The following units represent just one way of looking at a handful of documents about the history of people of color in Rhode Island. Perhaps you will look at a lesson and think that you would like to change it for your students. The grade level is too high or possibly you have another sort of activity in mind. Maybe our unit was written for individual work and you’d like to use it in groups. Make those changes and let us know how they work. Our ultimate goal in this project is to help you teach Rhode Island’s history, and in particular a more complete history of Rhode Island’s people; so make these your own.
We also don’t expect that these units will be used as a course or that they will need to be implemented as a whole. They are made to be dropped in to, even as a lesson at a time, an American History, Rhode Island History, or African American History class. Even English and Art teachers might find useful and interesting ideas within these lessons.
One thing you might notice throughout these units is the use of different words for people of color. At times, “Black” is used, in other instances, “African American.” And yet other times “Negro” is used. Most of time, this is in keeping with the historical moment of the texts being used. At other moments it marks a distinction or a change in the preference for such racial identifiers. You will also see this in the units about Native Americans, or Indians. Certainly, this is a fascinating and contested topic with a long history. There are some very good essays on this subject and we urge you to look at them, and if appropriate, discuss the usage with your students. Race, and how we identify it in others and ourselves, is of fundamental importance to our national dialogue, and these units might be useful in promoting such discussions.
Lastly, we must express our gratitude to the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, which made this project possible through their generous funding and always gracious support.