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Using Primary Sources in the Classroom:
Slavery Unit
Lesson 1: Slave Code of 1833

1. Background information for teachers:

 

The Africane, the first slave ship to bring slaves to the area, entered the port of Mobile in 1721. In 1724 the French Code Noir was extended into the Mobile area and provided the basic laws and conditions of slavery. Additional laws were passed to regulate slavery after Alabama became a territory and then a state. The antebellum legal status of slaves and "free persons of color" in the state of Alabama was defined and codified in the Slave Code of 1833. The laws discussed runaways, emancipation, sale, and other matters pertaining to slaves.

 

2. Learning Objectives:

 

Upon completion of this lesson, students should be able to:

1. Describe laws relating to slaves.
2. Define "free persons of color."
3. Explain the difference in laws relating to slaves and free persons of color.
4. Describe the way slaves were treated.
5. Explain the conditions (laws) of emancipation.

 

3. Suggested Activities for entire lesson:

 

1. Make a classroom set of Document 1, the Alabama Slavery Code of 1833.
2. Ask students to read the slave codes silently, or if you prefer, read aloud and have them follow along.
3. Make a classroom set of Documents 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15.
4. Divide students into pairs and distribute a different document to each pair of students.
5. Ask students to read their document and then determine which law in the slave code applies to the circumstances described in their document. Depending on age and ability of students, you may need to help some of your students with this activity.
6. Ask students to write a paragraph stating the issue in their document, i.e., bounty hunter, runaway, emancipation, free Negro, etc., and which law applies and why.
7. Ask one of the pair to read their paragraph to the class until all documents have been identified and explained.
8. For further discussion or homework, ask students to assume the role of the person in their document and write a letter to the governor of Alabama about what is happening to them and what they think should be done in relation to the slave code.

 

Suggested Activities for Younger Students

 

Suggested activity #1:

 

1. Make copies of Document 2 and distribute to students.
2. Ask students what code (law) they think may be pictured here. (See 1833 code, p. 392, ib. Sec. 14/17)
3. What other animals are slaves forbidden to own? (See next law 15/18)
4. Ask students why they think slaves were not allowed to own animals.
5. Write a short story about this picture; color the picture and use it to illustrate the story.

 

Suggested activity #2:

 

1. Define Emancipation for students.
2. Read the law from Document 1 relating to emancipation.
3. List the ways a slave could be emancipated.
4. How did being a "free person of color" differ from being a slave?
5. Read Document 3 .
6. Why did free persons of color have to have three people act as security?
7. Why was a $1,000 bond necessary?
8. Use your text or other references to find out more about Horace King and write a paragraph about him. Why do you think King was emancipated?

 

Suggested activity #3 (close reading activity)

 

1. Make copies of Document 15 and distribute to the students
2. Ask students to read the document and fill in Worksheet 1.
3. Discuss the purpose of this document. Why do you think it was written?

 

Documents
Document 1: John G. Akin, A Digest of the Laws of the State of Alabama - 1833, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 2: Nathan H. Glick, Pen and ink drawings, LPR 92, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 3: "An act to Emancipate Horace King, a slave," Acts of Alabama - 1845, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 4: "An act to authorize Abraham Shanklin to emancipate a certain slave," Acts of Alabama - 1844, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 5: "Letter from R.J. Nickels to Dr. W.B. Hall, 15 March 1859," William Bonnell Hall Papers, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 6: "Conveyance certificate, 23 December 1858," William Bonnell Hall Papers, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 7: "Receipt, 25 October 1856," William Bonnell Hall Papers, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 8: "Receipt, 15 June 1844," Reuben Bennett Business Records, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 9: "Receipt, 29 April 1840," Reuben Bennett Business Records, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 10: "Receipt, 10 January 1833," Reuben Bennett Business Records, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 11: "Conveyance/Deed of Gift, 1 March 1860," Reuben Bennett Business Records, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 12: "Runaway Notice," Macon Banner, 1845 June 5, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 13: "Letter from Jas. W. Campbell to Mrs. Hall, 24 July 1860," William Bonnell Hall Papers, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 14: "Letter from ? to W.B. Hall, 4 August 1860," William Bonnell Hall Papers, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 15: "Church certificate, 1859," W.B. Ray Letter and Certificate, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Document 16: "Clothing the negroes," James A. Tait Memorandum Book, Tait Family Papers, LPR35, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.