Fort Monroe 1860 map
LE Acts of Resistance
STUDENT PAGE Acts of Resistance
Acts of Resistance
In this learning experience, the students will analyze multiple primary source documents as well as secondary information sources to understand this watershed event in Virginia and US History. The three men who will be studied in this experience ran away from their slave-holding captors and made their way to Fort Monroe. Upon arrival, military leadership at the fort claimed that the run-aways were enemy contraband and therefore could be confiscated by the Union forces. They were declared free through this war-time loophole and when the news spread, many other African Americans would soon start coming to Fort Monroe to claim their freedom as well. Students begin by examining the records of enslaved people who ran away “to the enemy” (Union forces). Finally, students will use a Cost/Benefit analysis chart to guide their analysis of secondary information sources and develop an understanding of the concepts of resistance and a working knowledge of the event of Mallory, Baker, and Townsend sparking one of the first blows to the system of slavery.
Virginia Studies/ 4th-5th Grade
Authors: Christopher Mathews (Norfolk Public Schools), Name (Museum / Organization)
Task Overview: In this learning experience, the students will analyze multiple primary source documents as well as secondary information sources to understand this watershed event in Virginia and US History. The three men who will be studied in this experience ran away from their slave-holding captors and made their way to Fort Monroe. Upon arrival, military leadership at the fort claimed that the run-aways were enemy contraband and therefore could be confiscated by the Union forces. They were declared free through this war-time loophole and when the news spread, many other African Americans would soon start coming to Fort Monroe to claim their freedom as well. Students begin by examining the records of enslaved people who ran away “to the enemy” (Union forces). Finally, students will use a Cost/Benefit analysis chart to guide their analysis of secondary information sources and develop an understanding of the concepts of resistance and a working knowledge of the event of Mallory, Baker, and Townsend sparking one of the first blows to the system of slavery.
Targeted SOLs: VS.7b - The student will demonstrate an understanding of the issues that divided our nation and led to the Civil War by b) describing Virginia’s role in the war, including identifying major Civil War Events in Virginia.
VS.7b - Major Civil War Events in Virginia: The Confederates were using slaves to help them in the war effort. Three men (Shepard Mallory, James Baker, and Frank Townsend) refused and escaped to Fort Monroe, this led to the Contraband decision, which led to tens of thousands of enslaved people to seek refuge with the Union Army.
5.A Enslaved people wanted to escape to freedom. Although it was very difficult and largely impossible, some did manage to escape.
5.B Laws, including the U.S. Constitution, made slavery legal and escaping illegal. Enslaved people were often hunted and returned to slavery.
5.D Enslaved people resisted slavery to try and obtain some freedom in the midst of their enslavement. Resistance took many forms, ranging from everyday actions like slowing down work to armed rebellion.
VS.1a - Analyze and interpret artifacts, primary/secondary sources to understand events in Virginia history.
VS.1h - Use a decision-making model to identify costs and benefits of a specific choice made
Driving Historical Question
For enslaved peoples, were the risks or potential costs of resisting their oppression worth the benefits of freedom?
Students will view a modern-day photo depicting a protestor holding signage that reads “RESIST.” The teacher will lead students in a brief inquiry discussion about the meaning of the word “resist.” The teacher will then ask students to brainstorm different methods of resistance that enslaved peoples employed. Students who are unsure of examples should make inferences.
Students will view the primary source “Richmond County: Record of Slaves that Have Escaped to the Enemy During the War.” The students will use the National Archives Written Document Analysis Tool to analyze the document.
Check for Understanding: Students will report their findings and answer the question, “Based on this document, what method of resistance were these enslaved people using?”
Students will then watch the following video in which a historian visits Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton, Virginia to talk about the fort’s history, including the arrival of Shepard Mallory, James Baker, and Frank Townsend and the ensuing Contraband Acts.
Students will be divided into small groups. Each student group will be provided a different Acts of Resistance excerpt (see attached slide show) from an adapted article in the Daily Press. Students will use the Cost/Benefit Analysis tool (attached) to guide their reading of the text, recording evidence of the costs or risks of the escape plan and the benefits according to the excerpt.
Summary of Excerpts:
Excerpt 1: Introduces James Baker, Frank Townsend, and Shepherd Mallory and describes their act of resistance. Includes primary source maps (1860 and current) depicting the distance these men would have needed to travel by rowboat from Norfolk, Virginia to Hampton, Virginia.
Excerpt 2: Describes General Butler’s decision to provide asylum for the self-emancipated men. Provides details on how this signaled to other enslaved peoples that Fort Monroe could be a refuge. Includes primary source political cartoon of Gen. Butler defending a self-emancipated man from his former enslaver.
Excerpt 3: Details the first and second Confiscation Acts, which stripped slaveholders of their claims of ownership, prohibited the military from sending escaped people back into slavery, and decreed all slaves free who escaped to Union strongholds.
Includes primary source of a “contraband camp”.
Following the analysis, the teacher should facilitate a debrief of the experience and revisit the driving question: Were the costs/risks of escaping slavery worth the benefits of being free?
The teacher might consider using a modified version of “Philosophical Chairs,” a strategy for whole-group critical discussion (please note that this article is copyrighted and may not be edited).
Students will respond to the reflection questions independently. Students may share their responses to the reflection questions.
- Richmond County: Record of Slaves that Have Escaped to the Enemy During the War.
- National Archives Written Document Analysis Tool
- Freedom Fortress Video
- Daily Press Article (to be divided into 3 excerpts)
- Acts of Resistance: Excerpts slideshow (attached)
- Fort Monroe and Chesapeake Bay Primary Source Map
- Google Maps of Hampton Roads Military Bases
- Primary source of a “contraband camp”
- Primary source political cartoon of Gen. Butler
- Cost/Benefit Analysis Template (attached)
Directions: We have learned about many different examples of ways in which enslaved peoples resisted slavery. Sometimes, their attempts were met with disaster and tragedy. But other times, their attempts at resistance not only brought greater freedom to themselves, but sparked entire movements of freedom for many others who were enslaved. Today, you will examine photographs, maps, and primary source documents in order to understand one of the many ways in which enslaved peoples not only resisted their own oppression, but helped lead to the emancipation of others. We will examine the meaning of resistance, the cost and benefits of resistance, and the impact this resistance had on Virginians and many more.
- You and your group will work together to analyze these information sources. Remember, we are on this learning journey TOGETHER! Work as a team, be respectful of the thoughts and opinions of others, and disagree politely when necessary. (Examples: “I like how you _________. I had a slightly different idea.” “I see why you came to that conclusion. In this piece of evidence, I found that ______.)
- For each excerpt, you and your teammates will first read the passage silently. If you have questions or don’t understand something that you’ve read, highlight it or make a note so that you can ask your teammates what they think.
- Then, work together to look for evidence of the COST of the action (What is a possible negative consequence that could happen because of this action?) and evidence of the BENEFIT of the action (What will the person or people gain because of this action?) Record your findings in your Cost/Benefit Analysis chart.
- With each excerpt, there are additional sources. You and your teammates should view these sources and make observations and inferences about what you see or read. Do these sources support (agree with, give evidence for) your recorded Costs and Benefits? You may add more costs/benefits or revise your original responses as you see fit!
- Once you have finished your analysis discussion and response, take time to independently think about and answer the reflection questions. Once you and your teammates have finished responding, you may share your responses with one another. Remember to do everything you can to make your teammates feel that their contributions to the discussion are valuable. It’s okay if you have a different opinion or thought. Be mindful of your words and tone when you are communicating your ideas or disagreements (it’s okay! We all get a little excited when we’re talking about big ideas!).
By the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Collaborative, 2021