"From Slavery to Freedom: Different Journeys to Liberty"
Frederick Douglass Table of Contents
Museum Collections, Similar Items and other Materials Used
National Educational Standards
Student Learning Objectives
Background and Historical Context
Teacher Tips
Lesson Implementation Procedures
Evaluation/Assessment for Measurable Results
Extension and Enrichment Activities
Site Visit
Charts, Figures and other Teacher Materials Chart/Handouts

A. Title: “From Slavery to Freedom: Different Journeys to Liberty”
  • Developers: Catherine Holden, Teacher at Franklin High School
  • Grade Level: 7 - 9 (can be modified for high school and lower middle school students)
  • Number of Sessions in the Lesson Unit Plan: 7 lessons plus extension activities
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B. Overview of this Collection-Based Lesson Unit Plan
  • Park Name:
    • Hampton Historic Site, Towson, MD
    • Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Washington D.C.
    • Arlington House National Memorial, Arlington, VA
    • Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, Tuskegee, AL

  • Description:
    This unit explores the transformation of African Americans in the U. S. as they transition from enslaved persons to freedmen in the post Antebellum period and the creation of new opportunities and communities.  Each lesson emphasizes different perspectives and experiences of African Americans throughout the process.  Lessons explore the institution of slavery, identify the roles of enslaved people and their acquisition of skills; and examine texts written and read by African Americans such as Frederick Douglass. 

    Lesson One – Introduction: What is Slavery?  
    Students assess the extent to which the institution of slavery defined slaves as property from the Federalist era through the Antebellum period. Using historic documents, students explore ways in which enslaved people maintained their humanity while being treated as property.

    Lesson Two – A House Slave: Acquiring Skills
    Students analyze objects to determine what skills a house slave needed to complete assigned tasks.  Students explore the potential marketability of these skills. This lesson also introduces students into 19th century foodways.

    Lesson Three – One Slave's Response to Slavery: Frederick Douglass
    Students examine the role of books in inspiring people.  They read excerpts of “Dialogue Between a Master and a Slave” from the Columbian Orator to identify the arguments for and against slavery in Ancient Greece.  Students examine this text to determine how and why it inspired Frederick Douglass and how it influenced his writing by examining excerpts from his works, My Bondage and My Freedom

    Lesson Four – After Slavery: Building a New African American Community
    Students identify the components of newly formed African American community in Arlington, Virginia by examining historic photographs, documents and objects of freed persons.  Students explore what this village meant to the newly freed African Americans who occupied it.   

    Lesson Five – Teaching and Reaching New Learners: The Movable School and the Tuskegee Institute
    Students compare and contrast the teaching strategies, methodology and goals of the Tuskegee Institute and the Movable School.  Students develop informative brochures about the institutions. 

    Lesson Six – From Slave to Star: Frederick Douglass’ Rise
    Students use objects that belonged to Frederick Douglass to determine what he valued and how these items may have inspired him in his fight for emancipation.  Students use the objects to develop tours of the Frederick Douglass home.

    Lesson Seven –Exhibit on the Transition to Freedom
    Students develop an exhibit on the transition from slavery to freedmen after the Civil War for African Americans in the south.  Students select, interpret and write copy and captions on museum objects that embody the varied experiences of enslaved African Americans during the journey to emancipation, and in the post Civil War era.  

  • Essential Questions:
    • What is slavery?
    • What was daily life like for enslaved persons?
    • How did African Americans seek emancipation?
    • What social and economic opportunities did freed slaves have in the post-antebellum period?
    • What can we learn about slaves and freedmen from their writings, possessions, and photographs?

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C. Museum Collections, Similar Items and other Materials Used in this Lesson Unit Plan
MUSEUM OBJECT [photos of objects in the Carl Sandburg Home NHS museum collections] SIMILAR OBJECTS [local items similar to museum objects] & OTHER MATERIALS Length of time
Lesson One
Bill of Sale  
Slave Inventory Slave List
Slave List
Runaway Reward Notice Receipt
Other Materials for Lesson:
  • Paper


45-50 minutes
Lesson Two:
Coffee Mill Coffee Pot
Mortar Bean Pot
Plate Warmer Butter Mold
Winter Kitchen Pitcher
Other Materials for Lesson
  • Hammer
  • Needle and Thread
  • Pot or pan
  • Keyboard
45 minutes

Lesson Three:

Columbian Orator
Life and Times of Frederick Douglass
Other Materials for Lesson
  • Excerpts of My Bondage and My Freedom
  • Excerpts of Columbian Orator
  • Markers 
  • Poster Board

60-90 minutes
Lesson Four:
Freedmen’s Village Map Harper's Weekly Sketch of Freedmen’s Village

Other Materials for Lesson

  • Local Maps
  • Markers
  • Rulers
  • Block Paper
  • “How to Read an Object” chart
45-50 minutes

Lesson Five:

Horticultural Students Working in Seed Beds
Library at Tuskegee Institute
Tuskegee Institute Print Shop Classroom of Students
Agricultural Bulletins
Other Materials for Lesson
  • Computer Lab
  • Paper
  • Markers

45-50 minutes

Lesson Six:

Abraham Lincoln Lithograph Scenic Tile
Scenic Tile
Bust of Diana Bust of Wendell Phillips
Bust of Wendell
Wendell Phillips Joseph Cinque (Sengbe Pieh)
Wendell Phillips Joseph Cinque (Sengbe Pieh)
Chair Frederick Douglass Portrait
Frederick Douglass Portrait
Dumbbells Susan B Anthony Portrait
Susan B Anthony Portrait

Other Materials for Lesson

90 minutes
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D. National Educational Standards
NSS-US History.5-12.5: Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Students understand the course and character of the Civil War and its effects on the American people.

NL-English.K-12.3 Evaluation Strategies
  • Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

NL-English.K-12.4 Communicating Skills
  • Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
NL-English.K-12.8 Developing Research Skills
  • Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

NL-English.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills
  • Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
  • Students create artworks that use organizational principles and functions to solve specific visual arts problems

NA-Visual Arts.9-12.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures
  • Students differentiate among a variety of historical and cultural contexts in terms of characteristics and purposes of works of art.

NA-Mathematics.6-8 Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement
  • Students understand both metric and customary systems of measurement; understand relationships among units and convert from one unit to another within the same system; and understand, select, and use units of appropriate size and type to measure angles, perimeter, area, surface area, and volume.

NA-Mathematics.9-12 Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement
  • Students make decisions about units and scales that are appropriate for problem situations involving measurement.

NA-Geography.K-12.4 Human Systems
  • Students understand the processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement and understand how the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of Earth's surface.

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E. Student Learning Objectives
  • Students will be able to describe the daily experiences of enslaved persons and freedmen in the antebellum period. 
  • Students will be able to compare and contrast opportunities available to African Americans in the post antebellum period.
  • Students will be able evaluate the writings, possessions, and photographs of enslaved and freed African Americans and evaluate how these reflect the experiences and values of those individuals and their communities.

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F. Background and Historical Context

An Overview
Slavery has existed in various forms dating back to ancient times. In the Americas, slavery developed largely as a result of colonization and the economic forces that accompanied it.  Over the course of the 18th century, British colonies in North America began to rely on African slaves as a labor force. Much like other European colonial powers who engaged in the slave trade, the British exchanged guns and other desirable goods for African slaves at outposts along the coast of West Africa. In North America, slave labor became the most prevalent in southern colonies with large, labor-intensive agricultural economies.  

By the time the America colonies declared their independence in 1776, African slavery was an economic and social institution.  The new nation, though founded on the ideal of liberty, continued the practice of slavery.  Individual states decided whether or not to allow slavery.  In 1808, pursuant to a Constitutional mandate, President Thomas Jefferson banned the importation of slaves.  From then on, slave owners relied on successive generations of enslaved people already resident in the U. S., and a thriving interstate slave trade.

As the country expanded, tensions increased over the expansion of slavery into new states and territories.  In 1861, these tensions resulted in the outbreak of the Civil War. From the beginning of the conflict, difficulties arose over the legal status of slaves owned by those in the rebelling states.  The issue was forced upon the federal government by the thousands of slaves who fled through Union lines to freedom during the early part of the war.  In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln used his powers as commander-in-chief of the military to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.  It declared the slaves in most of Confederate states free.  In 1865, with the end of the war and the passage of the 13th amendment, all slavery in the United States was abolished.

The documents and objects used in this lesson plan demonstrate how slave holders treated the slaves they owned as personal possessions.  Receipts illustrate how slaves were bought and sold as property.  Slave holders kept detailed inventories of their slaves, underscoring the importance of slave labor in the production of goods and services on a plantation.  Slaves were major economic assets for their owners.  Estates such as Hampton Mansion in Maryland and Arlington House in Virginia are examples of plantations that relied on generations of slaves to operate and produce goods in agriculture and iron works. The Ridgleys’ of Hampton Mansion enslaved at least 500 people during their time as active plantation owners in the Federal and Antebellum periods (1760-1864). 

African American Individuals
While few enslaved people left a written record of their experiences of slavery, several African Americans improved their plight and left written records.

  • Frederick Douglass: Born in to slavery in 1818 in Maryland, Douglass escaped from his owners and used his ability to read and write to speak out for emancipation and liberty for African Americans and women.  Renowned for his eloquence, Frederick Douglas published his own autobiography that brought attention to the brutality of slavery.  He also published his own newspaper, The North Star.  During the Civil War, Douglass assisted in recruiting soldiers for the Union Army.  His sons served in the 54thMasschusetts Regiment, renowned for its bravery in battle at Fort Wagner.  In the post-emancipation period, Douglass served as President of the Freedmen's National Bank, U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia, and diplomatic positions in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  He was an activist for African American civil rights until his death in 1895.
  • Booker T. Washington: Born into slavery in 1856 in Virginia, Booker T. Washington’s family moved to West Virginia after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation West Virginia gave Washington and his family an opportunity to earn a living as free blacks.  Here, Washington attended night school.  He then attended and graduated from Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute.  After obtaining his degree, Washington committed himself to improving the lives of African Americans.  He insisted that through self-help and hard work, African Americans would achieve economic independence and therefore be truly emancipated.  This philosophy led to his appointment as principal of Tuskegee Normal School for Colored Teachers, which he developed into a major educational institution.
  • George Washington Carver: Born into slavery in 1864 in Diamond Grove, Missouri, Carver demonstrated a talent for horticulture and learning at a young age.  In 1891, he enrolled in Iowa State College for Horticulture.  After Carver completed his degree, Booker T Washington invited him to teach at the Tuskegee Institute.  Carver used his knowledge of agriculture to teach African Americans in the South how improve their crops and their economic condition.  His passion for educating African American farmers led to his invention of the “movable school.”  Using a wagon, and later a truck, Carver brought his ideas to agricultural exhibits and community gatherings, further increasing the school’s reach.  By 1930 the “movable school” expanded beyond agricultural education and added a nurse, a home agent, and an architect to its teaching staff. 

Newly Freed African Americans
Following the Civil War, the federal government moved to completely abolish slavery and assist former slaves adjust to life as free citizens.  Reconstruction, a term that encompasses a wide variety of policies towards the former Confederate states, included efforts to educate and empower former slaves.  Congress created the Freedmen’s Bureau, a federal agency intended to oversee the transition from slavery.

Many African Americans used the skills they acquired as a slave and applied them to wage labor. Some former slaves occupied temporary Freedmen Villages while others simply continued to work as wage labor for their previous masters. While Freeman Villages were rare and short lived, they provided African Americans with temporary communities. The Freedmen's Village in Arlington, Virginia developed in 1862 following President Lincoln's emancipation of the slaves in Washington D.C. Setup as a temporary village, the village lasted 30 years and developed into a community. Each formerly enslaved person assessed their own situation and made a decision based on their skills and access to opportunities.

To assist former slaves in their effort to achieve economic independence, independent schools such as the Tuskegee Institute emerged in the former Confederate states.  These schools taught African Americans useful skills, including horticulture, agriculture, hygiene and nutrition.  The Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington, taught "classroom education ...practical knowledge, industry, thrift, and economy, that they (students) would be sure of knowing how to make a living after they had left us."  While a traditional school building was erected George Washington Carver established a mobile school to travel to the people. These mobile schools supplied African American farmers with practical knowledge such as crop rotation, the nutritional value of crops, and simple but nutrious recipes. 

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G. Vocabulary

Abraham Lincoln - President of the United States during the Civil War
Antebellum Period - Era in American History prior to the Civil War
Emancipate - to be free
Emancipation Proclamation - An executive order by Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War that declared slaves freed in states under a state of rebellion
Federal Period - Era in American History from the American Revolution give start date here to the War of 1812 (1775-1830)
Freedmen Villages - Unplanned temporary African American communities that emerged during the Civil War.  Examples can be seen in Arlington, Virginia and Hilton Head, South Carolina. 
Horticulture - Planting and cultivating of soil and crops
Lithograph - a method of printing using a metal plate
Reconstruction - From 1865-1877, the United States government attempt to rebuild the southern states
and ensure the emancipation and fair treatment of African Americans.    
Tenant Farmer - an agricultural worker or farmer who rents land from the landowner.  The farmer may the rent in cash or kind. 

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H. Teacher Tips
  • Download color images of museum objects with complete captions from the virtual exhibit for reference and use.
  • Display images for class discussion using available technology.
  • Teachers must follow school district guidelines on food in the classroom.
  • Check resource section and URLs for primary source material ahead of time.
  • Teacher may edit the resource sheets or content based on the academic ability and maturity of their students. 

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I. Lesson Implementation Procedures

Lesson One: Introduction: What is Slavery?
Objectives: Students assess the extent to which slaves were perceived and treated as property in the antebellum period.  Students hypothesize on the various responses slave may have to this treatment.  

Objects Background:
By using receipts, inventories, and bills of sale, students will gain awareness for how slaves are treated as property.  The bills of sale as well as receipts from Hampton and the Frederick Douglass collections are examples of how a slave holder gained ownership of an individual.  The two slave inventories held by the Curtis family show the importance of tracking the ages and number of slaves owned.  The use of the terms receipt and inventory are usually associated with objects, not people, and help the students understand how slaves were perceived as property during the time period.

Activity A:  What do you own?
Ask each student to list:

  • all of the items in their bedroom. 
  • all of their pets and/or other animals in their home 

Debrief the items, then discuss the following:

  • What do you own?
  • What living items do some of us possess?
  • Do any of us own humans? Why not?
  • What rights do we humans have?  What rights are protected by the Constitution today? 

Activity B: Slaves are Property
State: “Slaves are property.” Ask:

  • If slaves are property, what do slaves not have the right to do?
  • If slaves are property, how are they restricted?
  • When and where were people considered property?
  • Should human beings ever be considered property?

Explain “Slaves are property” is a bold statement, but historians have the evidence to support it.  Assign each student one of the four primary sources below:

  • Bills of Sale
  • Slave Inventory
  • Slave List
  • Receipts

Individually, read the source and on a separate sheet of paper write responses to the following:

  • What type and date of source are you using?
  • What does the source tell us about the institution of slavery generally and at that time?
    • How is the slave being treated?
    • Is the slave being treated like a human or like a piece of property?  The teacher will encourage students to create and complete a venn diagram in order to analyze the source and construct opinion and note changes over time. 
    • To what extent does this support the statement: “Slavery is Property”?

Group students based on the source.  Students analyze the source and discuss the above questions.  Each group will present their source and explain, with evidence, the extent to which it supports the statement: “Slaves are property”.  As a class, discuss:

  • What are the various ways in which slaves were treated as property?
  • What is a receipt?  What is an inventory?  What do we associate these terms with? 
  • What does an enslaved person lose because he or she is treated like property? How does this make enslaved person feel? 
  • How do you expect an enslaved person to respond? 
  • How do the sources relate?  What do the sources have in common?
  • Compare the positives and negatives of owning slaves and the economic benefits of slavery from the vantage point of a slave owner and an enslaved person. 

Note: The teacher may have the students present each source in chronological order.  This will allow the students to understand how the institution of slavery changed over time and may lead to additional conversations with higher level students. 

Activity C: A Memo to a Slave Holder
Display Runaway Reward Notice.  As a class discuss the following:

  • Describe the runaway.
  • What is being offered for his return?
  • How does this source show that slaves had a choice?  How does that choice to runaway or not give the slave some humanity/agency?
  • Add a creative and meaningful way to have students do a structured analysis of the document, including style, language etc.

Assign each student to write two memos to a slave-holding family. The memos are intended to bring attention to the problem of slavery as well as provide a solution.   The two memos should contain similar content but one memo is written in period and the other in the current English language.  These memos will contain the following:

  • State the reasons why slaves run away
  • Provide a solution to the treatment of slaves
  • Sample template of a Memo:






Lesson Two: The House Slave: Acquiring Skills
Students will analyze the various tasks performed and skills acquired by a house slave during the antebellum period.
Students will assess the useful and marketability of the skills acquired by house slaves during the antebellum period. 
Students will identify the foodways [foods, preparation, serving] of 19th century Southern plantation owners. 

Objects Background:
This lesson includes a photograph of objects on display in the winter kitchen at Arlington House.  While several objects are not original to the home, they date to the 19th century.  Other objects used in this lesson include a coffee mill, coffee pot, mortar, bean pot, plate warmer, mold and a pitcher   The Arlington House winter kitchen shows the workspace used by the house slaves. 

Activity A: What Skill Can One Acquire?
Display the following objects in the front of the classroom and identify each. 

    • Hammer
    • Needle and Thread

Divide the class into two groups.  Assign each group one of the objects and ask them to identifying the skills that could be acquired from using each object and possible future occupations those skills could lead to in the future. 
Debrief each group by asking:

  • What skills are usually associated with using a hammer?  What occupations could the person apply for in the future?
  • What skills does a person acquire by using a needle and thread?  What occupations could the person apply for in the future?

Discuss specific skills that provide people opportunities to perform other jobs.  Ask:

  • What are important skills to have today?  How do you acquire those skills?
  • What job do you want to do when you are an adult?  What skills will you need to have?  How do you acquire those skills? 

Activity B: Acquiring Skills as a House Slave
Explain that the purpose of this lesson is to focus on slaves who worked in the master’s house and the skills they acquired doing those duties.  Move the students into small groups.  Supply each group with a color copy of the following objects:

Coffee Mill

Coffee Pot

Winter Kitchen


Bean Pot

Plate Warmer



In the groups, discuss:

  • How were foods prepared?
  • What are some of the foods eaten in the mid-Atlantic region at the time of the Civil War and later in the 19th century? 
  • What are the tasks completed by house slaves?
  • What skills do slaves acquire by completing these tasks?

As a class, ask:                       

  • What are some of the dishes eaten in the mid-Atlantic region at the time of the Civil War and later in the 19th century?  (The teacher may need to discuss where crops and foods were grown and manufactured.)
  • How were the dishes prepared?
  • Are these foods similar to foods we eat today?
  • How do preparation methods compare with contemporary methods?

Return to small groups.  Create a menu for a dinner in a 19th century mid-Atlantic home.  Each group will present their menu to the class. 

  • Based on these skills, what jobs could these slaves apply for or services could they provide if they gained their freedom? 
  • How did the acquisition of skills provide slaves with choices? 

Activity C:  House Slave’s Resume
Each student develops and designs a resume for a house slave.  (Note: Students should develop a polished and professional resume and can use resume software.  The resume should contain the following:

  • Goal: What is the purpose of the resume?
  • Previous Jobs Experience: What job titles has the slave performed?
  • Skills: What expertise does the slave possess?

Lesson Three: One Slave's Response to Slavery: Frederick Douglass

  • Students read excerpts from Douglass’ My Bondage and My Freedom to identify his growing realization of his enslaved state.
  • Students assess how the power of reading shaped Frederick Douglass’ world view by identifying passages from The Columbian Orator may have inspired Frederick Douglass quest for freedom.

Objects Background:
Students read excerpts of the Columbian Orator and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.  Douglass, a young slave, purchased an 1817 copy of Caleb Bingham’s Columbian Orator for 50 cents in Baltimore, Maryland.  He used the book to hone his oratory skills. It also helped inspire him to seek liberty and gain emancipation.  Historians recognized the influence of the Columbian Orator because of passages in Douglass’ autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.  The Columbian Orator discussed the inhumane treatment of slaves and “forced subjection” and depriving slaves of their “free will”.  In his autobiographies, My Bondage and My Freedom, Frederick discussed the impact of the Columbian Orator on his life..   

Activity A:  The Power of a Book
Ask and answer as a class:

  • What book made you sad?
  • What book made you happy?
  • What book made you laugh?
  • What book inspired you?
  • What is your favorite book?


  • Why can books change our mood?
  • Why can books inspire people? 
  • Why do words have power? 

Activity B:  Frederick Douglass and the Written Word
Display the images of Douglass’ copy of The Columbian Orator.  Title page available at: http://www1.assumption.edu/ahc/rhetoric/columbianoratorfront.gif

  • What is the purpose of this book?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Do you think a slave would have read this book? 

Distribute excerpts of “Dialogue Between a Master and a Slave.”

As a class, have assigned students read the passage out loud. In small groups discuss and answer the questions below. 

  • How does the slave holder describe his treatment of the slave? 
  • According the slave, what has the master taken away?
  • How did the slave become a slave?  Is that right?
  • What is the location of this story?  Is slavery a global problem? 
  • How is this slave treated like property?
  • What is outcome of the dialogue?

Each group completes the chart below and reports back to the class.

Arguments for Slavery Held by the Master

Arguments Against Slavery Held by the Slave





  • How could this book inspire an American slave?
  • Why do words have power? 
  • Why may a slave holder not want a slave to be literate?
  • When do you think this source was written?

State: The Source was written in Ancient Greece.  Ask:

  • Is slavery unique to the United States?
  • Is slavery unique to this time in history?
  • Do we think slavery still exists today and where?

Assign the following passage from Frederick Douglass’ slave narrative, My Bondage and My Freedom.  In groups, the students will translate the text into contemporary language and “orate” or present to the class.  Provide students with oratory guidelines and have class assess the presentations.  Oratory guidelines could include:

  • Speed of Speech
  • Posture
  • Clarity
  • Use of Vocabulary
  • Tone

These could be taped for group analysis and feedback.

When I was about thirteen years old, and had succeeded in learning to read, every increase of knowledge, especially respecting the FREE STATES, added something to the almost intolerable burden of the thought - I AM A SLAVE FOR LIFE. To my bondage I saw no end. It was a terrible reality, and I shall never be able to tell how sadly that thought chafed my young spirit. Fortunately, or unfortunately, about this time in my life, I had made enough money to buy what was then a very popular school book, viz: the Columbian Orator. I bought this addition to my library, of Mr. Knight, on Thames street, Fell's Point, Baltimore, and paid him fifty cents for it. I was first led to buy this book, by hearing some little boys say they were going to learn some little pieces out of it for the Exhibition. This volume was, indeed, a rich treasure, and every opportunity afforded me, for a time, was spent in diligently perusing it. Among much other interesting matter, that which I had perused and reperused with unflagging satisfaction, was a short dialogue between a master and his slave. The slave is represented as having been recaptured, in a second attempt to run away; and the master opens the dialogue with an upbraiding speech, charging the slave with ingratitude, and demanding to know what he has to say in his own defense. Thus upbraided, and thus called upon to reply, the slave rejoins, that he knows how little anything that he can say will avail, seeing that he is completely in the hands of his owner; and with noble resolution, calmly says, "I submit to my fate." Touched by the slave's answer, the master insists upon his further speaking, and recapitulates the many acts of kindness which he has performed toward the slave, and tells him he is permitted to speak for himself. Thus invited to the debate, the quondam slave made a spirited defense of himself, and thereafter the whole argument, for and against slavery, was brought out. The master was vanquished at every turn in the argument; and seeing himself to be thus vanquished, he generously and meekly emancipates the slave, with his best wishes for his prosperity. It is scarcely neccessary{sic} to say, that a dialogue, with such an origin, and such an ending - read when the fact of my being a slave was a constant burden of grief - powerfully affected me; and I could not help feeling that the day might come, when the well- directed answers made by the slave to the master, in this instance, would find their counterpart in myself.


  • How did the Columbian Orator inspire Frederick Douglass?
  • What do you think Frederick Douglass, a slave, will seek?
  • How did the reading help Frederick Douglass change his mindset and hopes for the future?   
  • How may a slave holder feel about this book?  Why may a slave holder and Frederick Douglass have different responses? 
  • How has our language changed in the last 150years? 

Activity C: Publishing a Book 
Design the cover of The Columbian Orator and write the forward in three voices: Frederick Douglass voice, one of his admirers during his life, and a contemporary publisher/editor.  The images and language should reflect the time period.  Develop a publication schedule, costs, marketing strategy and sales pitch for the historic period and today.

Lesson Four: After Slavery: Building New African American Communities

  • Students will be able to identify various components of newly formed African American communities.
  • Students will be able to compare these African American communities with their own community.

Objects Background:
This case study will focus on a temporary community in Virginia and various visual sources associated with this developing African American community after the Civil War and through the end of the 19th century.   Students will use two illustrations of freedmen villages.  These, not all called by this name, were extensions of temporary camps or places where freedmen had gathered during the war.  They were not in general designed and built as a housing choice by freedmen, although their structure physically and socially reflects actual efforts by freedmen themselves to build and maintain communities during and after the war.  They would not be places advertised as a new housing choice.  The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands had as its original mandate to supply 40 acres and a mule to each freedman, for an independent living, but that was not achieved.  Instead the Bureau tried to negotiate a new relationship between land owners and freedmen over wages and other conditions, as well as deal with the multiple communities of freedmen already in existence after the war with schools, medical care, etc.  The Virginia Freedmen’s Village was a more developed camp, which the government had to work until 1900 to close. The map and photograph of the Freedmen’s Village in Arlington, which started as a camp for former slaves, shows the temporary home for many African Americans after 1863 up to 1900.  Residents received federal assistance in the form of education and training.  The map and sketch demonstrate the economic and social elements of this African American community.  Following emancipation African Americans had legal mobility that had been denied during slavery.  Some chose to move to urban areas and others became sharecroppers.  This village, occupied by African Americans during the war, represented a choice in the years during and after the war.

Activity A: What Defines a Community? 
Brainstorm attributes that make up a community.  The teacher may need to ask probing questions like:

  • What institutions exist within a community?
  • What buildings exist within a community?
  • What types of neighborhoods or districts exists within a community? 

Distribute local maps of your community.  Examine the map to identify the attribute the class listed as important to defining a community.   Identify components that the class may have missed.  Discuss:

  • What parts of your town do you think other towns share in common?
  • What parts of your town do you think are unique?
  • Which components of your town make it a community?
  • Which components of your town are less important? 

Activity B: A New African American Community 
Divide the class into two groups.  Provide each group with one of the sources below as well as “How to Read an Object” chart. 

  • Freedmen’s Village Map
  • Harper's Weekly Sketch of Freedmen’s Village

As they analyze the source, the group will consider:

  • What can they identify on the map or in the picture?
  • What parts of a community are identifiable? 

Each group will assess the map or photograph and infer what historians can learn about the Freedmen’s village at Arlington.  Each group will present their findings to the class in order to complete the following chart:

Components of the Community
Based on evidence contained in the historic documents

Components of the Community 
Based on INFERENCES made on viewing the historical documents




Ask the class:

  • Based on the sketch and village map, what components of a community were incorporated by African Americans?
  • What can we infer were present in this African American community based on the objects?
  • How was this newly formed African American community similar to your local community?
  • How was this newly formed African American community different from your local community?
  • Why did African Americans want to form their own communities? 
  • Why do you think this community only lasted a short time?
  • What advantages or disadvantages did this community have for their residents?

Activity C: Promotional Flyer  
While these temporary villages and camps were not promoted during the time period, students design a flyer to in the voice of recently emancipated enslaved person to promote the Freedmen’s Village at Arlington.  The flyer will contain the following:

  • Contains persuasive language
  • Describes the Freedmen’s Village
  • Addresses the advantages of living in a Freedmen’s village
  • Notifies African Americans that the village is temporary

Lesson Five: Teaching and Reaching New Learners: The Mobile School and the Tuskegee Institute
Students will be able to compare and contrast the methods used by the Tuskegee Institute and the Mobile School to educate African American in the South from1876 -1930.  Students will be able to create brochures promoting the educational opportunities available at the Tuskegee Institute and at the Tuskegee mobile school. 

Objects Background:

Activity A: Traditional School versus Tutor
Ask students to brainstorm a list of different types of schools.  For example: magnet, public, boarding, technology and home schools.  Ask:

  • How are these schools similar?
  • What makes some of these schools unique?   
  • Why do some students elect to go to certain types of schools?


  • What career do you want to pursue?
  • What classes or skills may help you pursue that career goal?

Activity B: Tuskegee Institute versus The Movable School
Divide the class into t groups.  Supply each group with a resource sheet for the Tuskegee Institute titled “Mobile School Resource Sheet” or a resource sheet for the mobile school titled “Mobile School Resource Sheet”.  The resource sheets contain background information as well as the following visual resources:

Tuskegee Institute Source Sheet

Movable School Source Sheet

Horticultural Students Working in Seed Beds
Library at Tuskegee Institute
Tuskegee Institute Print Shop
Classroom of Students

Agricultural Bulletins
Agents and Rural Nurses with the Mobile School
Jesup Wagon
Jesup Wagon

Note: Teacher may edit the resource sheets to reduce the number of sources or content based on the academic ability of their students. 
Each group will answer the following questions as it relates to their specific type of school:

  • What is the goal of the school?
  • What do students learn at the school?
  • What are the advantages for freedmen in attending this school?
  • What are the disadvantages for freedmen in attending this school?
  • How did the school make students and the school itself self-reliant?

Students will partner up with a student from another group and share information.  Together, the students will complete a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the two types of schools. Debrief as a class.

Display one of the scenarios from the list below and allow the partners to evaluate which educational method (Tuskegee Institute or Movable School) would best suit that person. Allow 2-3 minutes and then display the next scenario. Possible scenarios:

  • A literate African American born free to a hard working dock worker and successful seamstress.
  • An 18 year old former slave who has only worked on large plantations. 
  • A former house slave who had been taught how to read and write by his master’s wife.
  • An illiterate African American tenant farmer who is indebted to a landowner. 

After completing each of the scenarios, debrief by asking:

  • What is the goal of each institution? How are the goals similar and different?
  • What classes or subjects can be learned at each institution?  How is the subject matter similar and different?
  • Review each scenario as a class and discuss the conclusion drawn by the partners. 
  • What type of student preferred each institution?  Explain. 
  • How is the Tuskegee Institute and Mobile School similar to our schools?

Activity C: Educational Brochure  
Each student develops a brochure for Tuskegee Institute or the mobile school.  The brochure can be completed using a publishing program in the computer lab or by using paper and markers.  The brochure will contain the following information on the six panels:

  • Title and cover images: Students will select a picture and create a clear title for the brochure. 
  • Letter from the Founder:  Written in letter format, the students will state the purpose of the school. 
  • Specialty: Students will describe the main coursework studied at this school. 
  • Other Courses: Students will list and describe the other classes available to students.
  • Student Comments: Students will make up hypothetical comments based on Activity B.
  • Collage: Student will make a collage page of at least four images related to the school.

Lesson Six: From Slave to Star: Frederick Douglass’ Rise

Students will determine who inspired Frederick Douglass by identifying and analyzing objects and artwork in his home. 

This lesson will use objects owned by Mr. Douglass that are located in the Frederick Douglass home. 
East Parlor:

  • Abraham Lincoln Lithograph,1869:  Frederick Douglass met with Lincoln three times at the White House. 
  • Scenic tile of John Greenleaf Whittier's birthplace in Massachusetts: Whittier was a poet and abolitionist. 
  • Bust of Diana: Diana was the Roman Goddess known as the protector of slaves. 

West Parlor:

  • 1855 Bust of Wendell Phillips: Phillips was an abolitionist, lawyer, and orator. 
  • Table Belonging to Senator Charles Sumner: a Massachusetts senator and abolitionist.  Frederick Douglass purchased this table at the Sumner Estate sale in 1874.  


  • Portrait of Wendell Phillips: Phillips was another Massachusetts abolitionist and reformer.  Douglas enjoyed listening to his speeches
  • Portrait of Joseph Cinque: Joseph Cinque was a West African captured and transported on the slave ship, Amistad.  American courts declared these West Africans free because they were illegally captured and sold into slavery. 
  • Armchair 1857: This chair was made for the House of Representative and the chair contains the coat-of-arms of the Washington family.  Douglass purchased it in 1873
  • Portrait  of Susan B. Anthony:  Anthony fought for women’s equality in the 19th century in United States


  • Portrait  of Frederick Douglass as a Youth
  • Dumbbells that Mr. Douglass and his sons likely used to improve their strength.

Activity A: What Inspires You?

  • What posters do you hang on your bedroom walls?  Why?
  • What music do you listen to?  Why?
  • What objects sit on desk or dresser?  Why?
  • Why do these objects inspire you? 
  • Why are these objects important to you?

Activity B: Inspiration All Around Him
Remind the students that Frederick Douglass was a former escaped slave who eventually earned the respect of many of his contemporaries such as President Lincoln.  Ask:

  • What do you think Frederick Douglass kept in his home to inspire him?
  • What objects do you think Frederick Douglass hung on his walls?
  • What objects do you think Frederick Douglass displayed throughout his home?

On the walls of the classroom, display a copy of the items and their captions located in the list below.  The teacher will group the objects on the walls based on the room in which the items can be found in the Frederick Douglass home in order to set up the gallery walk.

East Parlor



West Parlor

  • Lithograph of Abraham Lincoln
  • Bust of Diana
  • John Greenleaf Whittier's Home Tile
  • Portrait of Joseph Cinque
  • Portrait of Wendell Williams
  • House of Representative’s Chair
  • Susan B. Anthony Portrait
  • Young Portrait of Himself
  • Dumbbells
  •  Senator Charles Sumner’s Table
  •  Bust of Wendell Phillips

Students rotate around the classroom and list the items that Frederick Douglas displayed.  Once the students have created a list, each student will rank the items from most to least important on inspiring Douglass and be prepared to argue his/her rationale.  Debate:

  • What object in his home do you think inspired Douglass the most?
  • What room do you think had the most inspiration items? 

Activity C: A Tour of the Douglas Home
Using a floor plan of the Douglas Home, students will design and write a page of interpretive text for a tour of the Frederick Douglass Home.  The tour will focus on objects that inspired Frederick Douglass.  The students will:

  • Determine the route in which the visitors will view the East Parlor, West Parlor, Library and Bedroom
  • Write a one page script for each room and point out the most important object for each room in the house
  • Present the interpretative tour to the class.

See the Douglass Home floor plan at: http://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/douglass/houseTour.html

Lesson Seven: An Exhibit on the Transition to Freedom


Students demonstrate their knowledge of the transition from slavery to freedmen by developing a museum exhibit.
Students use primary sources, including historic objects and documents to exemplify the transition process. 

Activity A: How Our Possessions Define Us
As a class, brainstorm objects associated with being a student.  Have class to select five objects that are most relevant to being a student.  Students debate and discuss the significance of certain objects and the insignificance of others

Activity B: Your Museum Exhibit
1. Students will develop an exhibit using objects identified in this lesson unit . The exhibit is organized into three phases: a slave in bondage, seeking emancipation, and freedom.  For each phase, students will:

  • Identify the role and state of African Americans
  • Select three objects that embody the scope of the African American experience

The exhibit should focus on the choices slaves made to ensure that they did not become victims and how they maintained their own identity.  This exhibit will require students to examine the Antebellum and post Civil War periods through historic objects, documents and photographs from each era.  Briefly discuss the topic to ensure that all students understand the eras within the exhibit.

2.   Organize class into groups of 3-4 students.  Each group will create an exhibit of the experiences of African Americans in three phases noted above using the objects and sources used throughout this unit plan. 

3.  Groups write a docent script for a tour of the exhibit that discusses the different stages and selected objects.  Each group will present their illustrated tour to the class. 

4.  Encourage creativity by awarding extra points for any additonal research, object captions, explanatory exhibit copy, television, radio or print advertisements promoting the new exhibit, or items designed for sale in the museum shop.

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J. Evaluation/Assessment for Measurable Results
  • See individual Lessons
  • For a cumulative assessment, see Lesson #7

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K. Extension and Enrichment Activities
Lesson #1: Extension Activities
  • Debating Slavery: Several of our founding fathers argued that slavery was incompatible with documents such as the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.  These arguments led to the gradual emancipation in the Northern states, but not in the South. Students will assume the role of abolitionists, including slaves, and use the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights to argue against slavery, while others, in the role of slave-owners, justify its continuation.

Lesson #2: Extension Activities
  • Writing a Menu: Students create a menu for a dinner to be served in the master’s home. Students research 19th century foodways using Mary Randolph’s recipes available at: http://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/arho/recipes.html and other texts.  Based on the menu, students will construct a shopping list of items, foods, and spices needed to prepare the meal.  Students will calculate portion size and quantity to prepare the shopping list. 
  • Converting a Recipe: Students convert selected Mary Randolph’s recipes from metric to imperial weight. 
  • Cincinnati China:  The class will role play archeologists and historians.  Distribute Resource Sheet: Assessing the Cincinnati China.  Students will analyze and assess the extent to which they agree with the historian’s conclusion about the china sherds found in the Arlington House slave quarters.  .  Class,discusses:
  • Why is the Cincinnati china at the Arlington House?  Why is it significant?
  • Was the Cincinnati china given to slaves and in what condition? 
  • Was the china given to any slave or a slave the family favored? 
  • What sources from Activity B played a role in your decision? 
  • Would you have given this heirloom away?

Lesson #3: Extension Activities
  • Oratory Competition: After each student has completed the cover and foreword, allow each student to read their foreword out loud. General review of attributes of good public speaking.  The class discussion of the students who excelled at:
    • Speaking Clearly
    • Using the Language of the Time Period
    • Writing from the Perspective of Frederick Douglass

The students may also consider competing in the Frederick Douglass Oratorical Contest at www.nps.gov/frdo/forkids/oratorical-contest.htm.   

Lesson #4: Extension Activities
  • An African American Community: Following the Civil War, African American communities formed throughout the southern states.  Assign each student an African American community in the U.S.  Students research the community and compare it to the components defined in Lesson 4.  Possible communities:  Winters Lane in Baltimore, Quindaro Townsite in St. Louis, Washington Park in Atlanta, Biddleville in Charlotte, Bronzeville in Milwaukee, Jackson Ward in Richmond
  • Comparing Slave Quarters to Freedmen Villages:  Research layout of slave quarters in the antebellum period.  Construct a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the slave quarter and freedmen village.  Debrief the activity and discuss the differences. 
  • Design Your Own Ideal Community – Then and Now: Students will create a map of their ideal community.  The map includes residential, commercial, recreational and government buildings  Each student is responsible for designing the layout their ideal community and labeling the buildings necessary for a prosperous community.  Students then modify the layout to meet the resources and buildings available in the post Civil War period.  Debrief the activity by discussing how communities have changed (i.e. a stable instead of a garage) and remained the same (i.e. a school house). 

Lesson #5: Extension Activities
  • Marketing the Tuskegee Institute: Divide the class into groups and using audio-visual supplies such as flip cameras have the students write and act out commercial advertising for the Tuskegee Institute and the Mobile School. 
  • Non-Traditional School: Students research and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of non-traditional schools.  The information will be organized in a power point presentation.  Possible research topics: Charter Schools, Home Schools, Community Schools, Magnet Schools, Multi-Age Classrooms, School Within a School, Online Learning, Parallel Enrollment. 
  • Designing a Modern Mobile School: Booker T. Washington called for people to take their teaching into the community”.  If you were to design a modern mobile school, what skills would you want to teach Americans?  What would you put in or on your mobile school? Students will create a brief that includes a strategic plan, budget, map of the community, and roster of topics and present it to the class.   

Lesson #6: Extension Activities
  • Meeting of the Minds: Each student will be assigned an individual who aided African Americans in the post Civil War era.  Students research and write a paper on how this individual worked to improve the lives of African Americans.  Students represent his/her person’s views in a class discussion on the various efforts to aid African Americans.  Possible subjects: Ida B. Wells, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, W.E.B. Du Bois, William Trotter, Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner, Maggie Walker, Mary Bethune.

Lesson #7: Extension Activities
  • Scrapbook:  Students produce a scrapbook on the journey from slavery to freedom that includes written and visual resources.

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L. Resources
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M. Site Visit

A visit, to Hampton National Historic Site, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, or local African American historic site, society or monument is recommended. 

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N. Charts, Figures and other Teacher Materials Chart/Handouts