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    Readings from the Slave Narratives

    One of the Best! This movie is on TWM's short list of the best movies to supplement classes in United States History, High School Level.

    SUBJECTS — U.S./1812 - 1865; 1865 - 1913; and African Americans
            & the Civil Rights Movement; Literature/U.S. (Narrative Writing);
    SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Human Rights; Courage;
    MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Respect; Fairness.

    Age: 10+; MPAA Rating -- Not rated; Documentary; 2003; 75 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.

    Description:     In this film actors give dramatic readings of the recollections of former slaves who were interviewed by the Federal Writers' Project in the 1930s. A narrator links the episodes with basic information about slavery in the Southern United States.

    Benefits of the Movie:     "Unchained Memories" provides information about slavery and first hand accounts of the lives of slaves in the American South. The film is also an excellent way to introduce the genre of the personal narrative. The movie works very well with TeachWithMovies.com lesson plan, Teaching Students to Write a Narrative.

    Possible Problems:     MINIMAL. Some of the more heartrending episodes may be disturbing to sensitive students. However, students should know about the human degradation and misery caused by slavery.

    Parenting Points:     Watch the movie with your child. Note how far we have come in 160 years. If he or she is interested, print the student handout, Slavery: A World-Wide View, Then and Now and read it together. If your child is still interested, review some of the Discussion Questions.


Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cast
Suggestions for the Classroom
      English & Social Studies
Helpful Background
      Slave Narratives as Literature
      Factors Affecting Lives of          Slaves
A World-wide View of Slavery
      Student Handout
      Homework Assignment
Comprehension Test on
      Slavery in the U.S.
Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)
Curriculum Standards
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities
    Suggestions for Using "Unchained Memories" in a Classroom Setting

    Several documents accompany this Learning Guide:
    English Language Arts Classes: This film and a selection from the readings listed in the Bridges to Reading section, will introduce students to the slave narrative, an important genre in American literature. The movie is also an excellent platform for assignments and activities that fulfill skills-based curriculum requirements. (See Assignments, Projects and Activities and Teaching Students to Write a Narrative.) In addition, "Unchained Memories" provides cross-curriculum content for American history classes.

    Before showing the movie, describe the slave narrative genre and its importance in American literature. (See the Helpful Background Section below.)

    Social Studies Classes: This film brings to life the experience of being a slave in the Antebellum South. The student handout, Slavery: A World-Wide View, Then and Now, places American slavery into a global and historical context. TWM has created a Homework Assignment to confirm students' understanding of the facts in the handout.

    The film's narration provides many important facts about slavery in the U.S. Tell students to listen carefully to what is said in the movie and to take notes, especially of information supplied by the narration. Then engage the class in a discussion based on the questions set out below or have students undertake appropriate Assignments, Projects and Activities. Afterwards, teachers can give students the Comprehension Test on Slavery in the Southern United States, which is based on facts presented in the film. A brief lecture describing the importance of the slave narrative in the development of American literature (see Helpful Background section below) will provide cross-curriculum content with American Literature classes.

    Helpful Background:

    The Slave Narrative as Literature

    African American literature in the U.S. begins with slave narratives, autobiographical accounts of former slaves. Written slave narratives have had a profound effect on society, building pressure for an end to slavery and increasing respect for black men and women. Harriet Beecher Stowe took many of the incidents detailed in Uncle Tom's Cabin from slave narratives. Ms. Stowe's book, published in 1852, was an important factor in turning public sentiment in the North against slavery.

    Several slave narratives have been bestselling books for their time. The first slave narrative bestseller, entitled The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; or, Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself (1789), was written by a former English slave. Mr. Equiano's book set the standard for slave narratives for more than 50 years. (Click here for an excerpt describing domestic slavery in Africa during the 18th century.) Another was Solomon Northrups Twelve Years a Slave published in 1853. In 2013 Northrup's book was made into an Oscar Winning Movie.

    There were approximately 65 slave narratives published in England and the U.S. from 1740 to 1865. In 1845 The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself was published. Mr. Douglass created the lasting ideal of the African American committed to intellectual as well as physical freedom. His book is considered the epitome of the slave narrative. (Click here for a short excerpt detailing Mr. Douglass' decision to learn to read at whatever cost.) Abraham Lincoln's acquaintance with Douglass was an important factor in Lincoln's increasing respect for black Americans. Harriet Jacobs gave an unforgettable account of the life of a female slave in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861). (More on this narrative is set out below.)

    Approximately fifty slave narratives were published from the end of the Civil War to the 1920s. Most of the post-war narratives focus on how the former slaves adapted to life in post-slavery society and how they prospered. Many were stories of spiritual growth written by ministers. Booker T. Washington's Up from Slavery (1901) described African American progress and interracial cooperation after the end of slavery. (TWM recommends chapters I - VI, which describe Mr. Washington's life as a boy.) Two slave narratives were published for the first time in 2007 under the title A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom. One of these narratives came to light when the woman to whom it had been entrusted saw "Unchained Memories" on television. She took the narrative out of the back of her closet and called the local historical society.

    Slaves in the Southern United States were born into a world in which they were devalued as human beings. In slave narratives, former slaves stood up for themselves, showing the world that they were literate, thinking, feeling people whose stories were worth telling. The act of writing and publishing a slave narrative was a self-affirming experience for the author. Reading a slave narrative was self-affirming and liberating for black people. In addition, for whites and blacks who had not experienced slavery, reading a slave narrative opened a window into the effects of slavery and what was necessary to overcome those effects. The slave narrative is truly a literature of liberation.

    The influence of the slave narrative can still be seen in modern works of autobiography and fiction. These include Richard Wright's Black Boy (1945) and The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), important autobiographies of black Americans. Novels written by both blacks and whites are indebted to the slave narrative. These include, The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967) by William Styron, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971) by Ernest J. Gaines (see Learning Guide to the film version), and Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison.

    Claiming that slave narratives were unreliable and biased, historians initially refused to use them as sources of information about slavery. The historians noted that slave narratives were often created in cooperation with white abolitionist editors who wanted to use the narratives to further their cause. On a few occasions, when the former slaves were illiterate, abolitionists wrote the narratives based on the former slaves' dictation. (It turns out that the abolitionists, recognizing that exaggerated accounts would hurt their movement, were careful to make sure that facts were accurately stated in the narratives they edited.) Moreover, slave narratives challenged the myth, prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that Southern plantations were benevolent institutions which helped civilize barbaric Africans. This view held that plantations were places where the races cooperated according to their innate abilities and that slaves lived contented lives. With the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s, this view changed and historians started to take slave narratives seriously.

    During the Great Depression, the Federal Writers' Project (FWP) was created to give jobs to writers and researchers. By 1936, 70 years had passed since slavery had been outlawed by the 13th Amendment. Former slaves were nearing the end of their lives and, unless recorded, their memories would have been lost. To preserve memories of life in slavery, the FWP began a major effort to gather oral histories from former slaves. Some 2,500 people were interviewed. Their testimony eventually filled 40 volumes. These interviews recorded the experiences of a much larger cross-section of slave society than had been described in published slave narratives.

QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:   Which narrative affected you the most? What part of that person's humanity was degraded or exalted by his or her experience?

Suggested Response: There is no one correct response to this question.

To use this film with social studies classes, Click here.

For a movie worksheet for this film, see Film Study Worksheet for a Documentary

For an interesting discussion of what factors had the most impact on the life of a slave, click here.

BUILDING VOCABULARY: vittels, vernacular, prerogative, dudish, to checker (as in "to whip"), terrorize, public spectacle, the lash, paddyroller, cat o' nine tails.

The word "paddyroller" is a corruption of the term "patroller".

Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

For excerpts from various slave narratives which are excellent reading assignments, see Bridges to Reading.

The sources for this section are: "slavery." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 30 Dec. 2007 ; The Slave Narratives: A Genre and a Source by David W. Blight published by History Now; a lecture by Mr. Blight about his book A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee broadcast on Book TV in February, 2008; and Slave Narratives: Black Autobiography in Nineteenth-Century America by Robert A. Gibson, published by the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute.

    Factors Affecting the Lives of Slaves
    in the Antebellum South

    The lives of slaves in the Southern states varied considerably. The primary factor in a slave's quality of life was the temperament of the slave owner. A brutal and avaricious owner made life miserable, whereas a gentle owner could ameliorate some of the harsh realities of bondage.

    Class was the second most important factor in the life of a slave. The lowest class, and by far the most numerous, were the field hands. Conditions for these people were usually characterized by constant backbreaking labor and miserable living conditions. A middle niche was formed by a small number of skilled workers: threshers, millers, carpenters, and other artisans. These slaves received better treatment because they made themselves especially valuable to the owners. At the top were the house slaves: servants, butlers, maids, and cooks. These slaves provided personal services to their masters and lived in intimate daily contact with whites. Class status was very important to the slaves themselves; for a house servant to be demoted to a field hand was a catastrophe.

    A third factor in determining the quality of life for slaves was where they lived. Slaves on large plantations (50 or more slaves), about 25% of the total, were often treated differently than slaves who worked the fields on small farms, side by side with their masters. Generally, slaves on small farms were treated better than slaves on large plantations, but this depended on the attitude of the slave owner. Slaves who lived in small towns, where everyone knew each other, were often treated better than slaves who lived in the anonymity of the large cities or the isolation of the country. In small towns there were social checks on what the slave owners could do to their slaves.

    Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself illustrates the interplay of these factors and reveals a view of the antebellum South unknown to most. There are three ways to present this powerful story to students. First, TWM has prepared a six page handout intended to capture the imagination of students and interest them in reading Ms. Jacobs' narrative. This document alone will convey many of the lessons contained in Ms. Jacobs' narrative. TWM has also prepared an Abridged Version of Ms. Jacobs' narrative, which cuts the original text by about 2/3rds. Better yet, students can read the entire book.

    Homework Assignment on Slavery World-Wide, Then and Now

    The purpose of this assignment is to highlight important points in the student handout Slavery: A World-Wide View, Then and Now by requiring students to paraphrase the information in the handout. The questions reach only Bloom's Taxonomy levels for "Knowledge" and "Comprehension". They reach Level One in Art Costa's three levels of intellectual functioning.

    Before distributing this homework, tell students that the assignment is open book and that in framing their responses, they should refer to the handout. However, students should answer in their own words and not simply quote the book. Make sure the class understands the definition of irony or modify Question #8.

    1.  Two reservoirs of slavery have been identified and one other probable reservoir has been discussed by historians. Describe the geographic location of these pools of people, the periods of time during which they existed, and the types of people who were enslaved.

    2.  What is the origin of the word "slave"?

    3.  Which of the ancient civilizations that have formed the basis for modern Western culture practiced slavery at one time or another? Name at least two.

    4.  How extensive was slavery in Africa before the Europeans started the Transatlantic slave trade? Who were the slavers and who were the enslaved?

    5.  What is "pawnship" and in what geographic area is it practiced?

    6.  What is "compensation marriage" and on which continent is it practiced?

    7.  The local African slave trade in the 18th and early 19th centuries was complementary to the Transatlantic slave trade in one respect. Describe this.

    8.  The handout lists five ironic situations in the history of slavery. (In history, an ironic situation is one in which the facts are opposite from, or at least very different from, what we expect.) Briefly describe the ironic fact referred to in the handout that has to do with the creation of the United States and one other ironic fact shown by the history of slavery. For each situation, explain why it is ironic. 9.  What is the range of estimates about how many slaves exist in the modern world?

    10.  Why are arranged marriages considered by many to be a form of slavery for women?

    11.  Name four forms of modern day slavery other than compensation marriage and arranged marriage.

    12.  What is human trafficking?

    13.  How many people did the U.S. State Department estimate were the victims of human trafficking in 2007?

    14.   Describe some of the work that people trafficked into the United States perform.

    15.  Identify three trends which foster slave labor in the modern world.


Click on these links for websites helpful in framing questions based on Bloom's Taxonomy and Costa's three levels of intellectual functioning

For an answer key for this homework assignment, click here.

For a version on this homework suitable to be printed and distributed to a class, click here.

Selected Awards, Featured Cast and Directors for "Unchained Memories":

Selected Awards:   2004 Black Reel Awards: Television: Best Original Program; 2003 Emmy Awards Nominations: Outstanding Non-Fiction Special (Traditional); Outstanding Directing for Non-Fiction Programming; Outstanding Sound Editing for Non-Fiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera); Outstanding Writing for Non-Fiction Programming; 2004 Image Awards Nominations: Outstanding TV News, Talk or Information (Series or Special).

Featured Actors:   Whoopi Goldberg, narrator. Readers: Angela Bassett, Michael Boatman, Roscoe Lee Browne, Don Cheadle, Sandra Daley, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Robert Guillaume, Jasmine Guy, Samuel L. Jackson, CCH Pounder, LaTanya Richardson, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Roger Guenveur Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Vanessa Williams, Oprah Winfrey, Alfre Woodard

Director:   Ed Bell and Thomas Lennon

    Comprehension Test on Slavery in the American South

    The purpose of this test it to assess student understanding and recall of important points about slavery in the Southern United States. The questions reach only Bloom's Taxonomy levels for "Knowledge" and "Comprehension". They reach Level One in Art Costa's format for framing questions.

    This comprehension test is based on facts described in the film. Before showing the movie, tell students to listen carefully to what is said in the film and to take notes of important facts, especially information supplied by the film's narrator.

    1.  There were 31,441,000 people in the U.S. at the time of the Civil War. Approximately how many were slaves? What was the percentage of Americans who were slaves?

    2.  Name three of the four major cash crops grown on plantations in the American South before the Civil War.

    3.  Why weren't slaves usually permitted to learn how to read?

    4.  List two potential consequences if a slave was found with a book.

    5.  There were three classes of slaves that are mentioned in the movie. What were they?

    6.  What percent of slaves lived on plantations with 50 slaves or more?

    7.   What was the effect of the fact that white men required slave women to submit to their sexual advances?

    8.   What does it mean to checker a person?

    9.   Salt and pepper had a special use on slave plantations that had nothing to do with food. What was it?

    10.  What was the importance of funerals to the slaves?

    11.  In one of the narratives, a former slave describes how the slaves on her plantation were fed. What did she say?

    12.   Why did some slave owners encourage their slaves to convert to Christianity?

    13.  Some masters didn't want their slaves to have their own religious meetings. One narrative talks about a signal among the slaves that a secret church meeting would be held that night. What was it?

    14.  What was a "paddyroller"?

    15.  What percentage of slave families were separated as a result of family members being sold?

    16.  What percentage of slave children were sold away from their families or had their families sold away from them?

    17.  Name two of the punishments for trying to run away mentioned in the movie.

    18.   What organization collected slave narratives during the Great Depression?

    19.  How many days a week did slaves have to work on the usual plantation?

    20.  What did slaves customarily steal and why?

For an answer key for this test, click here.

For a version of this test suitable to be printed and distributed to a class, click here.


    Discussion Questions

    Questions Concerning Slave Narratives as Literary Form
    Based on the Helpful Background Section.

    1.  Why was writing a slave narrative a self-affirming act by the author?

    2.  In the U.S. in the first half of the 19th century, slave narratives provided different benefits to white society in the free states than to black society (slave and free). What were those social benefits?

    3.  How did the genre of the slave narrative change after Emancipation?

    4.  Many incidents in a book that had a profound influence on Northern perceptions of slavery were taken from slave narratives. What was the book and who was it's author?

    5.  Until the 1950s, what was the attitude of most historians about the usefulness of slave narratives as a source of historical information?

    6.  What event changed historian's attitude toward the usefulness of slave narratives?

    7.  What was the Federal Writer's Project?

    8.   Why did the Federal Writer's Project start to interview slaves in 1936?

    Social Studies Discussion Questions

    1.  In a republic, the majority, acting through its elected representatives, make the laws and decide what the government will do. There are, however, certain areas in which the rights of the individual are so important that the majority is not permitted to make laws that restrict those rights. Thus, in the United States, certain provisions of the Constitution, especially the first ten Amendments, set out areas in which the majority cannot act. For example, the majority cannot make laws abridging freedom of speech or setting up a state religion. The government cannot take away the property of an individual or punish an individual without due process of law. The majority cannot permit unreasonable searches and seizures, etc.

    In the United States, the decision to go to war is a decision made by the President and Congress, i.e., the majority acting through their elected representatives. In every war that the U.S. has entered, there have been some Americans who disagreed with the decision to go to war. However, in wars such as the Civil War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, individuals who disagreed with the decision to go to war were drafted into the military and served their country. The majority had made its decision and as members of society, those who disagreed with that decision had the obligation to cooperate. If they refused, they would go to jail. In each of these wars some men who refused to serve were imprisoned. Many of these men were people of exceptional moral strength who did not hide or run away and who accepted their imprisonment as the price of their convictions. (Opponents of wars who did serve in the military could write to their Congressman or vote or campaign against the decision to go to war, and while the war was going on they could do the same in support of a decision to stop the war. Conscientious objectors drafted into the military could serve in non-combatant roles.)

    Before the Civil War some slaves escaped to the North and lived out their lives in freedom. Whites were divided about this. Those who abhorred slavery helped the runaways find a new life and tried to protect them from their former masters. However, other whites were interested in collecting rewards for the return of slaves offered by Southern slave owners.

    In the Compromise of 1850, Congress revised the Fugitive Slave Law, giving slave owners the right to hunt down runaway slaves in any state. The courts and the police were required to assist them. Officials would receive a reward if they returned a fugitive slave to his owner. If they failed to return the slave they would be fined. Private citizens were also required to assist in the recapture of runaways and if they did not, could be fined, sentenced to jail, and required to pay restitution to the slave owner. In this way, the majority had stated through the Fugitive Slave Law, that stolen or missing property had to be returned.

    Many in the free states hated the Fugitive Slave Law and refused to comply with it. However, there were instances in which people felt that their social contract obliged them to obey the law, and as much as they disliked doing it, they returned fugitive slaves to their Southern owners. Below is a poster put up by abolitionists in Boston a center of abolitionist sentiment, after passage of the new law.

    What you would do in the following hypothetical situation?

    It is the early 1850s and you live in a village in New England making a living by fixing equipment in a local textile factory. Your employer's business takes cotton grown on slave plantations and makes it into cloth. Slavery is not legal in your state, however, the Fugitive Slave provides that any citizen, North or South, must notify the authorities if they see someone they think may be a fugitive slave. The authorities will put the person in jail until his or her master can send someone to take possession and return him to the South. While people who refuse to obey the Fugitive Slave Law can be fined or required to pay restitution to the slave owner, that seldom happens.

    One night, a runaway slave comes to your door asking for directions to Canada. He is a strong young man, a prime field hand. He tells you that his master has a small farm and has no other slaves. For the time this slave was with his master, he was well treated. The master has a large family to support and had just purchased the slave for $500. (Assume that $500 in those days was worth about $50,000 in today's money.) It is clear that without this slave the master will not be able to bring in the next crop and will suffer extreme financial hardship, in addition to losing the $500 that he had paid for the slave.

    Should you turn the slave in or should you hide him and help him get to Canada?

    2.   One of the arguments used by Southerners to defend slavery was based on the unfairness of depriving them of their slaves and their property. They contended that the Southern colonies had joined the American Revolution on the explicit promise that they would be permitted to retain slavery. The slave owners pointed to several provisions of the Constitution that implicitly permit slavery. Their grandfathers and great-grandfathers had fought in the Revolutionary War, and some had died, based on this bargain. The Southerners also pointed to the fact that they had hundreds of millions of dollars invested in slaves. In addition, the defenders of slavery pointed to the fact that the North made money on the textile industry which was almost exclusively based on cotton and the slave labor needed to grow it. Evaluate these arguments.

    3.   The cost to the federal government of the Civil War, together with pensions and care for wounded soldiers, is estimated to have been well over $9.5 billion. (See Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War, edited by Patricia L. Faust.) The South paid additional billions for the war effort and suffered billions of dollars in damage to property. This is well over the value of the 4,000,000 slaves at market prices. More importantly, approximately 600,000 soldiers on both sides died of their wounds or of illness in camp. More than this number were injured. Of course, these losses were not anticipated before the war. However, if you were in Congress in the 1850s, would you have supported a plan to require the slave owners to free their slaves and to pay them for the value of those slaves?

    4.  One of the actresses was distressed that former slave Sarah Ashley (Episode #15) was proud that she always made her quota when she was picking cotton. Should a slave be proud that she was good at her job and did it well?

    5.  Which of these three narrators do you most admire? Pick one and describe your reasons.
  Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

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Questions 1 - 8 highlight important facts relating to slave narratives and slavery in the Southern United States. They reach Bloom's Taxonomy levels for "Knowledge" and "Comprehension". They reach Level One in Art Costa's format for framing questions.

MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: Glory; The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman; Roots Vols. II - VI, Gone with the Wind; and Amistad.

FOR SUGGESTED ANSWERS:   click here. Questions 1 - 4 reach Bloom's Taxonomy levels for "Synthesis" and "Evaluation" and Costa's Levels Two and Three.

An interesting twist is to pose this additional question based on the hypothetical in question #1: "Your rich uncle just died and left you $1000 as an inheritance. Should you take half of this and buy the slave's freedom, or perhaps loan it to him so that he can buy his freedom?"

    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


    See Social Studies Discussion Questions above.


    1.  Which of the former slaves exhibited the most courage in the events described in the narratives read in this film?


    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


    (Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don't threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements)

    1.   How does the Pillar of Respect apply to slavery?


    (Play by the rules; Take turns and share; Be open-minded; listen to others; Don't take advantage of others; Don't blame others carelessly)

    2.   See Social Studies Discussion question #2. What does this tell us about fairness?

Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.


    Bridges to Reading: Any of the slave narratives mentioned in this Learning Guide are good reading experiences. If students are going to read less than a full length narrative, TWM suggests the following excerpts:

    Assignments, Projects and Activities:

      1.  Assignments, Projects and Activities Suitable for Any Film.

      2.  Write a Personal Narrative: Have students write a narrative of an important incident in their own lives. Guarantee them anonymity if they want it so that they can write frankly.

      3.  A Creative Project Using a Slave Narrative: Have students read a slave narrative (they are available on the Internet) and then use the narrative in some creative effort. The narrative can be one of the narratives in the film or the students can select another narrative. Students can also base their project on a slave narrative that has appeared in print. For examples see Helpful Background section and Bridges to Reading. If this assignment will be based on narratives from the movie, hand out the List of Episodes before students see the movie and tell them that immediately after the film they will be asked to select an episode from those which are followed by an asterisk. The creative projects can be: a poem based on an incident in the former slave's narrative; a letter from the former slave to his or her owner or to the class; a letter from the student to the former slave; a drawing, a short film, a piece of instrumental music, or a song. As an alternative, the class can be divided into groups of three or four students and each group can choose or be given one of the projects described above. Be sure to tell the students how long and involved each project should be and the rubric which will used to grade the project. Most of the narratives can be found at the Library of Congress web page, Born In Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936 - 1938.

      4.  Interview a Former Slave: Students can pick a former slave for whom there is a narrative (either from the movie or from some other source), compose questions and write proposed answers based on the narrative. Students can be paired, with both contributing to the script and then one student acts as the questioner and the other as the former slave. These skits can be performed in front of the class.

      5.  Research Project and Essay: Have students research and write an essay on one of the following topics: (1) a history of slavery in one of the countries in which their ancestors lived before immigrating to the U.S.; (2) the extent of slavery today in any country they select; (3) the experiences of any of their ancestors who may have been enslaved (this works well for black children and Jewish children); or (4) the difference between a serf and a chattel slave. [Note for teachers. A good essay on the last topic will touch upon most of the following issues: serfs were usually bound to the land (the most significant exception was the Russian serf between about 1700 and 1861), whereas the slave was bound to the owner; i.e., the serf had to live where the owner told him to, and could be hired out by the owner. A slave could also be sold by the owner at any time. The serf usually owned the means of production (livestock, farming tools) except for the land, whereas the slave owned nothing, not even the clothing that he or she wore. The serf's right to marry away from the lord's estate often was restricted, but the master's interference in the serf's reproductive and family life were ordinarily much less than was the case for the slave. Serfs could be called upon by the state to pay taxes, to perform free labour on roads, and to serve in the army, but slaves usually were exempt from all of those obligations unless they were owned by the state or the ruler and that was their job. Adapted from "slavery." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 30 Dec. 2007 .].

    See also Teaching Students to Write a Narrative, a TeachWithMovies.com lesson plan. Many of the other lesson plans based on this film have projects and activities.

PHOTOGRAPHS, DIAGRAMS AND OTHER VISUALS:   Many of the websites described in Links to the Internet include images. The Library of Congress maintains an excellent set of Images of African-American Slavery and Freedom.

    Bibliography: In addition to websites which may be linked in the Guide, the following resources were consulted in the preparation of this Learning Guide:

    • "slavery." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 30 Dec. 2007 .
    • "slave narrative" Encyclopedia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved January 30, 2008, .
    • Lecture by historian David Blight author of A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee broadcast on Book TV in February, 2008.
    • The Slave Narratives: A Genre and a Source by David W. Blight published by History Now; and
    • Slave Narratives: Black Autobiography in Nineteenth-Century America by Robert A. Gibson, published by the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute.

    Last updated June 16, 2014.


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