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Aug
19

A Very Public Secret 8-1.4

In this lesson students analyze documents that explore the untold lives of Free Blacks in Antebellum South Carolina.

Click here to download the full lesson with attached handouts. A Very Public Secret

Historical Background

Contrary to what many students believe and to what many teachers teach, Black life in South Carolina before the Civil War consisted of much more than just slavery.  Referred to in society as Free Blacks, Free Negroes, or Free Colored, a surprising number of African Americans held a substantial life outside of the institution of slavery.  Free Blacks did not attract much attention which helped them to thrive in some ways.

 

Population statistics for Free Blacks, existed every year of the Census since its inception in 1790.  Free Blacks were also recorded statistically to have lived in every state of the nation since the initial Census. Free Blacks existed within the population before the initial census.  This is recorded in a number of church records.  Many participated in the missionary arena (Wikramanyake 1966, 2).  While most Free Blacks worked as paid laborers, some enjoyed other professions including architects, carpenters, druggists, gunsmiths, hatters, masons, teachers, mechanics and ship carpenters to name a few. In 1790, Free Blacks were 1.6% of the total Black Population and .72% of the overall population in South Carolina.  By 1860 that percentage had increased to 2.4% of the total Black Population and 1.4% of the overall population (Wallace 1934, Appendix V).  Though it seems an insignificant amount in number, the idea of being a Free Black among a society of enslaved Blacks is awe-inspiring and worthy of great attention.

 

South Carolina Standards

3-4.1 Compare the conditions of daily life for various classes of people in South Carolina,

including the elite, the middle class, the lower class, the independent farmers, and the free

and the enslaved African Americans.

 

8-1.4 Explain the significance of African Americans in the developing culture and economy of the South and South Carolina, including the growth of the slave trade and resulting population imbalance between African and European Americans; African contributions to agricultural development; and resistance to slavery, including the Stono Rebellion and subsequent laws to control slaves.

 

USHC-4.1 Compare the social and cultural characteristics of the North, the South, and the

West during the antebellum period, including the lives of African Americans and

social reform movements such as abolition and women’s rights.

 

Objectives

  • Students will analyze population statistics to gather information regarding the existence of free Blacks living in South Carolina during the antebellum era.
  • Students will analyze the life of Bonds Conway one of many free Blacks that lived in Camden South Carolina during the antebellum era.

Time Required                                                                    Recommended Grade Level

4-5 class periods                                                                     Middle/High

Lesson Materials

  • Primary  and secondary documents included in this lesson packet
  • Analyzing Primary Sources sheets (attached).
  • LCD projector for projecting images and for Excel Tutorial
  • Computer Lab or Computer access for students
  • Microsoft Excel Software
  • Images and documents from the Bonds Conway collection via the University of South Carolina’s Digital Collections library

 

Lesson Preparation

  1. Download or bookmark the following images for student analysis
  1. Arrange students into groups of three or four.
  2. Place the following questions on the board.  “Describe what life was like for African Americans in South Carolina before the Civil War.  What did African Americans do from day to day?”
  3. Create a list on the board as students describe what they know.  Keep this list visible in the classroom throughout this lesson.
  4. If you’ve never introduced the use of primary documents in the classroom, you will need to model how to analyze a document with the class prior to engaging in this lesson.

 

Lesson Procedure

  1. Place the following questions on the board.  “Describe what life was like for African Americans in South Carolina before the Civil War.  What did African Americans do from day to day?”
  2. Create a list on the board as students describe what they know.  Keep this list visible in the classroom throughout this lesson.

 

Statistical Analysis

In this portion of the lesson, students will analyze and interpret statistical trends of the Free Black population in South Carolina and the United States, using Microsoft Excel as a means to graphically display information.  This process may take an average of two class periods to complete.  The most efficient way to cover this assignment is to break the class up into groups of three or four.  There are a total of five charts of statistical data to integrate into Microsoft Excel.  A rubric is provided to briefly assess the accuracy of each chart that students create.  Instructions for creating a Microsoft Excel graph are also included.

  1. Provide students with the instructions for creating a Microsoft Excel graph.  Then walk them through a step by step tutorial using your LCD projector and computer.  (There are online tutorials that you may be able to provide for your students to skip this step.  With the online tutorial, each group may be able to work at their own pace. Ex: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQwE0Xv1lAA )
  2. Distribute Census Record Sheets handouts.  Explain to students that they are to use the information provided to develop charts and/or answer the questions.  Stress to students, that the accuracy of their charts will determine if their answers are correct.
  3. Allow students enough time to compile and complete their graphs and address each question
  4. Have each group present their chart and information to the class in brief 3 minute presentations.
  5. Supply students with correct answers if needed.  Reinforce the information about Free Blacks in South Carolina when students have finished.

 

Document Analysis

In this section of the lesson, students will analyze the original documents of one Free Black family that lived in antebellum South Carolina, the family of Bonds Conway, native of Camden, SC.  This process will also take an average of two class periods to complete. The most efficient way to cover this task is to break the class up into groups of three or four. An Analysis Guide is provided to help students keep track of their ideas.

  1. Distribute the Analysis Guide suggested in this packet to each group of students.  Then model how students are to complete the guide with a neutral document or one example from the resources provided.
  2. Provide each group with a different document from the family papers.
  3. Allow students enough time to analyze the documents and complete the Analysis Guide.
  4. Have groups briefly report their findings and conclusions.
  5. Supply students with additional facts that they may have missed in their analysis. Reinforce the information about each family when students have finished.

 

Assessment

  1. To assess the Statistical Analysis, use the rubric provided to determine the accuracy of their graphs and the accuracy of their answers to the questions on each table.
  2. To assess the Document Analysis, have students create a list of characteristics that might help describe how Free Blacks lived in Antebellum South Carolina.  Then have them use the list to create a Venn diagram that compares and contrasts the lives of slaves with that of Free Blacks.
  3. To assess the entire lesson, have students formulate an opinion then use it to create a blog or short article that addresses one of the following questions:
    1. Why do you think the Free Black Population is not a popular history topic?
    2. How does learning about Free Blacks alter your perception of history?
    3. How might you use this knowledge to your own advantage?

 

Lesson Extension Options

  • Have students research the history of other Free Black families in South Carolina before the Civil War. More information on Free Black families can be found at the South Caroliniana Library.

 

Digital Collections Information

This lesson plan is based on images and/or documents derived from the Bonds Conway collection available from the University of South Carolina’s Digital Collections Library.  To see more from this collection please visit the link above.

 

To see other collections that may be helpful to your search, visit the Digital Collections homepage or visit SCDL’s collections.