The Slavery Project

*AntiquityNOW and its partners welcome submissions, including curricula, writings, pictures and videos, from educators, students, archaeologists, historians and others with an interest in this important topic.


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Slavery has been part of the human condition for centuries.  Although largely outlawed in modern times, human bondage still exists today in various forms, including sexual trafficking, domestic servitude and illegal work conditions. Why has slavery been an accepted part of numerous civilizations through time?  Why does slavery continue to exist today in various forms around the world?

The Slavery Project (TSP) 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 plotlines 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.  Analysis is then given as to how a people create structures incorporating enslavement as an ethos and practice, and the underlying psychological factors that are present that justify, reconcile and accept human bondage as integral and even necessary to a society.  Modern day investigation will consider cultures where slavery is illegal yet continues to exist in an underground economy supported by human exploitation, and countries where slavery openly exists and is often condoned by governments and accepted as part of societal norms.  Of course, antislavery sentiments and actions will also be analyzed as to how and why opposition to a prevailing ideology arises and under what conditions change occurs.

TSP is a multimedia project with pictures, video, music, computer technology along with research-based narrative and storytelling that captures the wide sweep of slavery.  A unique feature of TSP is its use of Minecraft and 3D printing to spark students’ imaginations and create an entry point to an understanding of ancient lives.  Minecraft is a video game where using the program’s signature 3D blocks students can build structures and civilizations, and the 3D printing component will include specifications for students to print plastic models of actual historical artifacts. Importantly, TSP provides as immersive an experience as possible for the students, and even includes cultural features such as decorative arts, music, ritual and historical recipes.  Students will write about the various cultures and create the computer modelings from primary and secondary sources, learning the difference between various forms of research. This is particularly important today given the wide array of materials available, particularly online, and their sometimes questionable validity.

The Slavery Project is a vehicle for teachers to prompt discussion as to different perspectives of an issue, and how politics and economics can imbed themselves in societal values and justify behavior, even behavior that is inhumane. The Slavery Project can be a catalyst for discussion of cultural norms, how ideas take root and grow, and the psychology of hubris and power. Teachers can also learn how they can develop their own modules and contribute to The Slavery Project timeline.

The Slavery Project will initially launch three curricula: one looking at slavery in ancient Babylonia, another on the 16th-19th centuries in the United States that includes the Triangular Trade and the third during the civil rights movement in the United States. This latter lesson will rely heavily on Representative John Lewis’ autobiography The March and is offered as a modern comparison to illustrate how human behavior in ancient cultures has relevance in contemporary times. The Triangular Trade will launch The Slavery Project and will serve as a prototype for subsequent curricula.

The goals of The Slavery Project are to develop and strengthen the following skills in students:

  • Critical thinking
  • Research, including synthesis of extensive and varied sources, both historical and contemporary
  • Cross-cultural analysis and comparison
  • Intra-cultural analysis and comparison: examination of competing political and societal values in a society (i.e., slavery v. abolition)
  • Literacy
  • Storytelling to encourage immersion in historical context
  • Technology as a tool for interpretative understanding of material (e.g., using Minecraft and 3D printing)

The Slavery Project is designed for high school students and addresses different learning styles in young people. However, we believe that the topic is one that people in all walks of life will find intriguing and informative. It is a subject that touches us all.

Given the vastness of materials related to slavery, The Slavery Project is an ongoing effort with various curricula periodically published during the year.  =

So take a journey with AntiquityNOW and explore the unfolding of a long and tragic history. Remember as you wander, slavery has been the steady companion of people from the most barbaric eras to the highest periods of civilization. Through the millennia, it remains as it is today, a splintered reflection of our species: a harkening to the dark recesses of human behavior and an enigma to our enlightened selves.

The Slavery Project Partners

Bernard Means, PhD is providing the 3D specifications for The Slavery Project. Dr. Means is the Director of the Virtual Curation Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University, a research effort currently funded by the Department of Defense’s Legacy Program. He has written extensively about the merits of 3D printing for the field of archaeology. Dr. Means has conducted field work on historic and prehistoric sites in the American Southwest, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. He has also participated in large-scale archaeological surveys and archaeoastronomical investigations in southern India, focusing on the medieval-period Vijayanagara Empire. Dr. Means received the J. Alden Mason Award from the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology in 2010 for his support as a professional archaeologist of the society and its goals.

Peter Albert, a faculty member in the Upper School in History and Global Studies at The Hun School, developed the Triangular Trade curriculum with his students. The Hun School of Princeton, NJ is an independent coeducational college preparatory school.

Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) is dedicated to giving highest-quality history content to the world’s history enthusiasts, teachers, and students for free. A nonprofit founded in 2009, Ancient History Encyclopedia is the global leader in ancient history content online, boasting the highest number of monthly visitors of any dedicated website. The Slavery Project will be drawing from AHE’s extensive research for information on ancient civilizations.