If Knowledge is the Key: Basic Lesson

Notes to Educator

While there are no explicit descriptions, this episode does deal with the institution of slavery and contains references to sexual assault. Please be sure to inform students of this content prior to viewing. Please be sure to remind students of the level of respect, rigor, and empathy required to do this important work.


1. Explain the context, events, and significance of Elizabeth Key’s life and suit for freedom and the evolution of race-based slavery in America

2. Connect Elizabeth Key’s story to founding American ideals and intersectional identity.


Begin with an activator activity before watching the episode to surface knowledge, heighten engagements, and contextualize the video (optional).


  1. Show students the image on the first slide of this slideshow
  2. Give them, or have them quickly make, a Notice/Wonder T-chart
  3. Give them 1-2 minutes to fill in the t-chart with things they see (“notice”) and questions they have (“wonders”)
  4. Have 3-4 students share something they notice and 3-4 share something they wondered

The Episode:

Play the episode, entitled: "If Knowledge is the Key." There will be three times for students to respond to questions embedded in the video, noted below. Before pressing play, choose a method for responding and make sure students are prepared (tech set up; physical materials ready). Consider any or some mix of the following:

  • Individual Quick Writes
  • In a pair or small group turn-and-talk, perhaps using Zoom breakout rooms if in a distance learning environment
  • Using a tech tool like Socractive or Peardeck to share all written responses

Episode Sequence & Notes:

  1. From 04:52-05:03 the video will pause and the screen will display the question: “What do you think their argument was for why Elizabeth should be free?” Pause at 05:03. (NOTE: If you are having students view the video asynchronous- ly, make sure to clearly tell them when to pause and how you want them to engage with the Reflection questions.)
  2. Students should think/write and/or discuss the question during this time using a tool above; feel free to give students more or less time depending on your read of the room. Circulate amongst students to facilitate conversation
  3. Ask one or two volunteers to share their thoughts with the group.
  4. Continue playing the episode.
  5. From 06:57-07:14 the video will pause and the screen will display the questions: “How do you think Elizabeth felt when she was free, and then not free, and free again? AND How do you think Virginia lawmakers will respond to the ruling?”
  6. Pause at 07:14 (See note in # 1). Educators should circulate amongst students to ensure that students understand what they should be writing about.
  7. Ask one or two volunteers to share their thoughts with the group.
  8. Continue playing the episode
  9. At the end of the episode, students will be asked to respond to the following prompts:
    1. Reflect on the ways that Virginia changed their laws. In what ways did these changes empower some people at the expense of others?
    2. Where in this story do we see the intersections of race and gender and what is happening at those intersections?
  10. Give students a few minutes to quickly respond (in writing or in small conversation groups) and then ask for one or two or a few more to share.