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                               Content Module
    Contributions of Free and Enslaved Africans to Economic Development

                               CLASSROOM ACTIVITY #1
                                Analysis of Visual Images
      Students will understand that slaves made important economic contributions to the
      American colonies.
      Students will analyze paintings and sketches
      Students will develop appropriate captions for images to convey the emotional and
      physical characteristics.

Lecture by Dr. Percy Murray
Ready for Harvest (1936) – Painting by South Carolina artist Alice Huger Smith of a woman
overlooking a rice plantation.
Cover of Harper's New Monthly Magazine (November 1859) – Black worker harvesting rice in
the lowcountry of coastal South Carolina.

Assign students to examine one or both of the images.
Assign students to generate a list of adjectives to describe either the content or aesthetic aspects
of the work. They should think about the following question:
        What can the painting or sketch tell the viewer about the economic contributions of
        slaves in the South?
Hold a class discussion to create a list of content adjectives and aesthetic adjectives and record
them on the board.
Assign students to use words from the adjective lists or their personal lists to write a caption for
each image that conveys either an emotional and physical reality of the image for them.

Evaluate the captions based on the following rubric:
       √+      Caption is a unique phrase that encapsulates the historical setting.
       √       Caption is a descriptive phrase that indicates satisfactory understanding of the
       √-      Caption does not satisfactorily relate to either the emotional or physical scene.
                          Learn More – Teach More
                               Content Module
    Contributions of Free and Enslaved Africans to Economic Development

                       CLASSROOM ACTIVITY #2
  Create a Personal Letter or Drawing Depicting Economic Contributions of
       Students will understand some of the economic contributions made by slaves in the 19th
       Students will read or listen to primary documents.

Lecture by Dr. Percy Murray
Collection of excerpts from slave narratives from the 18th and 19th centuries edited by Stephen
Mintz at the University of Houston.

Assign selected students to read for the class the excerpts from the slave narratives provided.
Assign students to keep a list of economic contributions they hear mentioned as the slave
narratives are read.
Assign students to assume the role of a slave on a plantation who has learned to read and write.
As this slave the students should write a letter to his or her master arguing for the right to be free
based on their economic contributions.

Extension Activity
Assign students to read one or more additional slave narrative excerpts found at the Mintz site.
Assign students to create a drawing, sketch, or other artistic representation of the economic
activity described in the excerpt of the narrative. The students should think about the following
question as create their image:
        What significant economic contributions of slaves are revealed in the passage?

                       Excerpts of Slave Narratives
                  Stephen Mintz, University of Houston

                            Solomon Northrup (1853)

       Solomon Northrup was a free black who was kidnapped in New York and
sold into slavery for twelve years. He was finally returned to freedom through the
efforts of New York's governor. In the following selection he describes how
cotton was raised on his Louisiana plantation.
       The hands are required to be in the cotton field as soon as it is light in the
morning, and, with the exception of ten or fifteen minutes, which is given them
at noon to swallow their allowance of cold bacon, they are not permitted to be a
moment idle until it is too dark to see, and when the moon is full, they often
times labor till the middle of the night. They do not dare to stop even at dinner
time, nor return to the quarters, however late it be, until the order to halt is given
by the driver.
       The day's work over in the field, the baskets are "toted," or in other words,
carried to the gin- house, where the cotton is weighed. No matter how fatigued
and weary he may be- - no matter how much he longs for sleep and rest- - a slave
never approaches the gin- house with his basket of cotton but with fear. If it falls
short in weight- - if he has not performed the full task appointed him, he knows
that he must suffer. And if he has exceeded it by ten or twenty pounds, in all
probability his master will measure the next day's task accordingly. So, whether
he has [two] little or too much, his approach to the gin- house is always with fear
and trembling. Most frequently they have too little, and therefore it is they are
are not anxious to leave the field. After weighing, follow the whippings; and then
the baskets are carried to the cotton house, and their contents stored away like
hay, all hands being sent in to tramp it down. If the cotton is not dry, instead of
taking it to the gin- house at once, it is laid upon platforms, two feet high, and
some three times as wide, covered with boards or plank, with narrow walks
running between them.
       This done, the labor of the day is not yet ended, by any means. Each one
must then attend to his respective chores. One feeds the mules, another the
swine- - another cuts the wood, and so forth; besides, the packing is all done by
candle light. Finally, at a late hour, they reach the quarters, sleepy and overcome
with the long day's toil. Then a fire must be kindled in the cabin, the corn
ground in the small hand- mill, and supper, and dinner for the next day in the
field, prepared. All that is allowed them is corn and bacon, which is given out at
the corncrib and smoke- house every Sunday morning. Each one receives, as his
weekly allowance, three and a half pounds of bacon, and corn enough to make a
peck of meal. That is all- - no tea, coffee, sugar, and with the exception of a very
scanty sprinkling now and then, no salt....
       An hour before day light the horn is blown. Then the slaves arouse,
prepare their breakfast, fill a gourd with water, in another deposit their dinner of
cold bacon and corn cake, and hurry to the field again. It is an offense
invariably followed by a flogging, to be found at the quarters after daybreak.
Then the fears and labors of another day begin; and until its close there is no
such thing as rest....
       In the month of January, generally, the fourth and last picking is
completed. Then commences the harvesting of corn....Ploughing, planting,
picking cotton, gathering the corn, and pulling and burning stalks, occupies the
whole of the four seasons of the year. Drawing and cutting wood, pressing cotton
fattening and killing hogs are but incidental labors.
                       Excerpts of Slave Narratives
                  Stephen Mintz, University of Houston

                               Charles Ball (1858)

       For forty years, Charles Ball toiled as a slave in Maryland, South
Carolina, and Georgia, and, according to his autobiography, managed to escape
twice. In the following selection, he describes the regimen on a tobacco
       In Maryland and Virginia, although the slaves are treated with so much
rigour, and oftimes with so much cruelty, I have seen instances of the greatest
tenderness of feeling on the part of their owners. I, myself, had three masters in
Maryland, and I cannot say now, even after having resided so many years in a a
state where slavery is not tolerated, that either of them (except the last, who sold
me to the Georgians, and was an unfeeling man,) used me worse than they had a
moral right to do, regarding me merely as an article of property, and not entitled
to any rights as a man, political or civil. My mistresses, in Maryland, were all
good women; and the mistress of my wife, in whose kitchen I spent my Sundays
and many of my nights, for several years, was a lady of most benevolent and
kindly feelings. She was a true friend to me, and I shall always venerate her
       If the proprietors of the soil in Maryland and Virginia, were skillful
cultivators- - had their lands in good condition- - and kept no more slaves on
each estate, than would be sufficient to work the soil in a proper manner, and
kept up the repairs of the place- - the condition of the coloured people would not
be, by any means, a comparatively unhappy one. I am convinced, that in nine
cases in ten, the hardships and suffering of the coloured population of lower
Virginia, are attributable to the poverty and distress of its owners. In many
instances, an estate scarcely yields enough to feed and clothe the slaves in a
comfortable manner, without allowing any thing for the support of the master
and family; but it is obvious, that the family must first be supported, and the
slaves must be content with the surplus- - and this, on a poor, old, worn out
tobacco plantation, is often very small, and wholly inadequate to the comfortable
sustenance of the hands, and they are called. There, in many places, nothing is
allowed to the poor Negro, but his peck of corn per week, without the sauce of a
salt herring, or even a little salt itself....
       The general features of slavery are the same every where; but the utmost
rigour of the system, is only to be met with, on the cotton plantations of Carolina
and Georgia, or in the rice fields which skirt the deep swamps and morasses of
the southern rivers. In the tobacco fields of Maryland and Virginia, great
cruelties are practiced- - not so frequently by the owners, as by the overseers of
the slaves; but yet, the tasks are not so excessive as in the cotton region, nor is
the press of labour so incessant throughout the year. It is true, that from the
period when the tobacco plants are set in the field, there is no resting time until it
is housed; but it is planted out about the first of May, and must be cut and taken
out of the field before the frost comes. After it is hung and dried, the labor of
stripping and preparing it for the hogshead in leaf, or of manufacturing it into
twist, is comparatively a work of leisure and ease. Besides, on almost every
plantation the hands are able to complete the work of preparing the tobacco by
January, and sometimes earlier; so that the winter months, form some sort of
respite from the toils of the year. The people are obliged, it is true, to occupy
themselves in cutting wood for the house, making rails and repairing fences, and
in clearing new land, to raise the tobacco plants for the next year; but as there is
usually time enough, and to spare, for the completion of all this work, before the
season arrives for setting the plants in the field; the men are seldom flogged
much, unless they are very lazy or negligent, and the women are allowed to
remain in the house, in the very cold, snowy, or rainy weather....
                       Excerpts of Slave Narratives
                  Stephen Mintz, University of Houston

                           Jourdon Anderson (1865)

Jourdon Anderson, an ex- Tennessee slave, declines his former master's
invitation to return as a laborer on his plantation.

Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

       Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdon,
and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do
better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I
thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for harboring Rebs
they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col.
Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable.
Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your
being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to
the dear old home again and see Miss mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther,
Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in
the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was
working in the Nashville hospital, but one of the neighbors told me Henry
intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.
       I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give
me. I am doing tolerably well here; I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing;
have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson), and
the children, Milly, Jane and Grundy, go to school and are learning well; the
teacher says grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday- School, and
Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated; sometimes we
overhear others saying, "The colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee.
The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks, but I tell them it was no
disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Col. Anderson. Many darkies would have
been proud, as I used to was, to call you master. Now, if you will write and say
what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to
my advantage to move back again.
       As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained
on that score, as I got my free- papers in 1864 from the Provost- Marshal-
General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go
back without some proof that you are sincerely disposed to treat us justly and
kindly- - and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us
our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old
scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you
faithfully for thirty- two years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me,
and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this
the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid
for our clothing and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy,
and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the
money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, esq, Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to
pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in
the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which
you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you
for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday
night, but in Tennessee there was never any pay day for the Negroes any more
than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those
who defraud the laborer of his hire.
In answering this letter please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and
Jane, who are now grown up and both good- looking girls. You know how it was
with Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve and die if it
comes to that than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and
wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been
any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood, the great
desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form
virtuous habits.

      P.S.- - Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol
from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson

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