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May 7, 2012

Born in Slavery

The Library of Congress is doing some interesting things by digitizing collections. The site can be a bit difficult to get around but, if you know where to go, there are primary documents, lesson plans and many, many multimedia resources to choose from. Case in point: Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project.  

The primary resources offered on this site can help students make personal connections to a subject matter that can be difficult to discuss, difficult to understand and, for many students, difficult to fathom. The site can be hard to navigate. Here are the most important links, in my opinion:

Born in Slavery: The main page of the collection.
Subject Index: An index of photos only, organized alphabetically
Classroom Connections: An overview of the collection and different ways to use the collection in the classroom. There are no formal lesson plans but, there is more than enough information to inspire.
Voices and Faces: First person narratives paired with photos. A great place to start a discussion or a project.

There are some accounts that are graphic in their description of the cruelty these individuals faced so, for younger students, previewing the narratives is a must but, if a middle school classroom these photographs and narratives could be used to discuss the historic significance of slavery in this county. In a high school history classroom, the same process could be used and, in an English classroom, when reading a novel like the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the narratives could be used to discuss the life of Jim and his interactions with Finn.

What are your thoughts on how a collection like this could be used in the classroom?