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

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

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Reading primary sources: Slave narratives
This interactive guide to reading a slave narrative steps through layers of questions, guiding the reader through the process of historical inquiry. This edition is one in a series of guides on reading historical primary sources.
Format: interview (multiple pages)
Slavery in North Carolina
The resources on this page are designed to provide an opportunity for students to explore the history of slavery in North Carolina by reading slave narratives. Through these lessons, students will analyze the cultural background and the daily life of the authors of these narratives.
Format: lesson plan
Excerpt from Fannie Dorum slave narrative
Fannie Dorum was born into slavery in Franlin, North Carolina. In this brief excerpt, she describes the work she did as a slave.
Format: book
Slave narratives: A genre study
In this lesson, students will read selected excerpts from slave narratives, determining common characteristics of the genre. Students will then write their own slave narratives as a slave from their region of North Carolina, researching for historical accuracy and incorporating elements of the slave narrative genre to demonstrate understanding.
Format: lesson plan (grade 9 English Language Arts and Social Studies)
By Dayna Durbin Gleaves.
Excerpt from Thomas Johnson slave narrative
Thomas Johnson was born as a slave in Virginia. After slavery was ended in 1865, he became a minister and traveled to Africa and England to convert others to Christianity. In this excerpt he describes the risk that slaves had to take to meet in prayer groups and sing hymns and spirituals. Johnson mentions the Jubilee Singers, a group of black musicians who performed spirituals in concerts around America and Europe after the Civil War.
Format: book
Excerpt from William Henry Singleton slave narrative
William Henry Singleton was born into slavery in eastern North Carolina. This excerpt from his memoir describes his experience of being sold to a "slave farm" in Atlanta -- a place where young slaves were bought for a low price and then raised until they could be sold for a higher price.
Format: book
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.
Format: lesson plan (grade 8 Social Studies)
By Joe Hooten.
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.
Format: lesson plan (grade 8 Social Studies)
By Dayna Durbin Gleaves.
Antebellum North Carolina
Primary sources and readings explore North Carolina in the antebellum period (1830–1860). Topics include slavery, daily life, agriculture, industry, technology, and the arts, as well as the events leading to secession and civil war.
Format: book (multiple pages)
Excerpt from William H. Robinson slave narrative
William H. Robinson was born into slavery in Wilmington, North Carolina, one of 12 siblings. After slavery ended in 1865, he worked for many years as a traveling singer and banjo player, then attended Central Tennessee College and became a minister. In this excerpt, he writes about the secret meanings of many spirituals.
Format: book
Plantation life in the 1840s: A slave's description
This lesson introduces students to a description of life on the plantation and the cultivation of cotton from the perspective of a slave. It focuses on the use of slave narratives made available by the Documenting the American South collection.
Format: lesson plan (grade 9–12 English Language Arts and Social Studies)
By John Schaefer and Victoria Schaefer.
Reading slave narratives: The WPA interviews
In Educator's Guides: North Carolina Digital History, page 2.7
A reading guide for students working with WPA Federal Writers Project interviews with former slaves.
Format: article/learner's guide
By David Walbert.
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.
Format: lesson plan (grade 4–5 Music Education and Social Studies)
By Dayna Durbin Gleaves.
Two perspectives on slavery: A comparison of personal narratives
In this lesson, students will evaluate and critique authors' perspectives. Students will read two first-person narratives and analyze how each text is influenced by its author's cultural background.
Format: lesson plan (grade 9–12 English Language Arts and Social Studies)
By Dayna Durbin Gleaves.
Excerpt from Uncle Tom Jones slave narrative
Thomas H. Jones was born into slavery near Wilmington, North Carolina. He lived on a plantation until about 1815, when he was sold to a Wilmington storekeeper. Later, as a free man, he moved to the North and played a vocal role in the antislavery movement in the 1850s and 1860s. In this excerpt from his memoir, Jones describes some of his experiences as a slave.
Format: book
Interview with Lila Nichols
In Antebellum North Carolina, page 3.4
Federal Writers Project interview with former slave Lila Nichols. Includes historical commentary.
Format: interview/primary source
Commentary and sidebar notes by L. Maren Wood.
Interview with Josephine Smith
In Antebellum North Carolina, page 3.6
WPA interview with former slave Josephine Smith, in which she describes the experience of being sold away from her father and the treatment of slaves by speculators and traders.
Format: interview/primary source
Oral history through personal narratives
Students apply their knowledge of story elements to art and literature of the 1950s by developing a story, comprehending someone else's story, and diagramming the five elements of plot. Students will then create, revise, edit, and publish their own personal narrative.
Format: lesson plan (grade 9–10 Visual Arts Education, English Language Arts, and Social Studies)
By Mary Magee.
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.
Format: lesson plan (grade 9–12 Social Studies)
By Meghan Mcglinn.
Interview with Fountain Hughes
In Antebellum North Carolina, page 3.9
Interview with former slave Fountain Hughes, performed in 1949. Includes an audio recording and historical commentary.
Format: interview/primary source