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The Origins of American Slavery Graphic Organizer and Discussion Questions

Directions: Fill in the graphic organizer as you read each primary source. Use question stems “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How” to help you think of questions you may have about the primary sources. You may not have a question for each stem. However, the goal is to think of additional information you would like to have about the person(s) described in the source. The first source is done for you as an example.

Source Shrink the text: What does this source reveal about slavery in colonial Virginia? What questions do you still have about this source?
Virginia Governor’s Council reply to the petition of Matthew Ashby, November 27, 1769 What jobs did Matthew Ashby have as a free man?
When and where did Matthew Ashby get to see his family when they were enslaved?
How was Matthew Ashby treated as a free man?
Runaway ad for Jude, October 28, 1768
Runaway ad for Frank, August 27, 1771
Runaway ad for Walton, 1774


Questions for Discussion

  • Taken all together, what do these primary sources reveal about slavery in colonial Virginia?
  • What do these sources reveal about race and slavery in colonial Virginia? Each ad mentions the complexion of the individual, and usually connects it to the fact they may pass as free. The exception is the ad for Frank. Though it mentions he may pass as a free man, it is not directly mentioned that this is tied to his race.  This can be used as evidence to support the argument that slavery was codified over time into a race-based and hereditary system. Skin color, therefore, could be an indicator of a person’s status as enslaved or free.
  • Consider your definition of justice from the beginning of this lesson. Based on these sources, how did colonial slave codes violate the principle of justice? How did enslaved and free Blacks resist the injustice of slavery during the colonial era?

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