Religion and slavery in the American South: Comparing perspectives
In this lesson plan, students consult a variety of primary sources from the Documenting the American South Collection to uncover the varied impacts of religion in the lives of slaves in the American South. They are encouraged to seek out multiple, and sometimes contradictory, perspectives of this history.
A lesson plan for grades 9–12 Social Studies
- learn about the important role of religion in the lives of slaves.
- understand the difference between white-controlled religion and the “invisible institution” established by slaves in the South.
- gain an awareness of the multiple perspectives that contribute to our understanding of the historical past, and make their own decisions about interpretation.
- understand the difference between primary and secondary sources in social studies.
Time required for lesson
- Copies of the Comparing Primary Sources handout — one per student
- Computer lab or individual student computers
- Access to Documenting the American South resources
This lesson coincides with student study of slavery and the Antebellum South.
- Students all read the brief essay titled Guide to Religious Content in Slave Narratives compiled by Marcella Grendler, Andrew Leiter, and Jill Sexton.
- Allow students to scan the list of primary sources links following the essay. Ask them to select a topic and at least two titles to read. Teachers may wish to guide students to select from oppositional categories such as “prayer meetings” or “slaveholder controlled religious practices” and choose sources before 1860 if study relates to the Antebellum South.
- As students read the primary sources, they fill out the Comparing Primary Sources handout.
- As a group, students discuss their primary sources and any patterns of similarities or differences that they may have discovered.
- In smaller groups or as individuals, students write a narrative history of this time period based on the evidence they read and what they heard about in the discussion. Then allow students to compare their histories to that written about slavery in their text book or another secondary source.
Evaluate students based on class participation, completion of Comparing Primary Sources handout, and the historical narrative.
- 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.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.,...
- Social Studies (2010)
North Carolina curriculum alignment
Social Studies (2003)
Grade 11–12 — African American History
- Goal 3: The learner will demonstrate an understanding of African American life and cultural contributions through 1860.
- Objective 3.03: Trace the development of African American institutions such as religion, education, and benevolent organizations.