Saturday, June 16, 2012

Cafe Conversation: Jefferson and Slavery

For my final project, I did a three day lesson plan about Thomas Jefferson's dual standing as an Enlightenment thinker and a slave owner, and the natural contradictions that come along with it. As part of the project, I created a Cafe Conversation about Jefferson's social circles and what they might have to say about his dual membership. I was inspired to do this from reading Friends of Liberty, and wondering to myself how he could be peer pressured into different stances on slavery depending on who he was surrounded by at that particular moment.

1.     Activity: Café Conversation about Notes on the State of Virginia
a.      Students will assume one of 5 roles: Jefferson himself, an educated free African American, a French Enlightenment thinker, a Southern Plantation owner, and a Virginia Congressman
b.     Read the quotes one at a time, and have students react to them in their characters voice. Opinions will vary about whether whites and blacks can live amongst each other, and whether slavery is harming the soul of America.
c.      One member of the group will take notes to be reported on back to the class at the end of the activity
d.     Have each group select a reporter to explain back to the rest of the class how the discussion went, and what areas of common ground, and what areas of difference arose

Rationale for a cafe conversation: 
Understanding the past requires students to develop an awareness of different perspectives. The Café Conversation teaching strategy helps students practice perspective-taking by requiring students to represent a particular point-of-view in a small group discussion.  During a conversation with people representing other backgrounds and experiences, students become more aware of the role many factors play (i.e. social class, occupation, gender, age, etc) in terms of shaping one’s attitudes and perspectives on historical events. Café Conversations can be used as an assessment tool or can prepare students to write an essay about a specific historical event.

1.     Thomas Jefferson
a.      Jefferson was born into an elite class of slave owners in Virginia
b.     2nd largest slave owner in Albermarle County, Virginia
c.      Benefitted financially from slavery
d.     Acknowledged views of African racial inferiority
e.      Authored Declaration of Independence
f.       Considers himself an Enlightenment thinker despite owning slaves

2.     Educated Free African American
a.      Born into slavery in Virginia, escaped to Boston, Massachusetts
b.     Taught to read and write by abolitionist society
c.      Published author in local abolitionist newspapers
d.     In favor of racial integration, equal rights

3.     French Enlightenment Thinker
a.      Born in Paris, well versed in schools of thought from John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau
b.     Frequent participant in anti-slavery discussions at local cafes and salons
c.      Fan of Jefferson’s work, but confused about his slave ownership
d.     Against idea of racial inferiority, but does not want French citizens to compete with freed slaves for jobs

4.     Southern Plantation Owner
a.      Born into elite class of slave owners in Virginia
b.     Economically dependent on slavery
c.      Acknowledged views of African racial inferiority
d.     Concerned about Jefferson’s wording in the Constitution of Virginia about the freedom of all men

5.     Virginia Congressman
a.      Born poor, but through small cotton farm, built way up to wealth and prominence
b.     US Congressman from Virginia
c.      Thinks that Jefferson would have lost election of 1800 if not for the slave holder’s vote
d.     Willing to vote down any measure that would ban or limit slavery. Unwilling to compromise that position

No comments:

Post a Comment