4th Grade5th Grade Kentucky

Slavery in Kentucky

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the influence of slavery on the history of individual states, particularly highlighting Kentucky. (The blueprint for this inquiry was purposefully written so as to allow for other states or regions to adapt it to their local particulars.) By investigating the compelling question–How did slavery shape my state?–students examine the growth and development of slavery, the ways in which the slave system differed from place to place, the violence endured by slaves, and how this portion of the country’s history is (or isn’t) being remembered. By completing this inquiry, students will begin to understand how slavery had a significant impact on the development of the country and their particular region, while also have them consider the extent to which historical memory is appropriately reflecting its impact.


Compelling Question:

How Did Slavery Shape My State?

Staging the Question:

In staging the compelling question, teachers may prompt students with images depicting slavery and have a class discussion about slavery’s origins and possible consequences on individuals involved. This will provide an opportunity to review the causes of the development of slavery, as well as allow students to consider how the system affected both slaves and slave owners.

Supporting Question Where did slave populations grow?

Formative Task Complete a graphic organizer that explains where slavery grew in consideration of geographic features.

Sources Source A: Interactive map, “The Spread of U.S. Slavery”
Source B: 1860 Census Map
Source C: Slave Population Statistics


Supporting Question How did the slavery system differ from place to place?

Formative Task Compare and contrast how slavery differed from place to place using a graphic organizer.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from Takaki, A Different Mirror
Source B: Excerpt from “Slavery in Colonial British North America,” Teaching History, Zagarri
Source C: Excerpt from A Concise History of Kentucky, Klotter
Source D: Excerpt from “Kentucky and the Question of Slavery,” KET Education


Supporting Question How did your state’s former slaves describe their treatment?

Formative Task Write a summary that describes slaves’ discussion of their treatment.

Sources Source A: Kentucky Slave Narratives, Works Progress Administration Records, 1941
Source B: Slave Auction Advertisements, Kentucky Digital Library, 1853-59


Supporting Question How is the legacy of slavery visible in your community?

Formative Task Write a claim supported by evidence concerning how the legacy of slavery is visible in your community.

Sources Source A: Images of Cheapside Slave Auction, Lexington, KY, c. 1862
Source B: Images of Cheapside Historical Marker
Source C: Articles on Cheapside statues, 2015-17

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, essay) that discusses the compelling question using specific claims and relevant evidence from historical and contemporary sources while acknowledging competing views.
Extension: Create a timeline of your state’s history, incorporating slavery’s influence.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Accomplished through the Supporting Question 4 Task
Assess: Have a class deliberation about how the history of slavery is and should be memorialized in your community
Act: Write a class proposal to send to the mayor or other stakeholder, suggesting how to memorialize this history