Lesson Plans Based on Movies & Film Clips!                                         

Terms of Use   


    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

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.    

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

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.
  Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

Become a TWM Fan on


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?"


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.



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.  

Copyright © 2008 and 2009 by TeachWithMovies.com, Inc. All rights reserved. Note that unless otherwise indicated any quotations attributed to a source, photographs, illustrations, maps, diagrams or paintings were copied from public domain sources or are included based upon the "fair use" doctrine. No claim to copyright is made as to those items. DVD or VHS covers are in the public domain. TeachWithMovies.org®, TeachWithMovies.com®, Talking and Playing with Movies™, and the pencil and filmstrip logo are trademarks of TeachWithMovies.com, Inc.

TWM grants free limited licenses to copy TWM curriculum materials only to educators in public or non-profit schools and to parents trying to help educate their children. See TWM's Terms of Use for a full description of the free licenses and limits on the rights of others to copy TWM.