4th Grade NYS and Slavery Inquiry

Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES Integrated Social Studies/ELA Curriculum

April Francis

Editors Note: This is the first multi-day lesson in a three lesson sequence designed for fourth grade on slavery and New York developed by April Francis for the Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES Integrated Social Studies/ELA Curriculum. Lessons 2 and 3 will be included in future issues of Teaching Social Studies. Lesson 1 addresses the compelling question “What were the experiences of enslaved African Americans in New York State?”

Compelling Question: Why did New Yorkers have differing views of American Slavery in the 1800s?

Supporting Questions

  1. What were the experiences of enslaved African Americans in New York State?
  2. Why did some New Yorkers show support for slavery?
  3. How did some New Yorkers resist the slave system?

Staging the Compelling Question Narrative & Procedure

     This beginning activity will help frame the compelling question and deepen student understanding of this hard history topic. Teachers should be mindful of how they present this information in their classroom, by using techniques that support all students. Teaching Tolerance has a guide entitled “Let’s Talk: Discussing Race, Racism, and other Difficult Topics with Students” that provides strategies and support for teachers in this area. Some of these strategies have been included in this inquiry’s narrative. Additionally, to build their own historical context, teachers can view the videos: New York State & Slavery: Complicity & Resistance (19 minutes) and TedTalk-Ed: The Atlantic Slave Trade. (approx. 6 minutes) Additional Resources for Slavery in the North: https://peoplenotproperty.hudsonvalley.org/

Preparation for the Lesson: Queue video

Discovery Education Streaming Subscribers: “Slavery Begins in America”        https://app.discoveryeducation.com/learn/videos/7bbeb461-871c-411b-a1ff-1eb44ed89381/ (4 minutes) OR Free video: “Slavery in America” https://www.teachertube.com/video/slavery-in-america-a- history-ofamerica821-316094 (show only the first 6 minutes)

● Make copies of “Vocabulary Terms,” “K-W-L chart,” and “Circle Map”

Lesson 1 / Day 1 Engage (20 minutes)

1. The teacher can begin this unit by informing students that “We will be learning about an important topic this week, this topic often can be hard to discuss because it involves how people’s rights were taken away from them, and the harsh treatment forced on them for many years in our country. This topic is called Slavery in America.”

a. The teacher can introduce some strategies in the “Let’s Talk” booklet to ensure students feel they are in a safe environment to learn about this topic. Some helpful strategies can be found on pgs. 7-11.

2. Next, the teacher should display the compelling question “Why did New Yorkers have differing views of American slavery in the 1800s?” And ask for a student volunteer to read it aloud. The “teacher should also highlight that “when we are referring to people who have been forced into slavery, we state ‘enslaved people’ since no one is born a slave, but can be enslaved.”

3. Next, the teacher should display Source 1 on the smart board and distribute the “K-W-L” chart. Using source 1 as a stimulus, the teacher can have students record what they “know” about slavery in America. This activity will allow students to share their prior knowledge of the topic, as well as what they want to know. (Note: Source 1 is a picture of a Virginia Slave auction)

4. Once students have filled in their charts, the teacher can ask students to share what they “Know” and what they “Want” to know. The teacher can write these answers on chart paper (or students can write their answers on sticky notes and place them on the class chart paper). Teachers can use the following questions to guide their discussion: “What do we know about where slavery was located in the United States? What do we want to know?

Using the lens of social sciences:

Geography: – Where was slavery located? – Where did slavery exist in the U.S.? -Where did enslaved Africans come from? – How did they get here? – How the geography of a place affected the work and conditions for enslaved people?

Economics: – What type of work did enslaved people do? – Who benefited from their labor? – How did the labor and industry for enslaved people change from place to place?

Civics: (Political, Social, Law & Life – Was slavery legal in the U.S.? – What laws existed that protected slavery in the U.S./New York State? – Could you escape slavery? Did many enslaved people escape? – How many enslaved people were there in the U.S./New York State? – What was life like for enslaved people? (And what sources can we turn to help us understand the experiences of enslaved people in America/NYS?)

Explain (15 minutes): Next, the teacher can transition the lesson by displaying the vocabulary terms and review each word with the class as a foundation for the inquiry. (Alternative activity – have the students       participate in a “word sort” activity.) After reviewing the vocabulary terms, inform students they will watch a video regarding the history of slavery in America. (This will provide historical context for students, and can be referred back to throughout the lesson) The teacher should have the students watch the video and, and as a class, fill out the circle map based on what they learned. (Teacher can repeat video for emphasis.)

a. After the video the teacher should do a “check-in” with students to ascertain their emotions regarding this topic. The “Thumbs up/Thumbs Down” strategy found on pg. 11 of the Teaching Tolerance “Let’s Talk” booklet can be helpful.

Explore & Elaborate (15 minutes): Next, the teacher can ask students to share some of the information from the video to create a class “circle map.” The teacher should remember this is a sensitive topic, and be mindful of student responses and how information is written on the map (i.e. enslaved person, rather than “slave”) Next, the teacher can have students journal or draw (see “Let’s Talk” guide) how they feel about the video. The teacher should collect this, and follow up with any journal or drawing that may need extra attention and support.

Evaluate (10 minutes)

1. The teacher can ask students to fill out the “L” portion of their K-W-L chart and ask “What are 3 things you learned today about slavery in America?” (an additional strategy- students can write on sticky notes and place it on a class K-W-L chart.)

2. The teacher can close the lesson by informing students, “I know that some of the questions you asked in the “W” portion of your chart may not have been answered today, I do hope by the end of our inquiry, you will have those answers.”

Source 1

“K-W-L” Chart Directions: We are going to be discussing a “hard history” topic. What do you know about the economic system called slavery in America? What would you want to know (questions you have)?

Vocabulary Terms

Circle Map

Directions: As a class, we will watch the video about the history of Slavery in America. While you watch the video, fill in the bubbles with facts that you have learned.

Supporting Question 1: What were the experiences of enslaved African Americans in New York State?

Lesson 1 / Day 1 Narrative & Procedure

     In this lesson, students will be introduced to the origins of the slavery system in New Netherlands and later New York. Students will analyze both primary and secondary sources in groups, and then use this information to develop a timeline of important events. Note: Modify this script to meet your classroom needs.


  • Queue video: Sojourner Truth (History.com) 2:29 minutes
  • Make copies of Source 1-5, “Map of NYS Counties”, and the “Source Analysis” worksheet
  • Smart board to project documents for whole class analysis
  • Chart paper to record student responses

Engage (15 minutes)   The teacher should begin the lesson by displaying the Supporting Question for the whole class “Were there enslaved Africans in New York State?” The teacher should ask for a volunteer reader. The teacher should then remind students of what they learned yesterday, using student “K-W-L” chart responses.

Next, the teacher should distribute Source 1, and, as a whole class, read aloud the account of Sojourner Truth, and use the guiding questions to review key points. The teacher should then show the video “Sojourner Truth” (History.com) 2:29 minutes

Explore (15 minutes)      

1. Once students complete the guided reading and video, the teacher should distribute and display the Map of NYS Counties, and highlight that in the video, they included a political map of where Sojourner Truth grew up. The teacher can state, “A political map is a map that shows borders and boundaries of a state or country. Let’s review our own political map of the counties in NYS.” The teacher can use these geographic reasoning questions for a whole class map analysis:

  • a. Place a “star” next to the county we live in. Place a “square” around our state Capital. Place an “X” on NYC. “Circle” the county Sojourner Truth was born (Ulster).
  • b. How would Sojourner’s environment affect how she lived?
  • c. What type of work would be needed in Ulster county- farming, fishing, or shipbuilding? Why? (farming- more rural area)
  • d. What type of work would be needed in the NYC area- farming, fishing, or shipbuilding? Why? (shipbuilding and fishing- near water)

2. After students have shared answers, the teacher can inform students that today they will be working in teams, investigating the supporting question through various source documents. The teacher should review with students the difference between primary vs. secondary sources. The teacher can ask students, “What type of source was the reading on Sojourner Truth?” (Secondary source).

Explain (15 minutes)

3. Next, the teacher should distribute the “Source Analysis” worksheet, and inform students that in their teams, they will analyze sources and record the main ideas on this chart. The teacher should model this activity with the students, using the Sojourner Truth reading (Source 1).

 4. The teacher should place students in groups of four and have each student analyze one source from Source 2-5 and record the main idea on the Source Analysis worksheet an (alternative strategy- Jigsaw activity.) Note to Teacher: source modification is encouraged to meet the needs of your students.

5. The teacher should rotate between groups, and ask critical thinking questions:

  • a. Were there enslaved persons in New York State? How do we know?
  • b. Using your map, can you locate the counties Jupiter, Frederick, and Thomas were from?
  • c. Were there Africans who were not enslaved in New York State? How do you know? What does that mean?
  • d. What were some of the work enslaved persons did in New York State? Did the type of work depend on their geographic area? Why?

Elaborate (15 minutes)

1. Once students have completed analyzing the sources in groups (moderated and supported by the teacher), the whole class should review the “Source Analysis” worksheet. The teacher should record student responses on chart paper.

2. As a closing activity, ask students to identify one positive character trait they believe an enslaved person had to have to survive living in slavery. Students should then explain why they chose that trait.

Preparation for Day 2 –  Poster paper and markers for student group timelines

Lesson 1/ Day 2

Evaluate (55-60 minutes)

1. The teacher should ask students “What is a timeline?” “Why do we use timelines?” The teacher should share a sample timeline for students to review. After reviewing the different parts of the timeline the teacher should inform students they will be creating timelines based on the information they analyzed yesterday.

2. The teacher should inform students of the steps needed for them to create their group timelines:       

a. Each group must agree on three major events to include on their timeline- these events should be in chronological order and have a connection. The events should be taken from at least three sources.

b. Each timeline must have the following: (Teacher Timeline reference guide: http://dohistory.org/on_your_own/toolkit/timeline.html)

  • i. Title
  • ii. A specific span of time
  • iii. Create time segments
  • iv. A summary of the importance of this timeline

3. Once student groups complete their timelines, each group will present to their final product to the class. Teacher should model presentation strategies for student groups.

Source 1: Slavery in the North (www.readworks.org)

     In 1806, 9-year-old Isabella Baumfree and her family lived on the property of Charles Ardinburgh of Ulster County in New York. When Ardinburgh died, Isabella found her mother in tears. “Mau-mau, what makes you cry?” Isabella asked. “Oh, my child, I am thinking of your brothers and sisters that have been sold away from me,” her mother replied. Soon after, Isabella too was separated from her mother. She was auctioned—along with other slaves, horses, and cattle—and purchased for $100. She was sold again and again, from master to master, until she was emancipated in 1828. Students of history know Isabella better by the name she chose as an adult—Sojourner Truth. Truth was an abolitionist. She spoke out against slavery. But what some people may not know is that Truth was one of thousands of slaves who were bought, sold, and forced to do labor in the North. “Many people are surprised when you talk about slavery in the North,” Alan Singer, a professor of education at Hofstra University, told Senior Edition. “We associate slavery with the South, even though the biggest importer of slaves—after South Carolina—was New York City.” Historians are beginning to bring slavery in the North into the spotlight. The New York Historical Society recently presented an exhibition on slavery in that state. Singer, who travels the country to talk to students about slavery in the North, wants people to remember that slavery was a national institution. It’s important to understand how slavery affected the entire country, because its effects linger through discrimination, Singer says. “Kids see slavery as something that happened in the deep past,” he told Senior Edition. “I want children to know that we still live with the effects of that slavery society.

Guided Questions for Source 1

  1. Where did Isabella and her family live? Why was her mother crying?
  2. What were some experiences of Isabella as an enslaved person?
  3. What did Isabella change her name to? Why do you think she did that?
  4. Who was the 2nd biggest importer of enslaved people in the United States? Why are many people surprised at the answer?
  5. According to Alan Singer, why is it important for us to discuss the effects of slavery?

 Map of New York Counties

  Source 3: Jupiter Hammon: First Colonial Published African American

     Jupiter Hammon was born on October 17, 1711 on Lloyd Neck. Jupiter’s father, Obadiah, was a slave belonging to Henry Lloyd and his wife, Rebecca. From the beginning Jupiter was close to the Lloyd family. He lived in the Manor house with the family, and went to school with the Lloyd children. This closeness is further evidenced by the fact that he is referred to as “brother Jupiter” in later correspondence between the Lloyd sons and their father.

     Jupiter worked alongside Henry in Henry’s business, and he was often sent to New York City to negotiate trade deals…It is clear from his writings that Jupiter Hammon was also a deeply religious man. His first published poem, which appeared in 1761, was entitled “An Evening Prayer”, when published the credits read: Composed by Jupiter Hammon, a Negro belonging to Mr. Lloyd of Queen’s Village, on Long Island, the 25th of December, 1760.

     Henry Lloyd died in 1763, and Jupiter went to live with Henry’s son, Joseph. Joseph Lloyd was a patriot during the Revolutionary War, and when the British captured New York and confiscated his land he fled to  Connecticut, taking Jupiter with him. When the war ended they returned to the Manor, where Jupiter continued to write poetry.

     Jupiter went on to become a leader in the African American community. In 1787 he delivered a speech to the African Society of New York City entitled “An Address to the Negroes in the State of New York”. In the speech he empathized with their disappointment at not having been emancipated by the new American government…Jupiter Hammon’s death was unrecorded, but historians place it somewhere around 1806. SOURCE: http://www.lloydharborhistoricalsociety.org/jupiter.html

Source 4 from the Autobiography of Thomas James

     I was born a slave at Canajoharie, New York, in the year 1804. I was the third of four children, and we were all the property of Asa Kimball, who, when I was in the eighth year of my age, sold my mother, brother and elder sister to purchasers from Smith- town, a village not far distant from Amsterdam in the same part of the state. My mother refused to go, and ran into the garret to seek a hiding place. She was pursued, caught, tied hand and foot and delivered to her new owner. I caught my last sight of my mother as they rode off with her. My elder brother and sister were taken away at the same time. I never saw either my mother or sister again. Long years afterwards my brother and I were reunited, and he died in this city a little over a year ago. From him I learned that my mother died about the year 1846, in the place to which she had been taken. My brother also informed me that he and his sister were separated soon after their transfer to a Smithport master, and he never heard of her… fate. Of my father I never had any personal knowledge, and, indeed, never heard anything. My youngest sister, the other member of the family, died when I was yet a youth. Source: From the Library of Congress: selections from A Slave’s Autobiography by Rev. Thomas James: Post-Express Printing Company, Mill Street (1887).ROCHESTER, N.Y

Source 5 Narrative of Frederick Douglass

     In 1845, Frederick Douglass, a runaway enslaved African American wrote about his experiences on two plantations he lived on in the south, before he arrived in New York. He was born, Frederick Washington Bailey, into slavery in 1818 in Maryland. He later changed his last name to Douglass when he arrived in New York City in 1838 to protect his identity.

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