Grade 8 – The Amistad Incident and the Face of Slavery


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Crime & Punishment, Law, Slavery & Abolition, Social Movements
Theme
The Struggle for Freedom, Equality, and Social Justice
Town
Farmington, New Haven, New London, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Slavery, Abolition, Amistad, Revolt
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 8 – United States History

Historical Background
Most people in Connecticut in 1839 probably understood very little about Africa or Africans when the schooner La Amistad was brought into New London Harbor with dozens of Africans—Mende men, boys, and girls—on board. Even among those residents who supported the abolitionist cause, few had ever met a person born in Africa. Locals came to the prison in Westville (New Haven) and paid to gawk at the captives, who were awaiting trial. While in Westville, eleven-year-old Kale—one of the youngest of the Mende captives—studied English. Kale wrote to John Quincy Adams, who was to defend the Amistad Africans before the Supreme Court. Following the trial, the Mende lived with families in Farmington for eight months as they sought funds to return home to Africa.  The Cowles family supported the abolitionist movement and hosted one of the little girls from the Amistad. The letters written by Charlotte Cowles (who was about twenty-one at the time) to her brother Samuel reveal both her preconceived ideas and growing understanding of the Mende living in her community.

D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What role did the Amistad incident play in the abolitionist movement in the United States?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What kinds of personal interactions did the Amistad Africans and Connecticut residents have?
  • In what ways did the Amistad incident help people in Connecticut—and in the United States—view enslaved Africans as “real people”?
  • How did these two young writers use language to elicit particular emotions about the Mende and their situation?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

amistad_kale_letter_pg1
Page 1 of a 4 page letter from Kale to John Quincy Adams, January 4, 1841. Written from Westville (New Haven), CT. – Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society. Click on the letter above to access all 4 pages.
page Link to a more complete transcription here or download the transcription as a PDF.
Letter from Charlotte to Samuel Cowles, April 8, 1841
Page 1 of a 4 page letter from Charlotte to Samuel Cowles, April 8, 1841. Written from Farmington, CT – Connecticut Historical Society. Click on the letter above to access all 4 pages.
page Download the transcription of this letter as a PDF.
Letter from Charlotte to Samuel Cowles, April 12, 1841
Page 1 of 4 page letter from Charlotte to Samuel Cowles, April 12, 1841. Written from Farmington, CT – Connecticut Historical Society. Click on letter above to access all 4 pages.
page Download the transcription of this letter as a PDF.
D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Divide the class into pairs or groups and assign each group one of the three letters from the toolkit. The original letters are best viewed online. The transcriptions can be downloaded and printed.

Note that because of the length of the Charlotte Cowles letters, certain less-pertinent sections have been “greyed-out.” Students need not focus on those portions in their analysis.

Using SOAPSTone analysis, the Library of Congress Analyzing Primary Sources process, or another method of your choice, have students investigate their assigned source.

  • What can students KNOW from the source? What is the evidence?
  • What can they GUESS or infer? Based on what?
  • What does the source make them WONDER?

Students can then piece together their findings or rotate sources until each group has investigated each source.

Revisit the supporting and compelling question, as well as the questions students have developed and shared. Improve/fine-tune the new questions and discuss what other sources might exist to help answer these questions.

Once students have examined the letters, you may want to share portraits of some of the Mende people mentioned. Links to William H. Townsend’s drawings, John Warner Barber’s silhouettes and biographical sketches, and Nathaniel Jocelyn’s portrait of Cinque/Sengbe Pieh referenced by Charlotte Cowles can be found below in the “Additional Resources” section.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS
The Mende stayed in Farmington for months while they and their supporters worked to raise money to help them return to Africa. Writing from the perspective of Charlotte Cowles or one of the Mende children, students will write a letter to the editor of the Charter Oak, an abolitionist newspaper in Connecticut at the time, to convince the newspaper’s readers to contribute money to the cause.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Websites to VISIT

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Grade 5 – George Washington’s Slave Census

by Laura Krenicki
William J. Johnston Middle School, Colchester


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Slavery & Abolition
Theme
Cultural Diversity and an American National Identity
Town
Statewide
Related Search Terms
George Washington, President, Slaves, Slavery, Enslaved
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 5 – Early United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What did the Founding Fathers really think about slavery?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • How were slaves treated? Were all slaves treated the same?
  • What steps did some slave-owners take to protect slaves?
  • George Washington visited Connecticut on more than one occasion. How might he have encountered slavery here?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

1799-slave-census-first-page
The first page of the slave census in George Washington’s 1799 will. – Mount Vernon

George Washington Slave Census

George Washington died in 1799, and according to his will, all of his slaves were to be freed upon his death. His wife, Martha, however, had been married before, and she had slaves from her first marriage. According to the law, slave ownership passed along the male line, meaning Martha’s son from her first marriage managed the rights of those slaves. As some of the slaves intermarried, George’s “freed” slaves would not have wanted to leave their non-freed spouses or children.

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Have students do a close-reading of the slave census. Have students investigate:

  • How many different jobs can you identify on the slave census? Do these jobs appear to be farm jobs or skilled trades?
  • What is the relationship between the gender of the slave and the job that he or she performed?
  • Is there any evidence that children worked at Mount Vernon?
  • How might the work of slaves been different in Connecticut than in Virginia, and why? Or was it different?
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Divide students into different groups and have each group decide what type of slave job they would perform. Randomly pass out cards with either G or M on them. Let students know the G means they are George’s slave or M is Martha’s. Now that George’s slaves are free, what would that mean for the rest? Have students decide what to do in each group and report out to the rest.

Extension: Group students into 3 or 4 and make them family groups. Have students decide how their family groups would be made up (for example, have mother, father, children, older family, etc.) Do the same as above with the G and M cards. How would this be different than the job activity? Have groups report out and compare to the earlier task.

Have students research slavery in Connecticut and compare it to slavery in Virginia. Are there similarities? Differences? Why do they think that is?

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT

 

Grade 8 – Venture Smith: From Slavery to Connecticut Businessman

by Khalil Quotap
Institute for American Indian Studies, Washington


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Slavery & Abolition
Theme
The Struggle for Freedom, Equality, and Social Justice
Town
East Haddam, Stonington, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Enslaved, Primary Sources, Archaeology, Local History
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 8 – United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

How can a former slave prosper in a colony where slavery is legal?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • How can objects be used to support written accounts of historical events?
  • What kind of life could a former slave expect to have in the Connecticut colony in the late 1700s?
  • What is a primary source? Secondary? And how can they be used in research?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Boat caulking iron
Boat caulking iron
Boat caulking iron
Boat caulking iron

Boat Caulking Iron

Identified by Dr. William Peterson, senior curator, and Quentin Snediker, director of the shipyard, at Mystic Seaport. Both were pleased to confirm that site structures and artifacts demonstrate Venture Smith’s mariner activities.

Piece of an early glass bottle
Piece of an early glass bottle
Shards of 19th century ceramics
Shards of 19th century ceramics
Incised bone handle
Incised bone handle
Domestic Artifacts: These objects have been excavated in and around structures at the Smith Homestead dig site. These materials include an incised bone knife handle, early bottle glass and a variety of 18th and early 19th century ceramics.

 

Click to open PDF

Timeline of Venture Smith’s life created for a presentation by Lucianne Lavin, Ph.D.

 

 

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Students will read a brief summary of Venture Smith’s history and examine the artifact images found on the Smith Homestead dig site. They will use the information from the artifact to support their findings.

  • What do the artifacts tell about the person who lived there?
  • How can you be sure the artifacts are real?
  • Based on what the artifacts found, how do you think the family lived during the late 1700s?
  • How does this change the way you think of how minorities were treated in the past?
  • What does this tell you about the general population in Connecticut and their view of minorities during the late 1700s?
D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS
  • Have students share their specific evidence in response to the compelling and supporting questions.
  • Inquiry projects
    • What types of discrimination or challenges would former slaves face?
    • What employment or occupations might a former slave expect to find?
    • How was life at sea an option for former slaves?
  • Compare the experiences of immigrants today with former slaves in the colonies.
  • Have students bring an artifact from home and ask: “What would historians think about life now based on the artifacts we would leave behind?”
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles to READ

Grade 8 – Abolition and African Americans in Connecticut

Nancy Toney

by ConnecticutHistory.org


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Slavery & Abolition
Civil War
Theme
The Struggle for Freedom, Equality, and Social Justice
Town
Statewide
Related Search Terms
Reconstruction
Social Studies Frameworks
Grade 8 – United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

In what way did the abolition of slavery indicate progress, or decline, for the lives of African Americans?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What were the causes and effects of the abolition of slavery?
  • What role did Connecticut play in the abolitionist movement?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Attributed to Osbert Burr Loomis, Nancy Toney, oil on canvas, ca. 1862 - Photograph from the collection of the Loomis Chaffee School Archives, Loomis Chaffee School, Windsor, Connecticut This painting of Nancy Toney is attributed to Osbert Burr Loomis, oil on canvas, ca. 1862 – Photograph from the collection of the Loomis Chaffee School Archives, Loomis Chaffee School, Windsor, Connecticut
Download image as a pdf
Download image as a jpeg
Map from the Underground Railroad in Connecticut by Horatio Strother, 1962 Map of the Underground Railroad routes in Connecticut from the book Underground Railroad in Connecticut by Horatio Strother, 1962
Download image as a pdf
Download image as a jpeg
way2 Article describing Frederick Douglass’s speech to 29th and 30th Colored Volunteers, page 9, The Connecticut War Record, New Haven, February 1864 – Connecticut State Library, Newspapers of Connecticut
Download image as a pdf
Download image as a jpeg
D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Divide students into small groups of three or four people. Choose one student to be the notetaker and write down their group’s thoughts and observations.

Using the three primary sources, students will answer the following questions:

  1. What role did Connecticut play in the abolitionist movement?
  2. What can you determine about slavery in Connecticut by examining the following sources?
  3. What is the author communicating about slavery in Connecticut?

Discuss observations with groups and with the class.

Have the students find commonalities and differences.

Share ideas about what the sources reveal.

Share answers/perspectives with the class.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Students can address their responses to the compelling question(s) using a variety of different formats, including (but not limited to): An essay, a poster, or presentation.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Websites to VISIT