Slavery and Freedom in America
This unit examines the broad meanings of slavery and freedom in America through the life of a woman named Hannah Harris. Hannah was a weaver on Robert Carter’s plantation in Virginia. In anticipation of her freedom, she sent Carter a note asking to purchase her loom. The lessons in this unit include detailed analysis of Harris’s note as well as an examination of the changing nature of freedom in the United States.
Lesson 1: Meet Hannah the Weaver
In this lesson, students meet Hannah Harris through the compelling note she wrote to Carter asking to purchase her loom in anticipation of her freedom. Using primary and secondary sources, students will analyze the letter, discuss its contents, and complete a creative writing assignment to build historical empathy and synthesize information. Extensions of this lesson include art assignments, oral reports, persuasive letter writing, and the creation of unique historical dramas. Many of the assignments in this lesson are best completed in cooperative learning groups. Download Meet Hannah the Weaver.
Lesson 2: What Would Hannah Think?
Take your students on a journey through time to examine the changing interpretation and application of freedom in the United States. Using Hannah Harris as a reference point, students will examine key excerpts from a variety of documents, which range from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution to the Nineteenth Amendment. While working in small groups, students will analyze the document excerpts, conduct further research, and deliver oral presentations about how Hannah Harris would react to their document. The lesson culminates in a choice of individual assignments that ask students to illustrate the theme of freedom in a fabric pattern or a poem. Download What Would Hannah Think?