Sunday, December 6, was the 150th Anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery in the United States. This was a landmark ruling effectively changing forever the way in which the United States recognized and valued its people. For millions of former slaves, it was the difference between being seen as property and the recognition of personhood and all that it conferred. The “peculiar institution” had been a stain on the history of Great Britain and the United States in the early years of colonization. As abolition sentiments arose in the North and as the expansion west threatened the slave v. non-slave states calculus, slavery devolved into a sectional dispute. The South had built an economy based upon slave labor and abolition was vehemently opposed. The Civil War may have politically settled the question of slavery’s abolition, but the social and political fallout were profound. Inarguably, the currents of slavery have run deep in American life and its consequences are felt even today.
The United States is not unique in its slave past. Indeed, slavery has been part of the human condition for centuries, and continues today in perverse forms across the globe. Why has human bondage been accepted in societies through the ages? Why does slavery continue to exist today in various forms around the world? What happens to societies that have engaged in human trade?
With these questions in mind, AntiquityNOW has launched The Slavery Project (TSP), which comprises curricula designed to explore slavery’s history, the social and political conditions that gave rise to it, the psychology of human bondage and the conditions today that continue its practice.
The Slavery Project is an ongoing, interactive series of modules that incorporates lesson plans along select historical plot lines detailing slavery in a particular society during a specific period. TSP is designed to provide students an immersive experience where a culture is explored according to the social, cultural, political and economic conditions of the time. TSP also features the use of Minecraft and 3D printing to promote creativity and to bring alive to students the ways that people lived in a particular era.
The Slavery Project’s first curriculum is the Triangular Trade prior to the Civil War in the United States. Working with AntiquityNOW are Peter Albert, an instructor at the Hun School in Princeton, NJ, who has created a curriculum for this period, and Bernard Means, PhD., director of the Virtual Curation Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University, who has produced specifications for 3D copies of artifacts from this time. Minecraft images were designed and built by Camden M., a seventh grade student in St. Petersburg, Florida.
In this Triangular Trade lesson you can explore the slave databases, a compendium of information on thousands of the enslaved. Look through the African Slave Wrecks archives and discover the brutal passage endured by captives on the trans-Atlantic voyage. Learn from personal narratives by a slave ship captain, a former slave and an observer of the Triangular Trade about the exploitation of human labor and how it supported numerous economies.
In upcoming sections of this module we will assess the ways in which slaves contributed to the cultural life of the United States through culinary arts, architecture, dance and music—reverberations of lives that continue to enrich the artistry and soul of multitudinous people today.
So join us as we begin our journey through time. Through The Slavery Project’s various curricula, you will discover worlds of dark imagination, human suffering and exploitation. But you will also see how the human spirit rises, even in the direst of circumstances. It is that spirit that can prevail—and astound.
AntiquityNOW presented the Triangular Trade module at the November 2015 annual conference of the National Council for the Social Studies in New Orleans.
AntiquityNOW welcomes contributions for The Slavery Project (all time periods) from teachers, students and anyone interested in this phenomenon of human history. Let us know what you would like to contribute by going to firstname.lastname@example.org.