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


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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • gain a sense of changing experiences of African American’s living in the South over time.
  • learn more about the central role of the church in the black community.
  • discover the important role of women in the southern black church community.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

One to two days


  • internet connection
  • at least four computers or one for every five students
  • Multimedia projector
  • Microsoft Word or PowerPoint
  • Copies of the Black Church Grid — one per student


This lesson should coincide with student study of the American South, slavery, and/or Reconstruction.


  1. Have students first read the essay entitled An Introduction to the Church in the Southern Black Community by Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp.
  2. Students are then assigned to one of four groups, coinciding with sub-categories in the essay:
    • church during slavery
    • emancipation
    • growth and development of the church
    • women in the church

    Of course, there can be multiple groups assigned to one of these categories, depending on the number of students in the classroom.

  3. Students, meeting in groups, jot down key points made by the historian in the essay on the Black Church Grid about their assigned subject.
  4. Using the jigsaw method, students join others assigned to the four sections. Each student “teaches” his/her section, while the classmates writes notes on their chart. Once all of the charts are completed, students return to their original groups.
  5. In their groups, students should search the site to find evidence related to their main topic. They can use the essay as a guide. For example, Maffly-Kipp writes “They also encouraged worship in ways that many Africans found to be similar, or at least adaptable, to African worship patterns, with enthusiastic singing, clapping, dancing, and even spirit-possession.” Students could then search for copies of hymns or descriptions of services. The teacher needs to encourage the students to look for evidence that either confirms or negates the author’s interpretation.
  6. When the students locate a particular piece of evidence this can be copied and pasted into a Word document or PowerPoint presentation to complete the “scavenger hunt.” The teacher may require any number of artifacts. Eight to ten artifacts are probably more than enough.


Students will be assessed based on completed charts, class participation, and a final class presentation in which the primary source documents found are shared with classmates and briefly described.

Class presentations may follow a variety of formats, depending on the technological capability of the classroom. If a projector is available, students can project their presentations on a large screen or TV. If no projector is available, the students may print out their artifacts and arrange them on poster board or in a literal scrap book, passed around the room or put on display.

  • 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...
      • 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.,...

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.
  • Goal 4: The learner will analyze the roles of African Americans during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
    • Objective 4.03: Analyze the effects of Reconstruction on the legal, political, social, cultural, educational, and economic life of freedmen.

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.