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ERIC Number: EJ1047587
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1056-0300
"Don't Be Uneasy, My Children": Finding Strength in Stories of the Enslaved
Gilbert, Lisa
Social Studies and the Young Learner, v27 n2 p18-21 Nov-Dec 2014
Tackling challenging topics in history can be difficult, and sometimes teachers struggle to find age-appropriate ways to help students confront painful stories from the past. About four years ago, this author spearheaded a focus group with the purpose of taking on such a challenge. In the initial meetings, members of the group (four educators from schools, nonprofits, and museums in the St. Louis, Missouri region) recalled feeling uncomfortable when the topic of slavery arose in the curriculum. Their initial wish had been to protect their youngest students from the whole topic. They knew, however, that at some point, their young students encounter the story of enslavement in America through movies, video games, television programs, and other media. This exposure likely happens before any official curriculum provides historical context or space and time for thoughtful discussion.Realizing their discomfort, members of the group shared stories from their teaching experiences. They discussed constructive approaches to teaching about slavery, as well as ways to transmit these ideas to other teachers in settings large (conferences) and small (workshops or roundtables). These conversations helped them find ways to teach while minimizing harm, even while acknowledging the painful nature of this history. They found that constructive approaches to teaching about slavery appear to have common elements: (1) Teachers learn to balance stories of oppression with stories of agency (or strength); (2) They draw from authentic historical sources for lesson material; (3) They invite students to comment on these materials, citing evidence as well as using their imaginations; and (4) They are sensitive to the emotional resonance of this material, and are able to adjust their messages to meet the affective needs of the students.
National Council for the Social Studies. 8555 Sixteenth Street #500, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Tel: 800-683-0812; Tel: 301-588-1800; Fax: 301-588-2049; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Education
Audience: Teachers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Missouri