Primary Source Activities

Students critically examine primary source documents to make historical claims based on context and evidence.

How was one Salem merchant, Richard Derby, connected to global and local slavery?

These activities may be used alone or as part of a three-part series, each building off the previous one.
Illustration of enslaved people cutting tall plants.
The Business of Slavery

Students explore how maritime trade connected Salem to a global slavery economy.

Document handwritten in cursive with ink on yellowed paper.
Salem's System of Slavery

Examine two 18th century documents to explore the lives and labor of enslaved people in Salem.

Handwritten document in cursive with ink on yellowed paper
Slavery, Sugar, & Revolution

Students explore the Sugar Act and the economic forces that contributed to the American Revolution in Salem.


How did enslaved people participate in Salem's Revolutionary Era?

Printed text on yellowed paper with decorative border.
Revolutionary Protests in Salem

Students explore how Salem colonists and enslaved Africans experienced the ideals of the American Revolution.

Black and white scan of the front page of an 18th century newspaper.
Declaration of Independence

Explore the meaning of freedom with a Salem newspaper, where the Declaration of Independence appeared next to ads enslaved people.

Black and white scan of page from an 18th century newspaper.
Black Women & Revolutionary Resistance

Students use primary sources and historical knowledge to explain how enslaved women resisted slavery in the Revolutionary Era.


Enslaved and Free People in Salem

Yellowed, handwritten pages of a family Bible with text that reads, "Rose the black girl was born."
A Woman Named Rose

Students explore how primary and secondary sources, including two short films, help us learn about the life of an enslaved woman in Salem.

Last updated: March 7, 2023

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Salem, MA 01970



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