across North Carolina: In this lesson, students read excerpts from slave narratives to gain an understanding of how slavery developed in each region of North Carolina and how regional differences created a variety of slave experiences.
  • Exploring the church in the southern black community: Students explore the Documenting the American South Collection titled, the “Church in the Southern Black Community.” Beginning with a historian's interpretation of the primary sources that make up the collection, students search the collection for evidence to describe the experiences of African Americans living in the south during the Antebellum through the Reconstruction Period centering on their community churches. The activity culminates in student presentations of a digital scrap book.

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • 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

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

One to two days

Materials needed

Technology resources

Computer connected to a multimedia projector (optional)


Life of a Slave Girl discussion handout
Students complete this handout after reading an excerpt from a slave narrative.
Open as PDF (50 KB, 1 page)


  • 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.


  1. Place students in groups of three to four students, depending on size of class. Have students sit with their groups.
  2. Give each student a copy of the excerpt from Harriet Jacobs’ narrative and a copy of the Life of a Slave Girl Discussion Handout.
  3. Allow time (depending on ability) for students to completely read the excerpt=(10–20 minutes).
  4. Have students first answer the questions on the handout independently.
  5. 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.
  6. Have each group find another group to pair up with. Allow for collaboration between the groups (10–20 minutes).
  7. End the discussions and engage the whole class in a dialogue about their perspectives and what they discussed.
  8. 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)
      • Grade 8

        • 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...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 8

  • 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.