A Framework for Teaching American Slavery

Kate Shuster
Bethany Jay
Cynthia Lynn Lyerly

Most students leave high school without an adequate understanding of the role slavery played in the development of the United States—or how its legacies influence us today. In an effort to remedy this, we developed a comprehensive guide for teaching and learning this critical topic at the middle and high school levels. This framework includes important big ideas and critical content students must know to understand the historical and modern significance of slavery. It also includes resource materials to assist educators in locating high-quality, relevant teaching materials.

Our goal is to inspire a widespread commitment to robust and effective teaching about American slavery in K–12 classrooms. This history is fundamental to understanding our nation’s past and its present. Based on our research and a review of the materials currently available to educators, however, we’ve come to the conclusion that the topic is being taught without adequate breadth or depth. As a result, students are unable to draw connections between historical events and the concurrent struggles for racial equality or to contextualize how the world they inhabit was shaped by the institution of slavery and its ideological progeny, white supremacy.

A Framework for Teaching American Slavery was created to fill this void. We have designed this resource for teachers with the hope that it can be used at every level of instruction to influence the development of lessons, curricula and even textbooks.