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Contents
introduction ................................................................................................................................ 2
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Body Paragraph 1 ...................................................................................................................... 3
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Jordan McCall
US History
Winslow
November 17, 2014
Path #1: The Lesson Plan of a Future Teacher

introduction
The quest to achieve freedom from overarching powers above is a constant theme in
almost every slave narrative. Harriet Jacobs story is no exception. Through her story, readers are
able to grasp a first hand experience on what it was like to be a woman slave in the 1800s.
Importantly though, there is a hint of uniqueness threaded throughout Jacobs narrative that is
different from any other slave account. Unlike most slaves of her time, Jacobs gains freedom
from her enslavement on the plantation. Despite her successful runaway, she still finds herself
trapped in hiding and separated from a desired freedom. Being a future teacher, I think it is very
important to grace the topics of slavery that are usually kept hidden or are avoided in high school
classrooms.

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The incorporating of these topics can be done through structured lectures, interactive activities,
and discussion based excerpts from the book. Therefore when approaching Jacobs novel,
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, I would argue that context is important in understanding
Jacobs story, that abolitionist views of the time were shocking and unpopular, and that even
after Jacob escaped her masters stronghold she still lacked freedom.

Comment [W1]: Delete passage

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Body Paragraph 1
When discussing Jacobs story in a classroom setting, it is signifigant to enlighten
students on various contextual topics and themes that relate to slaves in general, but also help
students better understand Jacob's life. When reading Jacobs narrative, one of the most
important themes to discuss is a slaves strong religious connections and why spirituality was
such a large part of their lifestyle. The importance of a slaves religion is displayed throughout
Jacobs novel and is even highlighted when she talks about her sons possible death.1 She states,
...sometimes I wished that he might die in infancy. God tried me. My darling [son] became very
ill.. I had prayed for his death...Death is better than slavery.2 In Jacobs eyes, religion was tied
to freedom. Therefore, if her son died he would have achieved freedom from slavery.

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Contextually speaking, religion did not only inspire freedom but it provided hope for a
possible future beyond the plantation.3 Through religion, slaves were able to hold onto this hope,
which aided in their desire to persevere through their violent and cruel life experiences.4 Religion
had played a role in African Americans lives for centuries, but Christianity became the real
binding force that kept slaves connected together.5 As an activity it would be significant for
students to brainstorm on important aspects of their own life by forming an activity around these
questions: What plays an important role in your life? Is it a sports team, class, family tradition,
etc.? Is there more than one role that is important to you? How does this affect the lifestyle that

Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (New York: Dover Publications, 2001) pg. 54.
Jacobs, pg. 54.
3
This Far By Faith: African American Spiritual Journeys (Arlington, Virginia: PBS Studios, 2003) DVD.
4
This Far By Faith, DVD.
5
This Far by Faith, DVD
2

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you live in? How do these roles help to bind you together to other people and groups? Through
this activity, students can make connections between the text and their own lives and actively see
how different roles can affect the way they live.
Secondly, I would highlight the unpopularity of abolition oriented beliefs and how
shocking the idea of free slaves was.6 In our current social context, it is easy for people to think
that they would have obviously stood up for slaves alongside people like William Llyod
Garrison.7 Or students may believe that they would have possessed a belief similar to a statement
addressed in this historical document written by an actual slave holder, The most common error
is underrating the capacity of the slave...I have found them apt to learn, very tractable, and
remarkable for patience and evenness of temper...The character of the negro is much
underrated.8 On the contrary though, the existence of the slaves and their role in the society
were very much apart of the social context in which people were living in during that time.9
Through this idea, it is important to bring students back to the context in which early
abolitionists experienced.
Ultimately, abolitionists were seen as bad for business, unpatriotic, racially suspect and
were very much apart of the minority.10 Many white slaveholders thought that it was part of their
religious duty to own and manage slaves.11 For example, in the novel Mr. Pike enthusiastically
states, Tis the devil who tempts you. God is angry with you, and will surely punish you...You
must forsake your sinful ways, and be faithful servants. Obey your old master and your young
master--your old mistress and your young mistress. If you disobey your earthly master, you
6

Winslow, The Womens Right Movement, lecture, November 11, 2014.


Winslow, The Womens Right Movement.
8
Happiest Laboring Class in the World, History Matters website, http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5801 (accessed on
November 14, 2014).
9
Winslow, The Womens Right Movement.
10
Winslow, The Womens Right Movement.
11
Jacobs, pg. 59.
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offend your heavenly Master. Despite how students think they might have acted in various
historical instances, it is important for students to realize the lens these people were living in. To
practice this kind of mindset, I would conduct a debate where students had to take on the role of
a famous person in history. They would have to do research on their past figure, be well versed
in what their person stood for, and then finally have them embody that individual's beliefs in
relation to a variety of present day political topics. This way of practicing would help students
better understand the influence of various social contexts throughout time and how to keep their
own lens separate from a particular historical view.
Lastly, I would want to address the question: Did Jacobs ever really gain freedom? If
so, in what ways? If not, what was still a hindrance towards her freedom? Even after her initial
escape from the plantation and her newfound life away from being a slave, Jacob still continued
to face limitations and violent experiences because of her racial status. When Jacob initially
gained safety from the help of a mistress and her friend Betty, she happily states, I went to sleep
that night with the feeling that I was for the present the most fortunate slave in town.13 Due to
the fear of her childrens lives and safety, Jacob found herself back at Dr. Flints plantation.14
Jacobs ended in up living in an attic while keeping a hidden but watchful eye over her
children.15 She writes, A small shed had been added to my grandmothers house years ago.
Some boards were laid across the joists at the top, and between these boards and the roofs was a
very small garret, never occupied by anything but rats and mice...The garret was only nine feet
long and seven wide.16 When hearing this description, it is interesting to consider Jacobs
freedom throughout the book. As a way to aid in the questions I listed above, I would have
12

Jacobs, pg. 59.


Jacobs, pg.85.
14
Jacobs, pg. 85.
15
Jacobs, pg.95.
16
Jacobs, pg. 96.
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students evaluate the previous quote and the conditions Jacob lived in for this period of her life.
To tie into the questions as well, I would ask: Even though Harriet Jacobs escaped and gained
status as a free slave, does she really possess freedom? Why or why not? Through this
activity, students would have to evaluate their own personal views of freedom and how their
ideas may apply to Jacobs story. Based on these questions, students would have to compare and
contrast the status of Jacobs life throughout the book, and ultimately decide what they
personally define freedom as.

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In too many classrooms today, high school teachers fail to teach their students on how to
view a past historical event in the lens that is appropriate for that time in history. Ultimately, a
majority of the time students end up lacking the context necessary to understand why certain
events in history turned out the way they did. Therefore, throughout my lesson I would aim to
provide practice for students to exercise their contextual thinking and historical lens skills. First,
students would gain religious context that would help to aid in their understanding of slaves
religious beliefs. Supplementing that topic, students would make connections in their own life
that aid in their own story and roles. Secondly, students would realize the unpopularity of
abolitionist views during Jacobs time and the view they likely would have had during the early
abolitionist movement. Through a contextually constructed debate, students would practice their
lens construction by participating in a political debate. Lastly, students will consider Jacobs
personal freedom during her life as a free slave. During this lecture, I would have students
address their own beliefs about what freedom is and how that applies to Jacobs life. Ultimately,

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through this lesson I would hope to provide students with a better and clearer understanding of
the era of slavery through the study and context of Harriet Jacobs life.