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McREL Standards Activity


Legacies of the Middle Passage


Purpose:As a result of this activity, students will have a greater understanding of the 18th Century Atlantic slave trade through interpretation of historical narratives.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
United States History
 Standard 5.Understands how the values and institutions of European economic life took root in the colonies and how slavery reshaped European and African life in the Americas
   Level II [Grade 5-6]
   Benchmark 3. Understands elements of African slavery during the colonial period in North America (e.g., relocation of enslaved Africans to the Caribbean and North America, the slave trade and "the middle passage")
World History
 Standard 29.Understands the economic, political, and cultural interrelations among peoples of Africa, Europe, and the Americas between 1500 and 1750
   Level II [Grade 5-6]
   Benchmark 3. Understands elements of the trans-Atlantic African slave trade (e.g., how slaves were transported to the Americas via the "middle passage"; how European firms and governments organized and financed the slave trade; conditions of slave life on plantations in the Caribbean, Brazil, and British North America; how slaves resisted servitude and preserved their African heritage)
World History
 Standard 29.Understands the economic, political, and cultural interrelations among peoples of Africa, Europe, and the Americas between 1500 and 1750
   Level II [Grade 5-6]
   Benchmark 4. Understands elements of the slave trade in Africa (e.g., how the Atlantic slave trade affected population, economic systems, family life, polygynous marriage, and the use of male and female slave labor in West and Central Africa; what narratives reveal about the experience of Africans sold into slavery)
Student Product:A narrative describing their perceptions of the Atlantic Slave trade
Material & Resources:An excellent excerpt from the autobiography of an African slave will provide students with a thorough first-hand account of the slave trade. It can be accessed at: http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~wldciv/world_civ_reader/world_civ_reader_2/equiano.html A wealth of background information and additional narratives can be found at the website for the PBS series "Africans in the Americas"
Teacher's Note:This activity is structured around a modification of the K-W-L strategy: first identifying what is known about a topic, then listing what one wants to learn, and finally, after reading, listing what was learned. This activity is designed to function at the 3-5 grade level, but the activity is most suitable for students in the fourth or fifth grades.
Activity
Part 1 - before reading the narrative As part of a unit on colonial expansion in the Americas and the rise of slavery in the United States, students will be asked to write down what they know about the Atlantic slave trade in the 18th Century. They should include the economic and geographical aspects (Europeans traded rum, cloth, and guns for human slaves in Africa; the slaves were then brought to the Americas where they were traded for raw materials [the ’middle passage’]; the raw materials, the ultimate goal of the Europeans’ trading efforts, were then shipped back to Europe.) Students will be asked to briefly speculate on key questions: How were slaves obtained? How did the slave trade impact the remaining population in Africa (family and village structure)? What were the conditions on the "middle passage" like? How was life and work different on the plantations in America from that in Africa? What did slaves do to maintain their culture and heritage? Part 2 - after reading the narrative Students should be asked to reflect on the questions listed above again. What new information did they gain? How can narratives provide us insights that cannot be found elsewhere? Has their perception changed as a result of the first-hand account? Students can answer these questions in the form of an essay, narrative, or a journal entry.