Purest Sons—Connections, Echoes, and Projections

Connections, Echoes, and Projections: “Purest Sons”

(25-45 minutes if providing examples, 60-90 minutes with student exploration,

multiple days with extension)

“Connections, Echoes, and Projections” extends the themes of the story presented in the Basic Plan to other events and into the future. These resources and activities help students see how we can use an understanding of the past to make sense of more recent events and imagine a different future.

NOTES TO EDUCATOR:

The following curriculum asks students to continue thinking about, discussing, and writing about slavery. It also includes resources that discuss the brutal history of racial violence targeting African Americans in the United States in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Please be sure to remind students of the respect and rigor required to study this history. This is hard history, but it is necessary history to study.

OBJECTIVES:

  • Apply learnings about the connections between Tadeusz Kosciuszko, Agrippa Hull, and Thomas Jefferson to other historical, local, regional, and global players who worked towards liberty and justice.
  • Interact with and make connections between other historical moments where the ideals and established laws of the United States failed non-white Americans
  • Assess how learning about our interconnected past paves a way for a more just future; students will plan informed action based on these learnings.

LESSON PLAN:

Frame the activity: (Potential script)

Understanding the past helps us think differently about other events, and think differently about what we need to do to construct a different future. Specifically, the story of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, Agrippa Hull, and Thomas Jefferson raises questions about the stated vs. practiced ideals of the American Revolution and Founding Fathers. It raises questions about authentic allyship and joint resistance against racial injustice on political, social, and economic fronts. It asks us to consider the dominant and counter narratives of the Revolution, and pushes us to center the stories of those who were truly fighting for liberty and justice for all. To think about those bigger questions, we’re going to explore connections, or direct links to this event, and echoes, or different occurrences that have some similarities to what we studied. Then, we’ll explore projections by applying what we learned to our future actions.

Have students explore connections and echoes

(refer to “Situations and Starting Resources” below), recording key details and points of comparison/contrast. You may provide them with the whole list, or select ones that are most relevant to the questions you wish to explore. A starting resource for each scenario is provided. However, if your students have devices, they should do further independent research, perhaps beginning in any databases your library subscribes to. Suggestions for processing documents and sharing out are also included.

Situations & Starting Resources:

CONNECTIONS:

  • WWI and the Red Summers: Black soldiers signed up in mass to fight for the US in WWI, hoping to be treated differently / as equals when they returned. Instead, they faced a violent backlash.
  • Military Pension: Free and formerly enslaved Black women exercised their rights to compensation
    • National Archives article on Elizabeth Mason, widow of Thomas Mason (a Black soldier during the American Revolutionary War), describing her fight to receive a military widow’s pension, and ultimately being denied.
    • Royall House article on Belinda Sutton, a woman enslaved by the Royall estate, describing Sutton’s multiple petitions requesting her pension from the Royall’s estate:
  • Her first petition
  • Interpretations of her first petition
  • History.com article on how, like Elizabeth Mason’s denied pension, a million Black WWII veterans were denied access to the GI Bill
  • The Monticello Exhibit highlights descendents of the people enslaved at Monticello as they reflect on their ancestors’ legacies. The exhibit also provides an extensive look at everyday life in Monticello, complete with artifacts.
  • Self-Evident module, titled “Can There Ever Be Justice on Stolen Land?” provides connections between Indigenous Americans//Black Americans experiences and struggles for equal rights and justice in the US.

ECHOES:

  • Monuments, Memorials, and Commemoration: Who and how we choose to remember remains important.
    • ​​Courier Post article on Oliver Cromwell, a Black Revolutionary War soldier who fought for equality and liberty
    • NPR article on the recently unveiled statue of Elizabeth Mumbet Freeman
    • Monument Lab is a Philly-based organization that conducts critical conversations about our country’s monuments and their changing future.
    • Washington Post article on Harriet Tubman replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill
  • Inquiry: Tubman’s inclusion on American currency may strike some as antithetical to Tubman’s values and the type of liberation she fought for. Are there limitations to how we can commemorate our ancestors? What should be taken into consideration when seeking to honor freedom fighters?
  • Enlightenment Ideals?: There were other Enlightenment figures who applied Enlightenment ideas more radically than Jefferson.
    • JSTOR article (focus on pages 244-246, access through school / library) on Benjamin Rush, who wrote An Address to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies in America upon Slave-Keeping that dismantled pro-slavery arguments with facts. He was a Quaker and contemporary of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.
    • Self-Evident module on Benjamin Banneker, an astronomer, scientist, author, and thinker who wrote to Thomas Jefferson to advocate for the abolition of slavery
    • Timeline on Abolition and Anti-Slavery from the colonial era until the 2009.
    • Inquiry: What were the philosophical failures of the American Enlightenment? What were some of the Enlightenment’s leading ideas and how did some of those main ideas align with, or get used by, anti-abolitionist figures?

Processing:

Students should be recording key details and points of comparison / contrast as they engage with the resources. Consider:

  • Structure:
    • A who/what/where/when/why table for basic facts, or a Venn diagram for comparing/contrasting the various advocates for racial justice (and the conditions of racial justice) over time
    • Asking for a 4-3-2-1: 4 facts, 3 differences, 2 similarities, and 1 question
  • Format:
    • A handout or individual document
    • Having students do this on chart paper to facilitate a gallery walk
    • Having a class slide show where each topic has its own slide

Optional share out:

If students looked at different examples, share findings through a gallery walk or mini-presentations.

1. Discuss findings in small groups or as a class:

  • What similarities do you see? What differences do you see?
  • What context or details help explain these differences?
  • How does knowing about the story between Kosciuszko, Hull, Jefferson, and the failings of the American Revolution help you understand the connections and echoes? How does knowing about the connections and echoes help you understand Kosciuszko, Hull, Jefferson, and the American Revolution differently?
  • What do these examples together teach us about race, equity, and the efforts to address injustices today?

2. Apply to Projections:

  • Frame the transition: “We need to use history to re-imagine what our society can be and create a better future.
  • Ask: “How can we use what we’ve learned about the past to make the future more just?” If students struggle, break it down depending on what example you explored:
    • What does an abolitionist mindset look like today? Are we still in the act of abolishing slavery and its legacy? What is that legacy?
    • What is the impact of the inhumane institution of slavery on the enslaver? For example, what did the Founding Fathers forego about their humanity when they enslaved their fellow human?
  • Quote for context: pg 241, second paragraph
  • Through understanding the past and experiencing the present, what new futures can we build towards, that take racial justice and equality as the foundation? What new political, social, and economic systems may emerge as a result? What cultures and behaviors might we see? What is possible?

PROJECTIONS:

  • Smithsonian article on W.E.B DuBois’s trailblazing infographics that sought to convey, through visual data, snapshots of racism
    • What are we capable of accomplishing if we take alternate routes to understanding and seeing racism?
  • Center for Story-based Strategy is an organization that centers storytelling as a tool for social transformation.
  • Afro-futurism
    • Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (NPR Throughline episode on Octavia Butler’s work)
    • Black Panther and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Extension:

  • Make a more focused plan to use learnings to address an injustice. This could become the basis for an in-depth informed civic action project.