Lesson Plan

Slavery Systems in America

tabby cabins
Tabby slave cabins at Kingsley Plantation
NPS Photo


Students will use Kingsley Plantation as a setting to explore how slave systems in Florida varied under the Spanish, British, and American rule.


 Student will:

  • Activate prior knowledge and organize brainstormed ideas using bubble thinking maps.
  • Identify the main idea of a slave narrative excerpt.
  • Compare and contrast the American and Spanish systems of slavery using double bubble thinking maps.
  • Analyze family structures and changes over time using historical inventories and accounting records. 
  • Compose a document-based essay comparing and contrasting the American and Spanish systems of slavery.


 Materials needed:

  • Student paper, pens/pencils
  • A white board and markers
  • Class sets or digital copies of the documents below


 Activating prior knowledge: [Teacher bubble maps from Thinking Maps Curriculum if you have not yet done so.] Have students brainstorm what they know about slavery and record their results on bubble thinking maps.

Think-pair-share: Have students share their brainstorms with a partner.  Have one student from each pair share one or more elements from their thinking maps with the whole class.  Write all student answers on the board in list form. 
 Cognitive dissonance: Tell students that there were actually two different systems of slavery used in early America.  Call these the "American system" and the "Spanish system."  Lead students in setting up a blank double bubble thinking map.
 Introduce the American system: Say: "This is the type of slavery that we all think of when we talk about slavery in America. Many of the descriptions of slavery you brainstormed describe this system of slavery well."
 Primary sources: Assign students in mixed ability pairs.  Distribute excerpts from several slave narratives, one excerpt to each pair.  Have pairs read their excerpts, then come up with one phrase to describe life as a slave as described by their readings.  When students have had a few minutes to complete those steps, have the pairs each share their descriptions with the class 
Thinking map: As a class, label the "American system" exclusive outer bubbles of the double-bubble thinking maps you've set up, using primary source-based phrases students just produced. [Suggestions: it was illegal to educate slaves; slaves couldn't keep their earnings; religion was often discouraged for slaves; etc.] Cross the corresponding brainstormed terms out of your list on the board as you use them on the thinking map 
Introduce the Spanish system: Say "The American system however, wasn't the only form of slavery used in the places that we now consider the United States of America. The other type of slavery might be completely new to you.  It wasn't used in many places in North America, nor was it used for long here.
Geography: Ask the students why they think this system is being referred to as the "Spanish system". Ask students where the Spanish had colonies in North American and when. Lead students to focus on Florida as a location in which historians should focus to find evidence of the Spanish system of slavery
Primary sources: Display and distribute a copy of the "March 13, 1844 Estate Inventory of Zephaniah Kingsley's Personal Property" and the "Account of the sale of the personal estate of George Kingsley on February 1, 1848" to each student. Ask students what they notice about the way the Kingsley estate inventory is organized. Lead the class to recognize that it is organized into family groups.  Highlight the legitimization of slave families as part of the Spanish system of slavery.  Contrast that with the American slave narratives.  Next, have students describe the patterns they see in the 1848 "account of Sale." Lead the class to see how the slaves were being sold in family units.  Draw student's attention to the sale of Alonzo. Lead them to draw the connection of that unique name to the "Estate Inventory."  Inform students that Bill was short for William and lead them to realize that "Carpenter Bill" bought his own son, Alonzo. Highlight the ability of  enslaved people to purchase their own freedom and the freedom of others as a key part of the Spanish system of slavery.  Finally, tie in the strong Catholic influence on the Spanish empire, which argued that slave and master were spiritually equal 
Thinking map: Fill in the Spanish system exclusive bubbles of the double bubble thinking map. [Suggestions: slave families often respected; slaves could buy freedom for themselves and others; Catholic religion stress spiritual equality; etc.] Cross the corresponding brainstormed terms out of your list on the board (if applicable) as you use them on the thinking map.
Overlap the systems: Emphasize that just because the Spanish system was in some ways less egregious than they American system does not mean that slavery under either system was acceptable.  Call on the students to suggest words or phrases to write in the shared bubbles of the double bubble thinking map. [Suggestions: human being being held against their will in absence of having committed a crime; dehumanizing; hard work; etc.] Cross the corresponding brainstormed terms out of your list in the board as you use them on the thinking map
Misunderstandings: Address any misunderstandings that remain on your original brainstormed list on the board (if applicable). 



 -Formative: Bubble thinking maps for "brainstorming"

-Summative: Have students go back to their original bubble thinking maps, on which they record their brainstorming, to cross pit incorrect information and add new understandings.

-Summative: Have students use the documents provided in this lesson to compose a document based question essay comparing and contrasting the American and Spanish slavery systems.


 Explore the effects of the American and Spanish systems of slavery on contemporary race relations in the United States vs. Latin America. 

Accommodations: ESE/ESOL:  Have students complete a shortened written assignment, composing one paragraph comparing and contrasting the two types of slavery that happened in Florida. Have students illustrate each bubble of their double bubble thinking maps. 

Additional Resources

 Recommended reading: One of the seminal works on this topic is Frank Tannenbaum's Slave and Citizen.  It is highly recommended to both teachers and students.

This lesson plan was developed by Heritage High School teacher Hannah Markwardt after attending A Florida Humanities Council summer teacher workshop


enslavement, primary source