Slave Narratives
Lesson plans and teaching resources

"Been Here So Long"
Seventeen of the approximately 2,300 American Slave Narratives collected by the Federal Writers Project.

Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938
This collection from the Library of Congress includes ideas for 5 different lessons.

Comparing and Contrasting the Individual Experiences of African Americans in the 19th Century
Students work together in three groups to develop profiles of African American life during three time periods in the 19th century. Individuals in each group investigate a different aspect of African American life during one of the time periods and then share his/her findings with the other members of the group. When students in all three groups have had a chance to meet together to create a "typical" profile for the time period assigned, they will discuss as a class the ways in which life changed for African Americans during the mid to latter half of the 19th century.

The Enslaved and the Civil War
This close reading activity uses the testimony of Alonzo Jackson before the Southern Claims Commission. It includes background information, the text, close reading questions, and a follow-up activity.

Frederick Douglass
Lesson plans for Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , other works.

Frederick Douglass: The Last Day of Slavery by William Miller
The teacher guide for this children's book includes summary, prereading and comprehension questions, vocabulary, suggestions for use in literature circles, reader response and writing topics, ESL and interdisciplinary strategies. Access to this 8-page document requires Adobe Reader or compatible application.

Forest Joe Lesson Plan: Outlaw or Hero?
Fugitive slave Forest Joe was the leader of a group of similar fugitives who lived in the wild forests of the South. This description sounds similar to the legend of Robin Hood. The legend of Robin Hood, however, has gained much more fame and notoriety than the legend of Forest Joe. Students will research Forest Joe and compare the spread of his legend to that of similar legends from different ethnic groups.

Fugitive Slave Narratives
Students will read 2 fugitive slave narratives and then compare and contrast their journeys.

Interview with Fountain Hughes
Students listen to an oral history interview with Fountain Hughes, who tells what life was like when he was enslaved. A transcript is also available. This 4-page document includes learning activities and printable handouts.

Harriet Jacobs
Lesson plans for Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl .

"The Lover" by Harriet Jacobs
Brief biography and text of the story.

Mapping Slavery
From the U. S. Library of Congress: "The 1860 census was the last time the federal government took a count of the Southern slave population. In 1861, the United States Coast Survey issued two maps of slavery based on the census data: the first mapped Virginia and the second mapped Southern states as a whole."

National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
Sponsored by the National Park Service, this site provides links to national historical sites and to additional information about the Underground Railroad.

"Passages in the Life of a Slave Woman" by Annie Parker
Although this short story is fictional, it could easily have been true.

Perspective on the Slave Narrative
Students read and explore The Narrative of William W. Brown, An American Slave . They write an essay explaining how Brown's narrative challenged the prejudices of readers in his own time and how it challenges prejudices today. Lesson includes a link to the text, 4 learning activities, assessment, and links to related websites.

Professor Says He Has Solved a Mystery Over a Slave’s Novel
The author of The Bondwoman's Narrative was herself enslaved, according to research.

Reliving History Through Slave Narratives
After reading narratives from former slaves that were recorded in the 1930's as part of the Federal Writers' Project, students conduct research on slavery and tell a story based on their findings. The lesson incorporates an exploration of storytelling techniques. Designed for grades 5-8.

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom or, the Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery by William Craft
Text of the book published in 1860.

Runaway Journeys
Background information, text integrated with graphics and related sites.

Selected Online Works by Civil War Era African American Women
This collection from the U. S. Library of Congress includes biographies and autobiographies from African-American women, both enslaved and free.

Slavery and the Family Life of the Enslaved
This close reading activity uses slave narratives. It includes the narratives and questions to guide reading.

"To My Old Master"
A letter from freedman Jourdon Anderson to his former master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, in response to a job offer. The letter details conditions of the time.

This article discusses teaching about slavery using a multi-faceted approach.

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Text of the book.

Twelve Years a Slave and "An Escape That Has Long Intrigued Historians"
Key Question: What does Solomon Northup's narrative, as part of a larger genre of antislavery literature, reveal about the institution of slavery? Lesson plan includes handouts, related texts, discussion questions, video clip, extended projects.

Up from Slavery
Text of the Booker T. Washington autobiography in HTML or XML format.