History comes alive as students learn firsthand while fully engaging in the play “” on the Viewpoints in America Talk Show. This play depicts a live television talk show commemorating four hundred years of African American perseverance (1619 – 2019) by looking at slavery and its impact on America. In addition, cast members of diverse cultures and occupations share perspectives during a panel discussion. The discussion includes legislation that affected the lives of enslaved people, the role slavery played in the development of the United States, and how its legacy still affects us today. Students also learn history by taking a visual tour via a 54 – slides PowerPoint presentation embedded throughout the play.
As students learn about the history of slavery in this play, they engage in conversations about the meaning and value of freedom. They analyze how power organizes our past and present. They learn about identity, diversity, culture, time, change, citizenship, conflict, imperialism, and capitalism. Students learn history is not about the past but about the present and how we function in the present. When students understand that slavery is central to the history of the United States, current conflicts and debates about race in this country will have real meaning to them. They understand that today’s problems stem from root causes dating back to 1607. Students also understand why there are racial disparities and divides. These are not a function of the last 50 years or hundred years. They are a function of hundreds of years.
Use this highly adaptable resource to supplement, reinforce, and teach concepts on slavery in America. Best suited for grades 5 -12, this resource leaves many open options that allow you to adapt it to fit the needs of your class or community group. Characters bear no specific race or gender assignments to allow greater flexibility in setting cast members.
● Engage in conversations about the meaning and value of freedom.
● Analyze how power organizes our past and present and what it means to have power, and identify ways people use power to help, harm, and influence situations.
● Learn that the multidimensional history of slavery is a fundamental part of United States history, and its continuing consequences are central to understanding American history.
● Develop critical thinking skills by analyzing essential concepts of slavery.
● Discuss current injustices―particularly those that continue to disenfranchise and oppress the descendants of enslaved people―and possibilities for activism and reform.
1. Slavery, which Europeans practiced before they arrived in the Americas, was essential to all colonial powers and existed in all European North American colonies.
2. Slavery and the slave trade were central to the development and growth of the economy across British North America and, later, the United States.
3. Protections for slavery were embedded in the founding documents; enslavers dominated the federal government, Supreme Court and Senate from 1787 through 1860.
4. Slavery was an institution of power designed to create profit for the enslavers and break the will of the enslaved and was a relentless quest for profit abetted by racism.
5. Enslaved people resisted the efforts of their enslavers to reduce them to commodities in both revolutionary and everyday ways.
6. Slavery was the central cause of the Civil War.
7. Slavery shaped the fundamental beliefs of Americans about race and whiteness, and white supremacy was both a product and legacy of slavery.
8. Enslaved and free people of African descent profoundly impacted American culture, producing leaders and literary, artistic, and folk traditions that continue to influence the nation.
Suggested Grade Levels: 5 -12 (Includes adaptable lessons to accommodate diverse student groups)
Suggested duration: 1 – 2 class periods
II. Resources Provided
Included are the following resources in word and pdf format.
- Play Scripts (cast members, director’s, and technician’s copies)
- Fifty-four Slides Resource PowerPoint (navigates the play)
- Student Follow-up Discussion Questions (Worksheet and Possible Solutions)
- Teacher Implementation Guide