To learn about the relationship between early U.S. presidents and slavery, and to examine the role prejudice plays in shaping historical accounts.
Ask students to visit Slavery and the U.S. Presidents, read the material carefully (including quotations on slavery from each president), and write a 3-5 page paper answering the following questions:
- Did you already know how many slaves the presidents held?
- Were you surpised by any of the information you read?
- Why isn't this information more widely known and taught?
- How does prejudice influence the historical record?
- Is it fair to judge presidents who lived a long time ago?
- Does the slave record of U.S. presidents matter today?
- Should Andrew Jackson be removed from the $20 bill? Why?
- Do you favor U.S. government reparations for slavery? Why?
Instead of requiring a paper, instructors may simply ask students to visit the web site and be prepared to answer the questions above in class.
Note to instructors using Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination: For best results, this assignment should be given before students read Section III of the book (especially the chart on page 123).