Lesson Plan

Discover the African Burial Ground National Monument: A Lightning Lesson from Teaching with Historic Places

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Literacy and Language Arts,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.1, 6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.7, 6-8.RH.9, 6-8.RH.10, 9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.3, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.5, 9-10.RH.7, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10, 11-12.RH.1, 11-12.RH.2, 11-12.RH.4, 11-12.RH.5, 11-12.RH.8, 11-12.RH.10
Additional Standards:
From the National Center for History in the Schools: US History Era 4
• Standard 4A: The student understands the abolitionist movement
• Standard 4C: The student understands changing gender roles and the ideas and activities of women reformers
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.

Essential Question

How do Americans show respect for the bodies and memories of the deceased?


1. Explain how and why African cultures are present in American culture;
2. Describe the African Burial Ground and archeological evidence found there;
3. Identify ways people memorialized the dead at the “Negros Buriel Ground” in colonial New York and ways people memorialized the African Burial Ground National Monument;
4. Complete an optional project about the Middle Passage, local history, or family heritage


Time Period: 17th and 18th Century Colonial Era, contemporary era.
Topics/Themes: This lesson can be used in middle and high school units about African and American histories, religion and spirituality, the Middle Passage and Slavery, and local cultural investigations.


African enslavement played a key role in building European colonial settlements during the 17th and 18th centuries. Dutch traders laid the foundations for the place now known as New York in 1626. They enslaved Africans for manual labor in New Amsterdam, now New York. The enslaved population grew when Great Britain took control of the colony in 1664. By the time of the American Revolution, the New York region contained the largest concentration of African and African-descendant populations in the northern colonies.

For over 200 years, a forgotten cemetery stayed hidden beneath layers of concrete in downtown Manhattan in New York City. But in 1991, archeologists uncovered the cemetery and found evidence of the lives and deaths of over 8,000 Africans and Americans of African descent. The skeletal remains of 419 individuals were exhumed, examined, and reburied at the site of discovery. Today, the cemetery site is the African Burial Ground National Monument. African Burial Ground today is the nation’s earliest and largest known African American cemetery.

Lesson Hook/Preview

How do Americans show respect for the bodies and memories of the deceased? What historic place might you study to answer this question?


  1. Getting Started Prompt
  2. Map: Orients the students and encourages them to think about how place affects culture and society
  3. Readings: Primary and secondary source readings provide content and spark critical analysis.
  4. Visual Evidence: Students critique and analyze visual evidence to tackle questions and support their own theories about the subject.
  5. Optional post-lesson activities: If time allows, these will deepen your students' engagement with the topics and themes introduced in the lesson, and to help them develop essential skills.


Middle Passage
Sacred symbols

Related Lessons or Education Materials

Find out more about this resource and download all of the lesson's materials, standards, and resources at the Teaching with Historic Places website: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/teachingwithhistoricplaces/lightning-lesson-003_african-burial-ground-national-monument.htm

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Last updated: September 19, 2018