Magazine article Social Studies Review

No Rest for the Weary: The Modern Anti-Slavery Movement in the United States

Magazine article Social Studies Review

No Rest for the Weary: The Modern Anti-Slavery Movement in the United States

Article excerpt

RATIONALE

Teaching about controversial topics is an effective way to create enthusiasm and interest about important social issues. This article addresses teaching and learning about the modern Anti-Slavery Movement in the United States. In the middle grades (5-8), students learn about United States history and the enslavement of African-Americans. The history of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction are included in the Social Studies curriculum. The term "slavery" recalls the oppression of African American slaves and their struggle for freedom against bondage. Slavery is now considered a relic of the past, a method used a long time ago, to obtain an inexpensive labor force.

However, a topic that is not included in the curriculum, but is a significant social issue today, is the modern Anti-Slavery Movement. Few people know about it, but learning about this current advocacy movement is interesting and provocative, and it will provide opportunities for authentic instructional activities and service learning projects. The Anti-Slavery Movement can be compared and contrasted with the historical movement to abolish African-American slavery in the United States. History may become more important and meaningful to students as they learn about the modern Anti-Slavery Movement. Students will discover how they can make choices that can influence whether or not people are enslaved worldwide.

This article includes an introduction, a summary of the Abolitionist Movement, an overview of the Modern Anti-Slavery Movement in the United States, suggestions for how students can become advocates for Modern Day Slaves, Service Learning Projects for K-12 Students, Suggestions for Activities, Resources, a Bibliography, and Web sites. The content and instructional activities complement the California History-Social Science Standards 5.4.6, 5.6.7 and 8.9.

INTRODUCTION

Slavery in the United States is usually identified as the historical enslavement and bondage of AfricanAmericans. The trans-Atlantic slave trade in Africans was first introduced to the English colonies in 1630. Slavery ended for African-Americans in the southern states with the Thirteen Amendment to the Constitution of 1865. Slavery is viewed as a terrible institution that unfortunately existed during a distant period of United States history, an unpleasant and embarrassing time. It is acknowledged that many Americans and their leaders were unkind and insensitive to the lives, liberty and happiness of the slave population. The ideals presented in the Bill of Rights have been compared to the inhumane treatment of African Americans slaves. It is generally believed that slavery and the abuses that accompanied it no longer exist in the United States today.

When studying slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the causes and consequences of the decisions that were made by people in the past are examined within specific contexts. A litany of social injustices concerning slavery is often acknowledged, but the indefensible behavior and selfish decisions made by others for two hundred years is rationalized. By remembering the past, it is generally believed that such terrible and inhumane actions will never happen again in the future.

In the classroom, the historical, social, economic and political conditions and the attitudes about the value of diverse groups of people that allowed slavery to thrive are often analyzed. The realization that the wealth of the United States was founded on slave labor is reluctantly acknowledged. Relief is felt from the reassurance that this was a difficult time in the past, but certainly could not be repeated. The assumption is made that our society is now kinder and more just. Such dreadful institutions, policies and behavior could not possibly weave themselves once again into our national consciousness.

There is an underlying belief that citizens are enlightened and sensitive to the rights of others and everyone is free to pursue their dreams in the United States. …

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