Creating museum exhibits to understand slavery
In this lesson students will analyze primary source documents from the Built Heritage collection at the North Carolina State University. They will use their textbooks, knowledge of history, observation skills, and inference to draw conclusions about slavery in North Carolina.
A lesson plan for grades 8–10 Social Studies
- Students will be able to answer this essential question:
- What were the lives of slaves like in antebellum North Carolina?
- Students will also be able to:
- Utilize visual data
- Draw inferences
- Draw conclusions
- Form opinions and support them with facts
Time required for lesson
Two to three 70-minute class periods and homework time
- large chart paper
- glue sticks
- colored pencils/markers
- copy of gallery walk worksheet for each student
- student textbooks
- access to computer lab or laptop computers for student use
- access to printer(s) to get copies of online documents
- resources for student research about slavery:
- LEARN NC resources — these include primary source documents, images, and maps related to slavery
- photographs from the Built Heritage Collection from the North Carolina State University Special Collections Research Center (Note: To access the images, you may need to make sure you have enabled your browser to accept pop-ups from the Built Heritage page.)
- “African American Experience” section of the Colonial Williamsburg website — includes primary source documents and biographical fact sheets about slaves
- Make copies of the gallery walk sheets — one copy for each student
- Teachers may want to use the websites in the materials/resources section to print out materials for students to use in their museum exhibits. Another option is for students to search these websites and select their own materials for the project.
- Before this activity, students should have background knowledge of:
- how both economic and social forces helped sustain slavery for over 200 years
- why slavery existed predominantly in the South
- the groups that supported and opposed slavery
Preview activity: Predicting
- Before students create museum exhibits to chronicle the daily lives of slaves during antebellum North Carolina, have them respond to the following prompt:
- What do you think life was like for a field slave in 1800? What about for a house slave? Consider these aspects of daily life as you answer the questions: family, religion, working conditions, homes, clothes, food, etc.
- Have two or three students share their responses, and then explain that during this activity they will learn what daily life was like for slaves in North Carolina before the Civil War.
Main activity: Museum exhibit
- Place students in cooperative groups of three to four (depending on class size).
- Assign each group one of the following topics:
- Working conditions
- Living conditions (housing, food, clothing)
- Control of slaves
- Resistance to slavery
- Slave families
- Leisure activities
- Religion (music, faith, death)
- Allow one class period for students to gather information about slavery from textbooks, the websites suggested in the materials/resources section, and class notes.
- Monitor the progress of each group.
- Urge students to finish gathering information and documents at home if needed.
- Reassemble groups to create their museum exhibits. Have materials such as chart paper, markers, glue, colored pencils, and rulers available for students to use to produce the exhibit for their topic.
- Required elements for the exhibit should include:
- A colorful, catchy title
- Six or more artifacts (pictures, documents, etc.) to give adequate information about the topic
- At least one primary source document to complement their topic
- Colorful pictures to serve as other artifacts for the exhibit (can be cut from magazines, printed from computer, or drawn by hand)
- An explanation of each artifact printed neatly in complete sentences (can be handwritten or typed on computer)
- Have groups display their exhibits by taping them to wall in the hall outside your class (if acceptable in your school)
- Hand out the gallery walk sheets to students.
- Students will visit each museum exhibit, using the gallery walk sheet to gather information on each topic. After all the exhibits have been visited, students will use the back of the gallery walk sheet for the following writing exercise:
- What information did you get correct during the preview activity?
- What information did you get wrong during the preview activity?
- Which aspect of slavery do you think was most difficult for African Americans?
The list of required elements for the museum exhibit can be used to build a rubric to grade group work. The gallery walk worksheet can serve as an individually graded activity.
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 2.01: Analyze the economic, social, religious, and legal justifications for the establishment and continuation of slavery.
- 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.
- 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...
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...
- Social Studies (2010)