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Unchained Memories: Reading from the Slave Narratives
SUBJECTS — U.S./1812 - 1865; 1865 - 1913; African Americans & the Civil Rights
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Human Rights; Courage;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Respect; Fairness.
Age: 10+; Not rated; Documentary; 2003; 75 minutes; Color.
Unchained Memories is an excellent introduction to slavery in the American South. Actors give dramatic readings of the recollections of former slaves who were interviewed in the 1930s by the Federal Writers' Project. A narrator links the episodes with basic information about slavery in the U.S. The movie is also an excellent introduction to the genre of the personal narrative.
The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to Unchained Memories features an article on the slave narrative in American literature as well as a student handout on "Slavery: A World-Wide View, Then and Now." The Guide also contains a homework assignment, a comprehension test, discussion questions, suggested readings, projects, and activities.
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Unchained Memories is an excellent film for cross-curricular learning between American Literature classes and American history classes. The slave narrative was a major factor in mobilizing Northern sentiment against slavery.
Learning Guide Excerpt
To give you a sense of how our Learning Guides can be used by teachers to develop lesson plans, and by parents to supplement school curriculum or for homeschooling, we have set out below a paragraph from the Learning Guide to Unchained Memories.
Class was the second most important factor in the life of a slave. The lowest class, and by far the most numerous, were the field hands. Conditions for these people were usually characterized by constant backbreaking labor and miserable living conditions. A middle niche was formed by a small number of skilled workers: threshers, millers, carpenters, and other artisans. These slaves received better treatment because they made themselves especially valuable to the owners. At the top were the house slaves: servants, butlers, maids, and cooks. These slaves provided personal services to their masters and lived in intimate daily contact with whites. Class status was very important to the slaves themselves, for a house servant to be demoted to a field hand was a catastrophe.
The Learning Guide to the film Unchained Memories contains sections on Benefits of the Movie, Possible Problems, Helpful Background, Discussion Questions, Links to the Internet, and Bridges to Reading. The Discussion Questions are divided into three categories: Subject Matter, Social-Emotional Learning, and Moral-Ethical Emphasis.
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