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Catalog Archive / Fall 2015

Understanding and Teaching American Slavery
Foreword by Ira Berlin

Understanding and Teaching American Slavery
Edited by Bethany Jay and Cynthia Lynn Lyerly
Foreword by Ira Berlin

The Harvey Goldberg Series for Understanding and Teaching History
John Day Tully, Matthew Masur, and Brad Austin, Series Editors

“Many instructors find the subject of slavery intimidating. This volume provides them with the necessary background content, as well as effective and interesting sources and methods, for engaging students and steering them away from common misperceptions.”
—Roy E. Finkenbine, author of Sources of the African-American Past

Perhaps no topic in U.S. history is as emotionally fraught as the nation’s centuries-long entanglement with slavery. How can teachers get students to understand the racist underpinnings of that institution—and to acknowledge its legacies in contemporary America? How can they overcome students’ shame, anger, guilt, or denial? How can they incorporate into the classroom important primary sources that may contain obsolete and racist terms, images, and ideas? This book, designed for college and high school teachers, is a critical resource for understanding and teaching this challenging topic in all its complexity.

Opening with Ira Berlin’s reflections on ten elements that are essential to include in any course on this topic, Understanding and Teaching American Slavery offers practical advice for teaching specific content, utilizing sources, and getting students to think critically. Contributors address, among other topics, slavery and the nation’s founders, the diverse experiences of the enslaved, slavery’s role in the Civil War, and the relationship between slavery and the northern economy. Other chapters offer ideas for teaching through slave narratives, runaway ads, spirituals, films, and material culture. Taken together, the essays in the volume help instructors tackle problems, discover opportunities, and guide students in grappling with the ugliest truths of America’s past.


Supplementary Materials

Click here to view a pdf of the table of contents.



Author. Photo credit, Name Bethany Jay is an associate professor of history at Salem State University.


Author. Photo credit, Name Cynthia Lynn Lyerly is an associate professor of history at Boston College.





“Profoundly useful. . . . Although the variety and ingenuity of teaching methods presented here are exceptional, the contributors are even more effective at calling out the difficult realities educators have with teaching slavery—such as discussing the sensitive issue of race; identifying slavery as a national, not just a Southern, institution; and reconciling its cruelty with the growth of American politics and economics. . . . Accessible and relevant to any classroom at any level.”

“A book that has the potential to change the way that slavery is taught in American schools. It takes a comprehensive look at slavery across American history, offering dozens of concrete suggestions for teaching strategies and learning objects that could be used in all K-12 social studies classrooms.”
Education Week

“Every teacher should read this book and be reinvigorated in the task of presenting history accurately and thoroughly. Every citizen should read this book and be rededicated to the ideals of this society—equality and fairness.”
Foreword Reviews

“A substantial contribution. Appropriate for instructors at both the college and secondary school levels, this book provides ample background information and practical classroom activities along with advice on pedagogy.”
—Nicholas J. Aieta, recipient of the American Historical Association's Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award


Additional Resources

Listen to podcasts on Teaching Hard History, based on the book:

Download Cover: color | b/w

Download Bethany Jay Photo: color | b/w

Download Cynthia Lynn Lyerly Photo: b/w

Request Review Copy

Request Exam Copy


Of Related Interest

Understanding and Teaching U.S. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History

Understanding and Teaching U.S. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History
Edited by Leila J. Rupp and Susan K. Freeman

Understanding and Teaching the Vietnam War

Understanding and Teaching the Vietnam War
Edited by John Day Tully, Matthew Masur, and Brad Austin

Understanding and Teaching American Slavery cover. Larger images

February 2016
LC: 2015010259 E
340 pp.   6 x 9
10 b/w illus.

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Paper $34.95 A
ISBN 9780299306649
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