Why did some New Yorker’s show support for slavery? 4th Grade NYS and Slavery Inquiry

Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES Integrated Social Studies/ELA Curriculum

by April Francis Taylor

Editors Note: This is the second day of a multi-day lesson in a three-lesson sequence designed for fourth grade on slavery and New York developed by April Francis Taylor  for the Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES Integrated Social Studies/ELA Curriculum. Lesson 3 will be included in a future issue 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?

  • NYS Social Studies Framework: 4.5a: There were slaves in New York State. People worked to fight against slavery and for change. Students will examine life for enslaved people in New York State.

NYS Social Studies Practices

  • Gathering, Interpreting, and Using Evidence; Comparison and Contextualization; Economics and Economic Systems; Civic Participation
  • NYS Next Gen. ELA Standards: 4R6: In informational texts, compare and contrast a primary and secondary source on the same event or topic. (RI); 4R8: Explain how claims in a text are supported by relevant reasons and evidence. (RI&RL); 4W5: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to respond and support analysis, reflection, and research by applying grade 4 reading standards.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948; Examine reasons why some New Yorker’s would support the slavery system; Organize various sources into categories; Develop ways to effectively work in a group setting; Formulate a persuasive letter using various sources

Suggested Timeframe: 1.5 days (90 mins.)


  • Source 1- “Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948” adapted excerpt
  • Source 2 -Newspaper advertisements
  • Source 3- Inventory List
  • Source 4- “Why did some New Yorkers support slavery?” (reading)
  • Source 5- NYS Slave Codes

Graphic Organizer, Video on Human Rights: humanrights.com/what-are-human-rights/videos/born-free-and-equal.html

Formative Task: Pretend you are a human rights advocate, write a persuasive letter to a supporter of slavery stating why it violates human rights.

Lesson Narrative & Procedure

In this lesson, students will be introduced to the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948” document that highlights reasons slave systems are inhumane. Additionally, students will analyze various documents that demonstrate reasons (economic and social) why some New Yorkers supported the slave system between the 1600s to the mid-1800s as a Northern state. As a culminating activity, students will role play as Human Rights Advocates and write a letter to supporters of slavery informing them of the reasons why slavery is inhumane.

Preparation for Day 1: Make copies of Source 1 and the “Graphic Organizer” Smart board to project documents 2-3 sets of printed (enlarged if possible) copies of Source 2a, 2b, 3, 4, 5 for a classroom gallery walk.

gallery walk.

Day 1 Engage (15 mins.) Note: Suggested strategy- using the “Talking Circle” strategy from the “Let’s Talk” booklet.

  1. The teacher should begin the lesson by asking students, “What do you think is a human right?” The teacher should have students share their ideas and give examples.
  • Next, the teacher should state, “Did you know in 1948, most of the countries in the world created a document called the Universal Human Rights Declaration, do you want to know what the first human right they listed was? Let’s watch this video to see.” Teacher should queue video “United for Human Rights.” (1 min.) – So what was the first human right they listed? Why do you think that was the first one?” (have students share)
  • Next, the teacher should distribute Source 1: Universal Human Rights Declaration, display it on the smartboard, and state “Let’s review some other Human Rights they listed.” The teacher can then have a whole class read aloud. During the read aloud, the teacher can include annotation or close-read strategies. After the reading the document, the teacher can ask the following questions:
  • Who created this Declaration? (UN) Does anyone know where they met? (NY)
  • Why do you think they created it? (if students mention it was after World War II- the teacher can choose to briefly share about the Holocaust and how millions of European Jews were killed based on prejudice and discrimination by the Nazi government in Germany in the 1930s-1940s)?
  • What is one right that stands out to you in this document? Why? (varies)
  • Based on what we have already learned about NYS and the slave system, do you believe they had laws like these in the 1600s-1800s? Why or why not? (This question can be a lead into the activity- Why did some New Yorkers show support for slavery? – there were no laws against it then.)
  • The teacher can transition by stating, “Well, today we are going to examine ‘Why did some New Yorkers support the system of slavery?’ And then we will think of what we would tell them today based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Laws.”
  • Next, the teacher can inform students that they are going to participate in a “Gallery Walk” to explore the supporting question. The teacher should distribute the Graphic Organizer to each student. Suggested arrangement of the gallery walk could be placing students into groups of three or four. The teacher should model how students can use the graphic organizer by using Source 1 as a practice. (see Graphic Organizer worksheet). Alternative activity: Teachers can choose to have students work in groups, each student can receive a different document and then participate in a “Think-Pair-Share” with their group.

Explore & Explain (25 mins.)

1. Students will explore each station, using the guiding questions to help them analyze the documents. After reviewing the document for 5-7 mins., students should fill in the area on their chart that coincides with the document they are examining, each student should fill in their own chart.

2. Students should repeat step 1 for each document station. (total 5 stations)

Elaborate (15 mins.)

1. After students have completed each station, the teacher can ask students to return to their seats, and have a whole class share and discussion on the information they wrote on their charts. The teacher can clarify any information shared

2. The teacher should record student answers on large chart paper or the smart board for a visual for all students.

3. The teacher should bring student attention back to Source 1 “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” and ask students, “Would the reasons for support of slavery in NYS be in violation of the Universal Human Rights Declaration today? Why?” (Students should all answer yes, they would be in violation- and share various reasons.)

Evaluate (20 mins.)

1. After students share their answers, the teacher can have students begin the Formative Task


a. Pretend you are a human rights advocate (a person who publicly supports a cause) and write a persuasive letter to a supporter of slavery stating why it violates human rights. [Note: This task may need additional time to complete, depending on individual student needs.]

Source 1: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted the original version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, to safeguard all people from inhumane (cruel) treatment. Below is an excerpt from the adapted version:

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has stated in clear and simple terms the rights which belong equally to every person. 1 When children are born, they are free and each should be treated in the same way. They have reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a friendly manner . . .   3 You have the right to live, and to live in freedom and safety. 4 Nobody has the right to treat you as his or her slave and you should not make anyone your slave. 5 Nobody has the right to torture you. 6 You should be legally protected in the same way everywhere, and like everyone else. 7 The law is the same for everyone; it should be applied in the same way to all . . .   Source: www.tolerance.org
2a: NY Slave Auction Advertisement
2b: NY Runaway Advertisement

Source: New-York Gazette; or, the Weekly Post- Boy, October 27, 1763


Source 3: Inventory from the Will of Frederick Philipse II (1749)

From “New York and Slavery: Complicity and Resistance” Social Science Docket V. 5 N. 2

Vocabulary: Will- distributes a person’s possessions to people they choose upon their death.

Inventory- list of items, goods, products of a building

Men: Ceaser Dimond Sampson Keiser Flip Tom VentureMen not fit for work: James Charles Billy  Boys: Tom abt 9 years old Charles 9 Do Sam 8 Do Dimond 7 Do Hendrick 5 Do Ceaser 2 Do Harry 1 & 4 monthsWomen: Susan Abigal Massy Dina Sue Betty 3 years old a girl  
2 Silver Tankards 1 Do Mugg 6 New Silver Spoons 6 old Ditto 1 Silver Teapott 6 Silver forks 1 Do pepper box(In the Garrett) April 19th 1750 6 flax Spinning wheels 2 Woll . . . Do 1 old gun Some wool & Tow a Miners pick Ax 4 Siths & 2 handles a flax Reel a pr of old scales and weights Some old baskets and old Cask a tin Cullender

Source 3: Guiding Questions

  1. What is an “inventriy?”
  2. Whose “will” does this inventory belong to?
  3. Where does this person live?
  4. What “goods” are described in this inventory? Does this surprise you?

Source 4: Why did some New Yorkers support slavery?

Vocabulary: clergyman- religious leaders

1. It was said that in New York City the rich merchants, politicians, and clergymen were completely tied into the economic system of [using slave] labor for profit. The sugar [factory] businesses first based in Manhattan and then in Brooklyn relied on those crops grown by slaves. The New York merchants provided the money and operated the Southern cotton trade:  “Cotton production by slaves in the South was a major source of profits and employment for shipping, banking, insurance, and textile (cloth) industries that were based in New York.”  
2. Roman Catholic Archbishop John Hughes in a sermon at the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral “cited passages from the Gospel (Bible) . . . to justify slavery, comparing the slave master to the father of a family. Hughes claimed to recognize “slavery as an evil” but declared that it was “not an absolute . . . evil” because it brought Africans to Christianity.

Source: “New York and Slavery: Complicity and Resistance” Social Science Docket V5 N2

Source 4: Guiding Questions

  1. According to the document, what did the sugar factory business rely on from enslaved Africans?
  2. What other economic areas relied on enslaved people’s labor?
  3. What did Archbishop John Hughes use to justify the slave system?
  4. Why do you think supporters of the slave system would use the Christian Bible to justify slavery?

Source 5: New York’s first slave code (1702):

Slave codes are laws to limit the rights of enslaved people. Below is an excerpt from the New York General Assembly (lawmakers).

REGULATING OF SLAVES IT ENACTED BY HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR AND COUNCIL AND REPRESENTATIVES convened [gathered] in General Assembly, and by authority of the same, That no Person or Persons hereafter throughout this [colony], do presume to trade with any [enslaved person] either in buying or selling, without…consent of the Master or Mistress [slave owners], [if they do they would have to pay] triple the value of the thing traded for… to the Master or Mistress of such slave . . .

AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED by the authority, That [now] it shall…be lawful for any Master or Mistress of slaves to punish their slaves for their Crimes and offences at Discretion, not exceeding to life.

Source: “New York and Slavery: Complicity and Resistance” Social Science Docket V. 5 N. 2

Source 5: Guiding Questions

  1. What are slave codes?
  2. When were New York’s first slave codes adopted?
  3. Why do you think they needed to create laws to:
    1. Not allow traders to trade with enslaved people without their owners knowing?
    1. Allow slave owners to punish their enslaved people?

Graphic Organizer: Why did some New Yorkers support slavery?

Directions: Use this chart to organize your information when you review each document.

DocumentPrimary or SecondaryHow does it support the slave system?Evidence
1- Universal HR   

Formative Task Activity: Pretend you are a Human Rights Advocate. Write a persuasive letter to the 1702 NYS General Assembly of New York, making the claim that slavery violates the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” In your letter include evidence from at least two documents from the Gallery Walk to support your claim.

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