Thursday, May 15, 2014

Student Exhibits About Slavery

In my Race and Slavery class this term, I decided to try something new for their final projects. Rather than asking them write yet another paper (they did plenty of that), I tasked them with producing some kind of public exhibit about the history of slavery. They had to think about their audience and the goal of the exhibit. It had to combine textual and visual elements and incorporate different kinds of primary sources.

As anyone who has had to make a compelling Powerpoint for a lecture or talk knows, communicating historical content in a visually appealing way requires a deft balancing act. As a class exercise, I gave them 30 minutes to create an 3-5 panel exhibit about Thomas Jefferson and slavery based on a set of 6 primary sources. They discovered it was harder than it seemed.

The final project also built from conversations in the final weeks of the semester about representations of slavery today. We talked about slavery in film, at museums and historic sites, and in contemporary public life (for example, the recent Donald Sterling incident). I asked them to think about how you would want to communicate some of what you learned this semester to someone who might never take this type of class. 

Most of the class decided to focus on the slave narratives we read, though some followed their own research interests into projects that dealt with slave life and arts or slave marriage. The most popular medium was the Prezi, but I receive a Pecha Kucha presentation as a Powerpoint (with a companion script), an exhibition "booklet" for an imaginary museum exhibit on religion and slavery, and Glossi or digital magazine.  Some are still publicly available on the internet and I've gotten permission to share them with you. After all, their goal was to teach the public about slavery! Check them out --

Kaitlyn Brown, Slavery and Religion (Glossi)

Cassy Backes, Marriage in an Era of American Slavery, 1776-1865 (Prezi)

Mackenzie Honglso, A Life in Slavery (Prezi)

Trying out a new assignment can be scary for students and teacher alike. I was thrilled to see the degree of interest and creativity in these final projects. I'm definitely going to do this again!

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