Students Commemorate Racial Slavery with Own Memorials

Penguin Hall’s interdisciplinary, inquiry-based curriculum allows students to be curious and apply their knowledge in many different areas of study. Humanities at APH is a tightly woven tapestry, where History is enriched by Literature and vice versa. For students in American History with Dr. Hannah Kimberley, Art became an added thread to this tapestry as they examined the influence history has on art–more specifically, in the shape of memorials. While memorials are often architectural structures, the careful consideration of content, design and color remains the same as an artistic piece in a gallery.

Dr. Kimberley’s students studied Racial Slavery in the Americas: Resistance, Freedom, and Legacies. In their examination of the history of racial slavery, tenth grade students investigated Black people’s experiences of captivity and enslavement—and the countless ways in which they resisted the slave system. Students also examined the rise of racial slavery in North America, South America, and the Caribbean and learned about a wide variety of experiences of enslaved people. They now know how racial slavery took root in the Americas and the effects it had upon the lives of enslaved people in these places. Likewise, students studied the role of racial slavery in creating the modern global capitalist economy and considered how it continues to affect all of us today.

For their culminating project, Dr. Kimberley invited students to create memorials that commemorate the history of racial slavery. She tasked students with understanding the concept of historical memory; exploring the complex decision making processes behind designing a memorial; examining the role of memorials in shaping historical memory of racial slavery; and using diverse forms of expression to memorialize racial slavery.

After studying examples of memorials, including memorials of Harriet Tubman and Thomas Garrett in Wilmington, Delaware and Harriet Tubman in the South End of Boston and creating their own memorials, students learned that some memorials act as spaces for people to commemorate events or celebrate leaders, while others try to teach lessons. Students explored the concept of historical memory and the role that memorials play in shaping the way people remember racial slavery by creating their own memorial. In the end, our tenth grade scholars learned how memorials can influence the way that people remember historical events and that the way that we remember the past matters not just for history’s sake, but for all of us living in the present.

Below are the students’ memorials and artist statements. All are welcome to see this gallery in person in room 407 at Penguin Hall!