The Slave Trade and
19th Century Economic Growth

Brigitte Jabbaar

The idea of determining the truth is an important concept in Unflattening. This lesson allows students to see issues of slavery from a variety of points of view and encourages them to consider the complexity of the historical record.


Exploring Vocabulary/Research Comprehension


Day 1

  • Define: slave, plantation, labor, trade, slavery

  • Research the process of slave trading involving Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas.

  • Discuss prior knowledge about slavery in the United States.

  • List responses on the board.

  • Explain the common places where slavery took place.


Day 2

  • Screen: Slavery and Plantations [3:59]

  • Explain and identify: Common cash crops which were more prominent during the nineteenth century.

  • Research: Cotton, Rice, Sugarcane, Tobacco.

  • Make a chart listing the most profitable to the least profitable in order.


Day 3

  • Screen: 12 Years A Slave excerpt [2:53]

  • Discuss the slaves working on the plantation and punishments they received.

  • Write a brief summary of how it makes you feel.

  • Research the economic growth of cotton/sugarcane in the 1800s until now.

  • Discuss the Caribbean and sugarcane.


    [A related resource for this lesson is "Sugar Barons of Barbados."]

  • Give students a map and have them locate and label the southern states associated with slavery/the production of cotton.


Day 4

  • Define: production, injustice, and inequality.

  • Have students use a map to draw a line from Rhode Island to Ghana to Cuba to form a triangle.

  • Ask: Why do they think Africans were transported in this way?

  • Discuss: Who was dehumanized in these circumstances? Blacks, whites, or both?


Day 5

  • Screen: Traces of the Trade

  • Discuss: How did slavery impact economic growth during the nineteenth century?

  • Research: Those involved with abolishing slavery.

  • Ask: When did Congress pass the act to end slavery.

  • Debate: Are businesses in the North who indirectly profited from slavery just as responsible for slavery as those who engaged in the practice directly?





Image Source: Edmund Ollier, Cassell's History of the United States (London, 1874-77), Vol. 2, p. 493