For Educators

Introduction and <br />
Alignment to<br />

Introduction and Alignment to Standards

This curriculum guide accompanies the In Pursuit of Freedom project. Through a variety of primary-source based activities, students can build a deeper understanding of the history of abolitionism and anti-slavery activism in Brooklyn. These documents are in PDF format and require Acrobat Reader.

In Pursuit of Freedom outlines the development of the abolition movement in Brooklyn, a city on the rise, from the end of the American Revolution to the early days of Reconstruction. Three of Brooklyn’s leading cultural and educational institutions—Brooklyn Historical Society, Weeksville Heritage Center, and Irondale Ensemble Project—have come together to re-examine this major chapter in U.S. history.

Brooklyn has a distinct story to tell. From 1783 to 1865, Brooklyn was transformed from one of six towns in Kings County and an agricultural slaveholding capital to the third largest city in the United States. It remained a separate city from Manhattan until New York City’s consolidation in 1898. Brooklyn’s rapid growth was the backdrop for the struggle led by the city’s anti-slavery activists and abolitionists, men and women, black and white, who wanted social justice and political equality. They did so at a time when racism, violence, and inequality towards African Americans were widespread in Brooklyn and beyond. Through courage and conscience, the residents of neighborhoods we know today as Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, DUMBO, Vinegar Hill, Weeksville, and Williamsburg insisted that slavery be brought to an immediate end and demanded legal and political equality for African Americans. Brooklyn’s abolitionists and anti-slavery activists were ordinary people who came from all walks of life—educators, homeowners, businessmen and women, church leaders, journalists, and writers. They created vital local, regional, and national networks of communication and solidarity that advanced their anti-slavery ideals. In that sense, they actively shaped the city’s and the nation’s history as well.

This teacher’s manual provides you with a variety of creative and engaging strategies to help students think about the history of abolitionism and anti-slavery activism in 19th century Brooklyn. It is designed as a flexible resource, adaptable for students in grades 4-12. Filled with primary sources, this manual traces the gradual unfolding of Brooklyn’s role in the anti-slavery movement through census records, contemporary anti-slavery and local newspapers, maps, illustrations, city directories, pamphlets, account books, letters, and print propaganda

Section I:<br />
First Wave of<br />
Anti-Slavery Activism<br />

Section I: First Wave of Anti-Slavery Activism

Explores Kings County, a “slaveholding capital” in the aftermath of the American Revolution. New York State’s 1799 gradual emancipation law signaled the slow death of slavery. Against this backdrop, a small but significant free black community lived in the village of Brooklyn –located within the same named town of Brooklyn. Here they chartered a path of self-reliance and self-determination as emancipation approached in 1827.

Lesson 1: Brooklyn: A Slaveholding Capital
(Middle & High School)

Lesson 2: Gradual vs. Immediate Emancipation
(High School)

Lesson 3: Life as an Enslaved Person
(All Grades)

Lesson 4: Pursuing Freedom
(Elementary School)

Lesson 5: The New-York Manumission Society
(High School)

Lesson 6: Self-Reliance in Brooklyn's Free Black
Communities (Middle School)

Section II:<br />
Abolitionism in<br />Black and White<br />

Section II: Abolitionism in Black and White

Focuses on a group of abolitionists, both black and white, who came together across various northern cities including Brooklyn with mutual purpose: to advocate for the end of slavery in the United States. They emerged as a radical minority in the 1830s, and despite threats of violence, initiated a highly visible campaign.

Lesson 7: Abolitionism in Black and White
(Elementary School)

Lesson 8: Abolitionist Sisterhood
(High School)

Lesson 9: Abolitionist Propaganda
(Middle & High School)

Section III:<br />
Land, Politics, and<br />
Anti-Slavery Protest<br />

Section III: Land, Politics, and Anti-Slavery
Protest (1834-1846)

Explores the integral connection between Brooklyn’s phenomenal urban growth during the 1830s and 1840s and the struggle for African-American political equality through voting rights and property ownership (land and citizenship).

Lesson 10: Democratizing the Vote: Black Landowners and Voters
(High School)

Lesson 11: Weeksville: Safety and Independence
(Middle & High School)

Lesson 12: Literacy and Liberation: Brooklyn's African School System
(Elementary & Middle School)

Section IV:<br />
The Economics<br />
of Freedom<br />

Section IV: The Economics of Freedom

Explores Brooklyn’s centrality to the business of slavery as well as the ingenuity of entrepreneurial black Brooklynites who used the city’s capitalist economy to ensure their survival in an environment of racism and discrimination.

Lesson 13: Brooklyn's Sweet Profit
(Middle & High School)

Lesson 14: Black Entrepreneurs
(Elementary & Middle School)

Section V:<br />
The Crisis Decade<br />

Section V: The Crisis Decade

Examines how in the wake of the Fugitive Slave Act (1850), African Americans–free and fugitives faced the increased threat of being kidnapped. As a result, abolitionists fought back, outraged by the threat the law posed to civil liberties.

Lesson 15: The James Hamlet Case
(Middle & High School)

Lesson 16: Reimagining the Underground Railroad
(Middle & High School)

Section VI:<br />
“The Half Has<br />
Never Been Told”<br />
Brooklyn’s Civil War<br />

Section VI: “The Half Has Never Been Told” Brooklyn’s Civil War (1861-1865)

Examines the country’s most tumultuous years as the debate over slavery exploded into a raging national crisis. The conflict, however, was not limited to the battlefields alone. Brooklyn’s Tobacco Factory Riots acted as a precursor to the racial violence that marked New York City’s Draft Riots. As the Civil War ended, Brooklyn’s abolitionists and anti-slavery activists rebuilt their communities and the nation.

Lesson 17: Brooklyn's Tobacco Factory Riot (High School)

Lesson 18: New York City's Draft Riots
(Middle School)

Lesson 19: Black Brooklynites in the Union Army
(Elementary School)

Lesson 20: Reconstruction
(Middle & High School)

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