Primary Sources, Student Activities

Slavery & the Declaration of Independence

Grade Level:
High School: Ninth Grade through Twelfth Grade
Social Studies
Common Core Standards:
9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.2, 9-10.RH.3, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.6, 9-10.RH.9, 11-12.RH.1, 11-12.RH.2, 11-12.RH.3, 11-12.RH.4, 11-12.RH.6, 11-12.RH.8, 11-12.RH.9
State Standards:
Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Science
Grade 5: Topic 1 (5.T1) #7, #7A
High School - US History I: Topic 1 (USI.T1) #1, #5

Students examine a 1776 copy of the "American Gazette," an 18th-century Salem newspaper. This issue was the first time the Declaration of Independence appeared in a Salem newspaper. It also included two advertisements mentioning enslaved people - one having escaped, the other "for sale." 
Students use evidence from the document and background knowledge to explore how enslaved people experienced the American Revolution. 


  1. Students read background information found in student materials packet. 
  2. Students examine two primary source documents (from the same newspaper). 
  3. Students use primary source evidence and knowledge of history to complete a graphic organizer. 

A Note on Language

Over the course of American history, the language used to describe Black people has changed and most likely will continue to change. Be sure to discuss with students that some of the primary sources use outdated terms as well as racist and offensive language to describe Black people. We recommend developing a plan or guidelines to ensure a respectful, reflective classroom lesson. 

A Note on Transcriptions

The primary source transcriptions included in student materials are heavily modified for length and clarity. We have worked to keep the documents representative of their original versions. You can find original transcriptions in materials below. 


Student Materials: background information, modified primary sources, and a graphic organizer.

Download Student Materials

Original Transcriptions: original transcriptions of primary source documents.

Download Original Transcriptions

Last updated: February 25, 2023