Frederick Douglass’s Narrative: Myth of the Happy Slave

The firsthand accounts of what it was like to be an enslaved person in the mid-1800s riveted a nation and the issue ultimately led to civil war. Using excerpts from Frederick Douglass's autobiography, budding historians examine what it was like to be enslaved and build argumentation skills by identifying elements of logos, ethos, and pathos in his writing. Extension activities include writing an analytical essay and listening to songs from enslaved people to identify similar strategies.

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CCSS: Designed
Instructional Ideas
  • Use excerpts from Douglass' autobiography to build vocabulary and close reading skills
  • Listen to recordings of songs from enslaved people to analyze them for messages
Classroom Considerations
  • Learners need some background on American slavery for the lesson
  • Resource includes carefully curated excerpts for classroom use
  • Audio file of a song from enslaved people is engaging
  • None
Common Core