Youth examine the horrors of chattel slavery

harriet-tubman-escaping-with-slavesIn most schools and programs throughout the Twin Cities and throughout America, students are not taught about the tremendous sacrifices that African Americans have made for the development of the United States.

slave-quarter-sceneFrom June to August, children at WE WIN Institute learned about the tragedies of chattel slavery for African people. They learned how millions of Africans were stolen from their homeland and were packed like sardines in a treacherous boat; the majority of Africans did not survive the three-month trip. Once in America, the children learned, Africans went through another nightmare by having to work from sun up to sunset in the fields, which included picking cotton, rice, tobacco, and indigo. African people worked for 250 years for no pay. The children learned that through the labor of African people that the United States was able to be the rich and powerful country that it is today.

masters-houseStudents also learned about the courageous sacrifices of Harriet Tubman. She was a small and bodacious woman who was born in slavery. She refused to live under an unjust system that treated her and her people like animals. When Harriet was very young, she was hit in the head by the slave master because she refused to beat a runaway slave with a whip. The hit caused her to have blackouts. She never knew when the black outs would occur, but she knew she had to be free. Harriet first freed herself, and then she went back to the south 19 times and helped freed over 300 enslaved Africans to freedom in the north.

slave-quarter2cotton-fieldsAfter the children studied slavery and Harriet Tubman, they worked in groups and created dioramas, three-dimensional miniature scenes. The only instruction they received on the diorama was that they had to create a scene based on something they learned this summer. The groups had so much fun creating their panoramas. They used sticks, leaves, wallpaper, sand, paint, clay, markers and great imagination. After they finished their projects, the children presented their scenes to each other and explained what they meant. They listened intently to each other, supported each other and learned from each other.

In addition to African American children, the summer program included Somali, Eritrean, and Latino children. Everyone learned about American slavery and the incredible contributions of Harriet Tubman. They were educated on the importance of understanding the past in order to learn from it, and to create a brighter future. WE WIN Institute is an example how to teach students about their cultures and simultaneously strengthen their reading, writing and mathematical skills. Children have learned that when they work and learn together; WE WIN!

August 16, 2013
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