A Forgotten History: The Slave Trade and Slavery in New England explores the nature of the triangular trade and the extent of slavery in New England. It discusses the effects of the trade in slaves and of slavery itself for the new Americans of the time, helping students to understand how history, and the telling of history, affects us today.
- Trace the route of a Newport slave ship.
- Examine connections the slave trade created between the North and the South.
- Triangular Trade (map)
- Voyage of the Hare (handout)
- New England and the African Slave Trade (reading)
- Videos on the slave trade are also available.
In the Classroom
“The Wall”—Begin the class by writing the word “slave trade” on the center of the blackboard. Give students 5-10 minutes to approach the board and write whatever comes to mind when they think of the slave trade—statements, words, questions, etc. Instruct the class to do the exercise in silence. Encourage students to add to each other’s postings as well as to write their own independent postings.
Exploring Preconceptions—In the large group setting, ask students to comment on the wall they developed. Can the entries be categorized? What do they know about the slave trade? Next, ask students what it was like to construct the wall. Did they have any fears about what the effect of their postings might be? Finally, ask students about their experiences learning about the slave trade. Why do we rarely hear about the North’s involvement in slavery? How is slavery usually taught in schools?
Investigating Primary Sources—Divide students into groups of three or four and distribute Triangular Trade Map, and the Voyage of the Hare. Also distribute New England and the African Slave Trade. Ask students to follow the directions on the handout. They will be tracing the Hare’s journey from Rhode Island to South Carolina.
Making Connections—Return to the large group setting. Review the students’ findings. Ask students why they think history is sometimes forgotten, and how we remember history. How is our understanding of history affected by the time period in which we live? As a final question, ask students whether their new understanding of New England’s involvement in the slave trade changes their view of history or of the United States.
Ask students to investigate missing pieces of their local history. Are there stories about their towns and cities that are not told? Why might these stories have been overlooked? How could students rectify those and fill in those holes? Is it helpful or hurtful to do so?
Note: The voyage of the Hare sold seventy-one slaves in Charleston, South Carolina. One slave, age ten, was named Priscilla by her new owner, Elias Ball. One of the men who owned the ship that brought Priscilla to America, William Vernon, was a Northern merchant who later played a leading role in establishing the Continental Navy. The man who sold Priscilla into slavery in South Carolina, Henry Laurens, was a Southern merchant who later became President of the Continental Congress and was one of the four U.S. Peace Commissioners who negotiated American Independence under the Treaty of Paris. Teachers and students can find out more about Priscilla, her descendants, and the connections among Newport, Charleston, and Sierra Leone at www.yale.edu/glc/priscilla.
Note: “Slavery Connects the North and the South” is an online lesson plan excerpted from A Forgotten History: The Slave Trade and Slavery in New England