In the 18th century, it was against the law for slaves to read or write. Why do you think Susanna Wheatley encouraged her daughter to teach Phillis Wheatley?
According to the article, Phillis Wheatley's poems were influenced by pride in her African heritage and religion. If you wrote a book of poetry, what would influence your work?
If slave owners read Phillis Wheatley's work, how do you think they could not see it as proof of slaves' intellectual abilities?
According to the article, the Wheatley family provided Phillis Wheatley an "ambiguous haven" while she was a slave. And she died just 10 years after they freed her-"in abject poverty, preceded in death by her three children, surrounded by filth, and abandoned, apparently, by her husband, John Peters." Even though she was free, do you think the Wheatley family had a moral obligation to continue looking after her? Why or why not?
- As a class, discuss the types of exhibits usually seen in a museum. (i.e., historic objects, scientific specimens, living organisms, paintings, photographs, documents, soundtracks, etc.) Point out that exhibits can take up entire rooms or be so small that several objects fit in a glass-fronted case. And many museums also use technology to educate visitors. They show movies, have digital displays and even have interactive elements to heighten the visitor's experience.
- Outline the process for creating an exhibit. If you wish, use the Smithsonian lesson "History close to Home: Creating Your Own Special Museum" as a guide.
- Instruct students to examine the exhibitions of the NMAAHC. Discuss the types of exhibitions the museum has. Challenge students to identify something important that is missing.
- Give students time to explore the museum's collections. Instruct them to select appropriate items for a museum exhibit on their selected topic. Encourage them to conduct additional research to learn more about those items.
- Provide art supplies, poster board, small boxes and access to a digital design program. Based on what they've learned, instruct students to select the type of exhibit best suited to their material. Encourage them to create a poster, diorama or digital display.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Read this article from the National Museum of African American History and Culture to learn more about Phillis Wheatley and four other African American women who made a difference.
This exhibit from the Smithsonian American Art Museum offers a new introduction to the Civil Rights movement through the unique lens of Smithsonian collections. Drawing connections among art, history and social change, it provides educators with tools to help students reimagine and reinterpret the long struggle for civil rights, justice and equality in fresh ways.
In these lessons from the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access students examine works by African American painter William H. Johnson to learn about his milieu as well as his style. Younger students will list the elements of pictures, identifying colors, shapes and objects. Older students compare Johnson’s work with that of painter Allan Rohan Crite.
Use this teacher’s guide from the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage to explore the history and cultural traditions of Maroons, descendants of Africans who freed themselves from captivity in the Americas.
This virtual exhibit from the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum examines faith and spiritual traditions in the African American community and the church as an agent of community and economic development. It includes short articles, interviews with community members and extensive resources.
In this lesson from the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, students look at both African American history and portraiture. Portrait subjects include Sojourner Truth, Mohammed Ali, Ella Fitzgerald and Leontyne Price. Younger students make photographic “calling cards.” Older students research portrait subjects.