Home | Education | Classroom Resources | History Lab | Slavery and Freedom in America

Slavery and Freedom in America

Grades 5 to 8


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 Hannah's note as well as an examination of the changing nature of freedom in the United States.


 You will need Adobe® Reader®, which is a free application, to view the lessons.Adobe Acrobat

> Download Reader® from the Adobe® website.

Lesson 1: Meet Hannah the Weaver


In this lesson, students meet Hannah Harris through the compelling note she wrote to Robert Carter asking to purchase her loom in anticipation of her freedom. Using primary and secondary sources, students will analyze the letter and discuss its contents. Using both the letter and the secondary source, students will complete a creative writing assignment, which builds historical empathy and synthesizes 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 the teacher and student materials for this lesson.



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 Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. While working in small groups, students will analyze the document excerpts, conduct further research, and deliver oral presentations about how Hannah would react to their document. The lesson culminates in a choice of individual assignments, which ask students to illustrate the theme of freedom in a fabric pattern or a poem.


Download the teacher and student materials for this lesson.



Document Actions