Mr. Snyder -- Reading Strategies -- Milford High School
Imagine that you are 12 years
old and live on a large beautiful plantation. However, you can't enjoy
the plantation, because you are a slave. You have been a slave since you were
born. A young girl who lived this existence is Sarny.
Sarny is a character from the novel Nightjohn. She is a slave who lives on the Waller
plantation. She is not allowed to learn to read or write. Instead, she spends
her days working. However, one day a man is brought to the plantation; his name
is Nightjohn. When Sarny
first sees him he is brought in with a rope
around his neck, and his body is covered with scars from many beatings. She is
drawn to Nightjohn when she learns that
he escaped North to freedom, only to voluntarily
return to the South. Nightjohn has a
self-imposed mission--to teach slaves how to read and write. He believes
knowledge is the key to helping slaves break out of bondage. Sarny is willing to take the risk, even knowing that the
penalty for reading is very dangerous.
Each of you will be required to complete the
above tasks using your own words. The links in the resource areas will
take you to web sites that will provide you with information to complete your
tasks. If you need additional help you may use resources that are available in
the school library or use http://www.google.com/
to search. Now that you are knowledgeable about slavery in America, you may select what
assignment you'd like to complete for your evaluation: Assignment List.
You will be evaluated on the quality of your
work. Take your time and answer your questions. Remember to use a RARE Response to answer each question. Also, don't
forget to write in your own words; do not copy your answers directly from the
book or website--paraphrase. If you need help ask the teacher or a fellow
classmate. For every statement made you should provide a reference that
supports that position such as the web page or book that you got the
Your task is to learn as much as you can about
this "peculiar institution" called slavery. You have three areas to
explore: slavery, the Underground Railroad, and music. Follow the directions
Slavery - Find out how long slavery lasted; where the slaves came from,
and what their lifestyles were.
1. Where were the slaves originally from (Africa is
too vague), and how did they get here?
2. Why was there slavery in the United States?
3. What was life like for most slave families?
4. Why was cotton so important?
5. How long did slavery last?
6. What is the Emancipation Proclamation? Did it
do what it was designed to do? Why?
7. What brought slavery to an end in the United States?
Resources: Follow these links to get help answering the questions
African Americans in
The Underground Railroad - You have probably heard many stories of
the Underground Railroad. Use the first link so that you can take
a trip on it. After visiting the Underground Railroad use the other links
to answer the questions below.
Give a brief description of your experience
on the Underground Railroad. Try to help someone who has never heard of
it to understand what it is.
1. What was the Underground Railroad?
2. Who was Harriet Tubman?
Why is she important?
3. About how many slaves did Harriet lead to
4. Why did so many slaves want to go to Canada and not to the north where there was no slavery?
5. What challenges did the freed slaves face in Canada?
6. A slave from Louisiana using the Underground Railroad to escape would travel
through which states?
Underground Railroad Trip
Music - Slaves were forbidden to read and write,
they had to communicate their feelings in ways that would not be obvious to their
masters. One way was through song. Use the links below to read the lyrics to
some of the slave spirituals and listen to some of the songs.
1. What theme did many of the songs have in
2. What purpose did some of the slave songs
3. Read the lyrics to Follow the Drinking
Gourd and Go Down Moses. What is the
significance of the words in these songs?
the Drinking Gourd
Go Down Moses
Songs of the
You have followed in the
footsteps of a slave. By now you should be able
to detail the life, culture, and struggles of an African slave in America. Hopefully this information has given
you a better understanding of a slave's ability to survive in a world in which
he had no control over his very being. It should also give you a
better foundation for understanding Nightjohn.