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Runaway Journeys
Living on the Fringe Lesson Plan: Maroon Communities
The narrative Runaway Journeys includes a section, "Maroon Communities," that touches on the experiences of fugitives collected in remote areas. "Living on the Fringe: Maroon Communities" is a lesson that may be used as a follow up to reading the narrative.
Grade Levels:High school students, grades 9-12
For use with:Runaway Journeys
Concentration Area:History
National Curriculum Standards met by this lesson
The following standards have been taken from the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McRel) standards.
Students will understand

  • The political and religious factors that influenced English, Spanish, French, and Dutch colonization of the Americas.
  • How slavery shaped social and economic life in the South after 1800 (e.g. the cotton gin and the opening of new lands in the South and West led to increased demands for slaves; differences in the lives of plantation owners, poor free black and white families and slaves; methods of passive and active resistance to slavery; escaped slaves and the Underground Railroad).
  • The elements of slavery in both the North and South during the antebellum period (e.g. similarities and differences between African-American and white abolitionists, defense of chattel slavery by slaveholders, growing hostility toward free blacks in the North, how African-American leaders fought for rights).
Time required
One 50-minute class period if students do the narrative and research outside of class.
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  • Direct students to read the "Maroon Communities" segment of the narrative The Migrations of Fugitive Slaves.
  • Explain the origin of the word "Maroon". In Florida, many Maroons were free blacks or runaways who had lived so long with the Seminole that they were part of the nation. They wore Native-American turbans, tunics and moccasins, and allied militarily with the Seminole.
  • Print out and show students the photograph of the Black Seminole Scouts. Ask students what sort of relationship it suggests between fugitive slaves and Native Americans.
  • Procedures

    1. Ask students to locate on a map the places mentioned in the narrative:

      1. Harlem, NY;
      2. Fort Mose (near St. Augustine), FL;
      3. The Great Dismal Swamp (VA-NC border);
      4. Elliott's Cut (between the Ashepoo and Pon Pon Rivers), SC; and
      5. Abraham's Town (near Bushnell, Sumter County), FL.
      Discuss what types of areas seemed to support maroon communities, for instance physical features, position relative to large population centers, proximity to supportive Native Americans or foreign governments.
    2. Explain to students that they will be investigating some of these maroon communities. Then, either assign or allow students to sign up to find out more about three types of maroon communities:

      1. Great Dismal Swamp "outlyers;"
      2. Fort Mose's Spanish-government-sanctioned community and militia; and
      3. Maroons in Florida and their relationship to the Seminole nation (often called Black Seminoles).
    3. Once students have completed their research, ask them to share their findings in class.
    4. Ask students what the advantages and disadvantages were to each type of community.
    5. Direct students to respond to one of the following writing prompts:

      1. Why were there only about fifty active maroon communities in the United States between 1672 and 1864?
      2. What type of maroon community seemed most successful in the long run and why (i.e., were they independent, Spanish sanctioned, or Native American allied)?

    After students complete writing their prompt, you may elect to ask students to share their ideas orally or to write up some of the best ideas into signs for the bulletin board. Evaluate their work on a five-point scale (which may be weighted) or five letter-grade rubric as follows:

    Grading Elements Points/Grade
    No response 0/F
    Response is not linked to prompt, shows little insight, offers few ideas, and has many technical problems. 1/D
    Response is not clearly linked to prompt, shows some insight, provides a vague plan, and has some technical problem with writing. 2/C
    Response references prompt, shows some insight, provides a general plan, and demonstrates most technical elements of good writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation). 3/B
    Response references prompt, shows originality and insight, provides specifics, and demonstrates technical elements of good writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation). 4/A

    Related Works
    Interdisciplinary Links

    • Language Arts: The experiences of maroons lend themselves to creative writing activities. Collaborate with the English teachers so students may use historical information to write narratives, poems, or illustrated children's stories about the experience of a particular maroon or maroon community.
    • Archaeology: Ask students to examine some of the archaeology reports of artifacts found at Fort Mose or Peliklakaha. Ask students to make a list of five things they learned about the maroons from artifacts and five questions they have that remain unanswered. Discuss what archaeology adds to the understanding of maroons that may not be recorded in historical documents. Also, discuss the questions that artifacts alone cannot answer.
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