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"How should we teach young kids about slavery?" Topic

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Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 5:15 a.m. PST


I very much agree with this analysis. I too use the Morgan book, though I wouldn't use it below the high school level.

All Sir Garnett20 Jul 2021 5:42 a.m. PST

It's very naughty, don't do it kids…

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian20 Jul 2021 6:05 a.m. PST

Roleplaying is apparently frowned on.

TimeCast Sponsoring Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 6:22 a.m. PST

Tell the truth and present the historical facts…

The real facts, all of them. Not just the one sided version of history claimed as "true" by those who wish to promote racial division and strife.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 6:28 a.m. PST

By putting it in to context with what was happen in the rest of the world. History is a web and not a straight line.

Straw Plaiter20 Jul 2021 6:49 a.m. PST

Tell the story of slavery throughout the world from the year dot. This BBC article will be of interest –

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 6:58 a.m. PST

I too use the Morgan book, though I wouldn't use it below the high school level.


Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 7:00 a.m. PST

Unfortunately, slavery, as an 'institution', as well as being immoral, cruel and oppressive, is part of US history and needs to be taught as such.

US history, warts and all, should be taught accurately and without pulling any punches.

skipper John20 Jul 2021 7:04 a.m. PST

Tell them Approximately 360,000 Union soldiers died to stop slavery, during the American Civil War.

Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 7:15 a.m. PST

And this has to do with miniature gaming…

Tgerritsen Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 7:29 a.m. PST

Tell the truth. The objective truth- and the whole truth. Slavery didn't start in the 17th century- it has been a part of human history since the first civilizations stumbled forward. It also wasn't uniquely American, it was a world wide institution that didn't end when the US finally abolished it (and isn't ended today).

History is a lot more complicated than 'this group evil, this group good.'

US Slavery was a horrific part of our past. I learned that in school nearly 50 years ago. I also learned both the political and economic reasons that it remained past its due date and about the people who worked, from early on, to end the practice. I learned that it wasn't universal within the United States. Some places banned it from the start, others hung on to it for far too long. It was also our past. Blaming the ancestors for the sins of their great, great, great grandfathers and mothers gets us nowhere.

The correct question should be 'Acknowledging that past, what do we do now about it?' Dividing into angry silos seems to be the answer, but that's not a very good one if we want to have a country and values we all share moving forward.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 7:41 a.m. PST

Kevin, the Morgan book is, in my view, too complex for elementary kids, and possibly for middle school. Younger students have trouble with conflicting interpretations. At the lower levels you want STORIES and also HEROES. Tell them right away about Harriet Tubman, but wait until they are older to discuss the fact that she feared betrayal by some of the slaves she was trying to liberate. Tell them about Phyllis Wheatley. Tell them about Robert Smalls.

Morgan's thesis is that SOMEBODY had to be unfree, and the Virginians preferred it be Africans rather than Englishmen. Black slavery produced white freedom. That kind of complexity, that sort of moral ambiguity, needs to be reserved for the older students.

Personal logo Murphy Sponsoring Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 7:48 a.m. PST

"Tell them Approximately 360,000 Union soldiers died to stop slavery, during the American Civil War."

Actually they died to preserve the Union. That whole "war to end slavery thing", didn't come up until 2 years into the war, and really wasn't followed up on until the war was over…

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 7:55 a.m. PST

Also, Kevin, you DEFINITELY want to wait until high school to do John Brown. Hero or villain? Liberator or terrorist? yes.

Thresher0120 Jul 2021 8:00 a.m. PST

Yep, tell the truth, and include that it was Southern Democrats that were the ones that supported secession from the USA, slavery, AND the Jim Crow laws, and that it was Republicans that were against it/them.

Let them know who rounded up and sold the slaves in Africa, and that slavery was a widespread institution in the world at the time.

Also educate them that the USA is one of the greatest countries on the planet, if not THE greatest, and that despite all of its flaws, it is still a great place to live, which is why MILLIONS are flocking over our borders in order to live here.

Inform them that slavery still exists in some regions of the world today, and that some, while technically "free" even in our country, are essentially "wage slaves" to the government even now, since they have to pay 50% or more in taxes and "fees" (a pseudonym for TAXES) to the government.

John Switzer Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 8:48 a.m. PST

+1 Murphy

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 8:56 a.m. PST

Slavery in all its forms across the world should be taught

Both historical and current – not to diminish but to fully shine the light of day on it and then grapple with stopping and atoning for it – not as any one nation but as a global people

A timeline covering slavery – more detailed modern – hits most of the high points – though interesting omissions like the 1873 closure of the last formal slave market in Zanzibar


Depending which group today – between 40 – 45 million people still live in slavery/forced labor – an article from Forbes looking at the higher end as well as locations



martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 8:56 a.m. PST

Shame this topic could not be aired on another forum?

I assume that it is intended to l cause argument, grand standing and opportunities to demonstrate "only I know and understand this topic".

How about a miniatures appropriate topic instead?


cavcrazy20 Jul 2021 8:59 a.m. PST

"Thank you Martin."

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 9:51 a.m. PST

My Irish ancestors came over during and after the Potato Famine. Since neither I nor any of my ancestors ever owned slaves, I don't care what's taught, as long as I'm off the hook personally. grin
I'm not going to wail and rend my clothing about what's being taught like some media buffoons do. Naming no names, but one's initials are appropriately B. S.

Eleve de Vauban Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 10:03 a.m. PST

Martin G – I also find myself wondering just what does this topic have to do with toy Soldiers?

USAFpilot Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 10:08 a.m. PST

Well obviously young children should be taught in a manner which is divisive and make them feel marginalized by the color of their skin, because as Dr. King didn't say "The content of your character is far less important than the color of your skin". Everyone is a victim and the government owes you because as JFK didn't say, "It's not what you can do for your country but what your country can do for you." And everyone should be taught they are victims and have no individual responsibility other than to comment on posts which they have no interest in commenting on except to take the time to say they have no interest in commenting on this subject which has nothing to do with toy soldiers. (Extreme sarcasm)

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 10:29 a.m. PST

This forum is for "For discussion of anything related to ACW miniature wargaming, including history."

The thread title is very clear what this is about. If it doesn't interest you, don't read it.

Brian Smaller20 Jul 2021 3:18 p.m. PST

For starters that slavery was not a white institution, but one that practically every culture on earth has had in their past and more than a few with it still in their present.

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 3:56 p.m. PST

We should teach about slavery truthfully. What does it have to do with wargaming? The American Civil War, a very popular period for gaming was fought among other reasons, to end slavery in this country.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 5:26 p.m. PST

…the Morgan book is, in my view, too complex for elementary kids, and possibly for middle school.

Having taught middle school for twenty years I firmly believe that any topic, complicated or not, can be taught to 7th and 8th graders.

I have not come across any middle or high school history text that is satisfactory in content or accuracy which is why I either taught without one for the students or bought a class set using a college-level text.

The system that I finally adopted for teaching history was to have the students construct their own texts using lecture, notes, and handouts in class. I found this idea in the post-1763 method used in the excellent French artillery schools.

I don't think that underestimating the abilities of students is in any way helpful.

How much of Morgan's book discusses slavery in the US from 1763-1865 and how much from 1619-1762?

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 6:00 p.m. PST

It is basically a history of colonial Virginia, especially the 17th century. The emphasis is on indentured labor versus slavery, as one gradually (and then fairly quickly after Bacon's Rebellion) supplanted the other.

I do broadly agree with you thta challenging material can and should be taught as early as possible, which can be done if it is broken into small chunks and students are given plenty of help. I've done Plato and Aristotle with 9th graders, with some success. But there are real differences in what works from elementary to high school.

And I agree with you about the unsatisfactory nature of textbooks.

donlowry20 Jul 2021 6:04 p.m. PST

However you teach it, don't forget to include the fact that we, today, are not responsible for what our ancestor did years ago -- in fact, THEY are responsible for US.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 7:30 p.m. PST

I like this, doc, and generally agree. As a kid I learned about the heroes first. It gave me pride in my country. Later, I began to understand some of the issues. It was hard, but it made America seem more real, flaws and all.

Every time we discuss this topic, people point out that there was slavery in other countries, slavery throughout human history, etc. Why? We are talking about what happened here.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 7:47 p.m. PST

Tort, yes and no. Some folks seem to be trying to say that America is uniquely bad -- so having a broader perspective refutes that. I myself believe America is uniquely good -- but hardly perfect. And facing up to flaws and mistakes honestly is part of our goodness.

Personal logo Dan Cyr Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 8:16 p.m. PST

I don't see folks trying to say the US is bad, but rather that there has been history deliberately hidden, lost or altered to favor one side or the other's wishes.

As to asking the question as to why it should matter to whites today, the fact that we have a slanted society that favors one race over others would seem to indicate that there is plenty to work out yet.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2021 9:03 p.m. PST

Dan, I am not asking why it matters, but why so many references here to other countries and eras re slavery. Doc has made a good point. But the fact that we were founded on such high ideals makes our slavery story different than other countries in my mind. And we have not always been truthful with ourselves.
All men are created equal. We have struggled to deliver on this and yes, plenty of work to do. But this country has the foundation that can deliver and that is our unique strength on this.

Trajanus21 Jul 2021 3:55 a.m. PST

For starters that slavery was not a white institution,

Unfortunately, on the landmass that became the United States of America and during the years 1861 1865 it most certainly was!

Not to mention that the North Atlantic Trade was organised and profited from by countries who's populations and Governments were white also.

Please spare us the detail that Black Tribes sold Black people into slavery. I don't doubt that happened in some cases but if the Trade hadn't existed there would have been no market and no capability to create one.

Finally, yes slavery pre dates the Atlantic Trade but nowhere did it achieve the specialisation, size and duration, involving a specific racial group at the hands of another, when there had been no war or conquest involved with those enslaved.

Trajanus21 Jul 2021 4:04 a.m. PST

And we have not always been truthful with ourselves.
All men are created equal.We have struggled to deliver on this and yes, plenty of work to do. But this country has the foundation that can deliver and that is our unique strength on this.

I would suggest that a "foundation" that included adopting a Constitution written and signed of by a body that included Slave Holders, wasn't necessarily the best place to start. Neither was the expedient choice not to challenge slavery in order to get the whole enterprise of the ground in the first place.

However, that cannot be undone. What matters now is tackling the issues in a manner that addresses the age old perception that for one group to progress another must, by definition, suffer.

Mr Elmo21 Jul 2021 4:45 a.m. PST

It should start with ancient slavery, an examination of use of labor, etc

The New World needed labor, various kingdoms in Africa were willing to sell slaves, etc.

The Southern States saw the writing on the wall and realized it was only a matter of time before there were enough free states to change the constitution.

In the 1860 election, Lincoln won because the Democrats had a split ticket over the hard core and more moderate pro slavery candidate.

The South seceded over the right to maintain slavery in true Federalist fashion. They only had to "not lose" but it was hard to maintain troops on home ground. To not lose quicker, they basically had to do what they were against: forced conscription, strong central government, arming negros, etc.

After the war, Democrat continued with segregation and other things to keep blacks "in their place"

So, slavery has become the original sin of America even though "we fight over an offense we did not give against people who were not alive to be offended."

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP21 Jul 2021 4:46 a.m. PST

Politics is the art of the possible. It is unhistorical, and also unjust, to expect our forefathers to have had the same sensibilities we have, when it was THEIR efforts and achievements that got us here. It is also easy, costing nothing, to condemn an evil that others have already eliminated.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP21 Jul 2021 6:51 a.m. PST

Trajanus, I think the men who wrote and signed the founding documents might be flawed, but that does not change the words or the intent of their work. What system would we want in their place? Principled but flexible, the Constitution remains one of the great achievements in history. We might struggle with it, but it is our best hope.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP21 Jul 2021 6:56 a.m. PST

Mr. Elmo, you make a great point. I believe The South rebelled against the federal government, but almost immediately created a strong central government to fight the war, adopting broad powers over its states. The state's rights issue seems ironic to me as a cause of the war in this light.

Trajanus21 Jul 2021 7:31 a.m. PST

The South rebelled against the federal government, but almost immediately created a strong central government to fight the war, adopting broad powers over its states.

So presumably that's why Jefferson Davis spent nearly as much of his time corralling States representatives as he did prosecuting the War!

Governor Joseph E. Brown I'm talking to you! (and others)

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP21 Jul 2021 8:28 a.m. PST

I would suggest that a "foundation" that included adopting a Constitution written and signed of by a body that included Slave Holders, wasn't necessarily the best place to start. Neither was the expedient choice not to challenge slavery in order to get the whole enterprise of the ground in the first place.

So, where would be the 'best place to start?' Stay as divided colonies under the British Crown? I don't think so.

And the issue before the Continental Congress was independence. Most of the Founders, while compromising on slavery, knew that issue would come to a head later, as it did. And the issue was bloodily solved.

And the Revolution was not fought over slavery or anything else but independence.

One of the basic principles of American constitutional government is the art of compromise-a fact that is usually overlooked or ignored.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP21 Jul 2021 8:35 a.m. PST

Kevin, yes, I agree with all of that.

Trajanus, yes, and that is one of the reasons my old professor Frank Vandiver always said that the Old South was doomed even if the Confedercy had secured its independence. The requirements necessary to fight a modern war (including a strong centrral government, as well as industrialization) meant the plantation and states rights society would break down. Some things are so fragile that the effort to defend them destroys them.

14Bore21 Jul 2021 3:28 p.m. PST

A throughout reading of Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson would clear up any misconceptions how slavery ended and when.
One of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's trilogy Gulag Archipelago will show slavery isn't always a race issue.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2021 3:42 a.m. PST

The following has been posted before on different threads, but it is reposted as a reminder.

From The Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson:

'The greatest danger to American survival at midcentury, however, was neither class tension nor ethnic divisioin. Rather it was sectional conflict over the future of slavery.'-7.

'To many Americans, human bondage seemed incompatible with the founding ideals of the republic. If all men were created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights including liberty and the pursuit of happiness, what could justify the enslavement of several millions of these men (and women)? The generation that fought the Revolution abolished slavery in states north of the Mason-Dixon line; the new states north of the Ohio River came into the Union without bondage. South of those boundaries, however, slavery became essential to the region's economy and culture.'-7-8.

'By midcentury this antislavery movement had gone into politics and had begun to polarize the country. Slaveholders did not consider themselves egregious sinners. And they managed to convince most non-slaveholding whites in the South (two-thirds of the white population there) that emancipation would produce economic ruin, social chaos, and racial war. Slavery was not the evil that Yankee fanatics portrayed; it was a positive good, the basis of prosperity, peace, and white supremacy, a necessity to prevent blacks from degenerating into barbarism, crime, and poverty..-8.

The Second Great Awakening of the first third of the 19th century, a 'wave of Protestant revivals' produced abolitionism, and proclaimed that 'the most heinous social sin was slavery.'-8.

'…there is not a respectable system of civilization known to hisotry whose foundations were not laid in the institution of domestic slavery.'-Senator Robert Hunter of Virginia.

'Instead of an evil,' the institution of slavery was 'a positive good…the most safe and stable basis for free institutions in the world.'-John C Calhoun.

The investment cycle of the southern economy was described by a northerner, as noted by Sir Charles Lyell in his two-volume study in 1846, Second Visit to the United States, 'To sell cotton in order to buy negroes-to make more cotton to buy more negroes, 'ad infinitum' is the aim and direct tendency of all the operations of the thorough going cotton planter.'

Regarding the outlawing of the slave trade by the United States in 1807 and those who wanted to reestablish the slave trade believed as stated by three interesting southern opinions:
'…we are entitled to demand the opening of this trade from an industrial, political, and constitutional consideration…with cheap negroes we could set the hostile legislation of Congress at defiance. The slave population after supplying the states would overflow into the territories, and nothing could control the natural expansion.'-a delegate to the 1856 commercial convention.'

'Slavery is right, and being right there can be no wrong in the natural means of its formation.'-a delegate to the 1858 convention.

'If it is right to buy slaves in Virginia and carry them to New Orleans, why is it not right to buy them in Africa and carry them there?'-William Yancey.

From the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave by Himself, pages vii-viii.

'What is slavery?'

'Why am I a slave?'

'Why are some people slaves, and others masters?

'Was there ever a time when this was not so?'

'How did this relationship commence?

'Was color the basis of slavery?'

'I knew of blacks who were not slaves; I knew of whites who were not slaveholders; and I knew of persons who were nearly white, who were slaves. Color, therefore, was a very unsatisfactory basis for slavery.'

'It was not color, but crime, not God, but man, that afforded the true explanation of the existence of slavery; nor was I long in finding out another important truth, viz: what man can make, man can unmake. The appalling darkness faded away, and I was master of the subject.'

'We owe something to the slave south of the line as well as to those north of it; and in aiding the latter on their way to freedom, we should be careful to do nothing which would be likely to hinder the former from escaping from slavery.'

On page x, Douglass describes the character and actions of a slave overseer:

'Mr Gore was proud, ambitious, and persevering. He was artful, cruel, and obdurate. He was just the man for such a place, and it was just the place for such a man. It afforded scope for the full exercise of all his powers, and he seemed to be perfectly at home in it…No matter how innocent a slave might be it availed him nothing when accused by Mr Gore of any misdeneanor. To be accused was to be convicted, and to be convicted was to be punished; the one always followed the other with immutable certainty.'

'Mr Gore was a grave man, and though a young man he indulged in nor jokes, said no funny words, seldom smiled. His words were in perfect keeping with his looks, and his looks were in perfect keeping with his words…He was in word a man of the most inflexible firmness and stone-like coolness. His savage barbarity was equaled only by the consummate coolness with which he committed the grossest and most savage deeds upon the slaves under his charge.'

Frederick Douglass on Christianity, page xi-xii:

'What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference-so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be friend of the one is of necessity to be the enemy of the other.'

'I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling this religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels.'

'We have men-stealers for ministers, woman-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin-a vicious form of whip-during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus…He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me…Here we have religion, and robbery the allies of each other-devils dressed in angels' robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.

The hypocrisy described by Frederick Douglass is not a one-off, but an attempt by the slaveholding South to justify the 'peculiar institution' and its inherent cruelty and moral turpitude.

From the Introduction to Frederick Douglass' narrative by Peter Gomes, x-xi:

'This chilling portrait, and the account of the barbarities committed by Mr Gore in the discharge of his duty, reads like an account of Holocaust survivors describing the demeanor and conduct of the Nazi captors in the concentration camps of the Third Reich. It had the same effect, serving to strip the veil of Southern sanctimony from the atrocities of a system maintained in the name of Christian civilization, which benefitted from the lack of exposure to the moral scrutiny of the world. Only in one significant respect do slave narratives such as Douglass' differ from those of Nazi concentration camp survivors: the survivors of Auschwitz, Dachau, and Ravensbrook speak in the retrospective horror of the liberation of those places of death. Douglass and the other ex-slave narrators speak of a system still in full and unchallenged vigor. They were not writing as historians but as witnesses, and not merely of the past but of the present. It is this existential reality that gives the Narrative of Frederick Douglass such uncompromising power and authority.'

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2021 9:07 a.m. PST

Okay, Kevin, but how much of thta would you use with a class of third graders? Not much, I hope!

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2021 10:12 a.m. PST

Always great to hear from Douglass, but I have to agree with doc. I think grade school kids should experience history in a way that is not too complex, more straightforward but balanced, more like a cool narrative story, some good, some bad. Kid sized portions. It should be fun but still serious when it needs to be. . And especially it should leave them wanting more. Teaching history with great storytelling is how I would go.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2021 10:17 a.m. PST

…how much of thta would you use with a class of third graders?

Since I was not a elementary school teacher the question to me is irrelevant. I taught high school and middle school and the material was used for middle school US history. The students I taught US history to (8th Grade) were more than able to understand what I posted above. And since I used it in class, they did quite well.

Underestimating the ability of teenagers to understand is self-defeating, or as we used to say 'dumbing down.'

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2021 10:33 a.m. PST

Okay, but the question was about third graders. You may not have taught them, but they DO exist, and SOMEONE has to teach them. I don't consider teenagers "young kids", which is the original question. And I agree with you about not dumbing down, but still, the STORY is the thing.

Personal logo doc mcb Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2021 10:36 a.m. PST

The thing about stories, besides equipping the imagination, is that they are easy to remember. No one forgets just part of a good story. The various elements are all necessary, and if you remember it at all, you mostly remember it ALL.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2021 12:45 p.m. PST

The hardest part for too many would be to start to tell the honest truth.
Put it in context.
Put it in perspective as to the impact, numbers etc. of slavers. Avoid generalizations. Do not hide or twist anything.
Compare to the rest of the world around the same time and before. How it evolved, where and why.
Warn about those today who instrumenailize it for other purposes.

(Find someone who could do a few in 18mm for my AWi southern atmosphere.)

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2021 2:36 p.m. PST

I thought the questions was about elementary school kids.

Even so, I think it is relevant to teachers at all levels. The groundwork for success in school starts in preschool, where storytelling and reading to kids is supposed to be an integral part of the curriculum. These kids grow up to have more success as learners. In fact it has been shown to make a major difference. But schools sometimes struggle with presenting info to kids at developmentally appropriate levels in the early grades.

I think this is what doc is talking about – not dumbing down the curriculum but making it accessible, showing relevance, and making it more interesting for young learners in early learning development stages.

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