Hello, Friends! We are in the midst of an incredible summer learning project: a Black History Awakening mural. If you missed my first post on how to get started, check it out here! This July 4th, NPR released a reading of Frederick Douglass’ powerful Independence Day speech read by his descendants. It took my breath away. And it just so happens that Frederick Douglass (abolitionist, former slave, brave speaker, author, role model, and change maker) is the focus of our Black History Awakening mural this week!
We are traveling back in time to 1818 when Frederick Douglass was born into slavery. This look at Douglass’ life will not only help us get our bearings in today’s struggle, but help us think about what he stood for, what we stand for, and how to strive to be more like Frederick Douglass. This activity serves up history, reading, critical thinking, math, some fundamentals of writing and storytelling…and most valuable of all a blueprint for how to be a good human… all wrapped up in a creative craft project.
Here’s the step-by-step guide for this part of our journey! Let’s dive in!
BLACK HISTORY AWAKENING MURAL, PART 2: FREDERICK DOUGLASS
Step 1 - Our reading includes two biographies on Frederick Douglass. Who Was Frederick Douglass? by April Jones Prince and the gorgeous graphic narrative The Life of Frederick Douglass by David F. Walker, Damon Smyth, and Marissa Louise. We printed out the book covers and pasted them to our mural!
Step 2 - As we read about Douglass' life, we kept an eye out for the following things: important dates (to be put on our timeline), character traits, his goals, and accomplishments. You can either keep a list as you go or brainstorm after you've read the book! Next, grab some craft supplies. We used construction paper and markers we had on hand.
Step 3 - We thought about Douglass' character traits. Each boy came up with a list of three or four, wrote them out on strips of construction paper and decorated them. This strengthens our critical thinking skills. What qualities make a great role model? What qualities drive someone to make such a big difference in the world? And it give us the opportunity to ask ourselves: How can we be brave like Douglass? How can we be determined like Douglass? This exercise is also an important part of writing, whether working on fiction or nonfiction. Understanding who your character is, means knowing their traits, and what motivates their reactions to plot twists and turns. Learning to think about these traits while reading will help make writing stronger later on. It really is a fundamental building block. Next, we attach the traits to our mural.
Step 4 - Next, we talk about Dounglass' goals throughout his life and make a list. Write them down and paste to the mural!
STEP 5 - Next, we make a list of Douglass' incredible accomplishments and add them to the mural. Not only does this solidify Douglass' life story in our minds, give us greater context for Black history, and add depth to our mural, but we are also identifying key elements of storytelling. Desire, struggle, failure, and accomplishment. While we are not writing a story for today's project, this analysis will beef up our storytelling muscles. And storytelling is a key part of Frederick Douglass' life and work. He was able to wake people up to the horrors of slavery by bravely telling his story. He was able to boldly call out America when it came to the country's poor score on freedom and equality. This gives us another chance to put his example into action. How can we be good storytellers like Douglass?
Step 6 - 'Abolitionist' is a big, important word. We gave it lots of space. Understanding the fight to end slavery is so important. As we learn the names of other Abolitionists we can add them to our vocabulary bubble. Our mural is starting to come alive and it's so exciting to see!
FIELD TRIP! Here in Portland, Maine we were able to safely stand outside one of the places where Frederick Douglass spoke! It's called the Abyssinian Meeting House. This meeting hall was once the center of Portland's Black community. It was also a stop on the Underground Railroad. We imagined for a minute, the journey that Black people made once they escaped slavery and sailed to the pier at the bottom of the hill, disembarking from ships, walking up cobblestone streets to the safety of The Abyssinian under the cover of the nightfall. It's a powerful experience to stand so close to history that you feel like you can touch it.
ACTION! The Abyssinian is in the middle of a massive restoration and organizers are raising money to complete the job. That seems like a call to action for us. We want this journey to have education, crafting, and action! If you would like to help the Abyssinian, click here.
Please share your ideas with us as you make your mural. Questions? Comment below! Things I could have said better or something I missed? Let me know in the comment section. I’m excited to grow.
Okay, more to come on our journey! Next we are exploring a tradition that dates back to slavery: jumping the broom.
Friends, I’m so glad you are here.
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