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The Transatlantic Slave Trade
Differences in Location Lesson Plan: Treatment of Early African Americans
After reading the narrative The Domestic Slave Trade, students will examine the differences between enslaved North Americans and the people brought to other countries, such as Brazil. Students will consider weather, culture, endemic diseases, and the care with which the Africans were treated in their analysis. Students will also hypothesize why the North American enslaved population increased, while other countries needed fresh supplies of Africans to keep up with labor demands.
Grade Levels:Middle and high school, grades 7-12
For use with:For use with: The Domestic Slave Trade
Concentration Area:History
Concentration Area:Sociology
National Curriculum Standards met by this lesson
The following standards have been taken from the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning ( standards.
Students will understand

  • How the Industrial Revolution, increasing immigration, the rapid expansion of slavery, and the westward movement changed American lives and led to regional territories.
  • How slavery shaped social and economic life in the South after 1800 (e.g., how 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).
  • Different economic, cultural, and social characteristics of slavery after 1800 (e.g., the influence of the Haitian Revolution and the ending of the Atlantic slave trade; how slaves forged their own culture in the face of oppression; the role of the plantation system in shaping slaveholders and the enslaved; the experiences of escaped slaves).
  • How slavery influenced economic and social elements of southern society (e.g., how slavery hindered the emergence of capitalist institutions and values, the influence of slavery on the development of the middle class, the influence of slave revolts on the lives of slaves and freed slaves).
  • The social and cultural influence of former slaves in cities of the North (e.g., their leadership of African-American communities, how they advanced the rights and interests of African Americans).
  • Slavery prior to the Civil War (e.g., the importance of slavery as a principal cause of the Civil War, the growing influence of abolitionists, children's roles and family life under slavery).
Time required
Three-four class periods (plus homework)
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. Before they read the narrative The Domestic Slave Trade, have students discuss what they know about slavery in the South, making sure to address these questions, among others:

    1. What sort of work did the enslaved have to do?
    2. Did the climate affect their habits and health?
    3. What was their home life like?
    4. What did students think the make-up of the slave population was (men, women, or children)?
  2. Once they've discussed this, ask them if they think slaves in other countries during that time period had similar circumstances. Then, assign the narrative reading for homework.

  1. Lead the class in a review of their discoveries from the day before, then ask students to put forth what they learned from the narrative. For instance, how do they think enslaved persons in other countries fared? Why?
  2. Break the class into four groups and assign each group to research one of the following topics: climate, culture, history, or health. While students should get a reasonable idea from the links given in the materials, you may wish to have students extend their research using other resources.
  3. Have students within their group discuss how their findings are different than what they know of American slave situations. Then, ask each group to choose one member to share the group's findings with the class.
  4. Have students as a class discuss the different points and see if they can define the most significant reason why other countries consistently had to bring in Africans.

Assess students' work for this lesson informally.

Related Works
Interdisciplinary Links

  • This lesson incorporates science (climatology), health (world diseases), geography, and math (graphing).
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