The School of Bloggers took a field trip yesterday to the new exhibit at the New York Historical Society on Slavery and the Civil War in N.Y.C. I was kicking myself the whole time that I didn’t take the eighth graders there – the whole exhibit was about how N.Y.C. profited from slavery, and one of our big questions in our slavery unit was “who profited from slavery?”
I learned a lot in particular about how much New York businesspeople benefited from cotton – something like 38 cents of every dollar on financing, trading and insuring. We did a whole lesson on “the journey of cotton,” and the kids would totally get the idea that these New Yorkers were, in some way, complicit in slavery.
Another thing the exhibit did well was connecting slavery to the treatment of American Indians in the south. Much of the land that became available for cotton farming came from expelled Cherokee and Chickasaw. We didn’t spend any time on that at all, but it would have been a good connection to make.
One last thing I thought was cool about the exhibit was an analysis of the tactics used by abolitionists. In the spring, the eighth graders will be studying 20th century social movements, and that would be another great connection to make. Abolitionists, the exhibit pointed out, used empathy to rally support, and tapped into religious organizations. Reminds me of Cesar Chavez, as well as more recent movements to organize farm workers.
Bottom line: bummed about not organizing a field trip with the kids, but totally psyched about this exhibit. Go see it!