Students Commemorate the History and Ripple Effects of Racial Slavery

Dr. Kimberley’s History classes studied racial slavery in the Americas, including resistance to slavery, the concept of freedom, and the legacies of slavery. Throughout their studies, they learned that racial slavery was at the center of the Atlantic World’s economy for centuries. One of the primary legacies of racial slavery is that white supremacy and anti-black racism—the justifying principles for profiting from the exploited labor of black people—became so deeply ingrained in the Atlantic World that they became part of the structures of society that are with us to this day.

For their culminating project, the students explored the purpose of memorials and considered the idea of historical memory. Students then designed a memorial to commemorate racial slavery. Throughout the process, students synthesized new knowledge and considered the relationship between the history of racial slavery, the present, and the future. The result was a gallery installation that uses diverse forms of expression to memorialize racial slavery.

Caitlin D. ’24 noted, “My biggest takeaway from the Commemoration of Racial Slavery project was being able to truly see how the past impacts and, in many cases, is even interwoven into the present. My groups’ project focused specifically on systems of oppression throughout history that were directly impacted by racial slavery. This includes mass incarceration, Jim Crow laws, red-lining and many more systems that were put in place or created after slavery as a way to keep white people in power. Through the process of creating this project, from working with my classmates to researching, I was able to gain insight into the ways slavery has been altered and reformed into other systems of oppression that still affect our country today. The institution of slavery can’t belong in the past if it is still woven into our world today and its for this reason that we must be committed to dismantling systems of oppression and fighting for a more just future for everyone.”

Emma H. ’24 said, “[Our project] highlights Black women abolitionists in the United States. In history classes in past grades, I had only learned about a few abolitionists like Fredrick Douglas and Harriet Tubman. Many of the abolitionists I’ve learned about were either White or men or both. Throughout this term, we have been learning the ways in which the institution of slavery affected people with different intersecting identities differently. We wanted to highlight the ways Black women were specifically affected and disrupt the narrative that enslaved people were content being enslaved and didn’t rebel. We researched seven Black women abolitionists and discovered that these women may have been left out of our history classrooms for a reason; they were revolutionary thinkers and doers at the bottom rung of a society trying to silence them. We did our best to help preserve their legacies and amplify their voices.”

Mica T. ’24 spoke about different perspectives she has read about so far in class. She notes, “Primary sources have given us insight into different perspectives of the people who participated in the history that we studied. We recreated the Emancipation memorial in Washington D.C. in our project to include Frederick Douglass in order to show how Black enslaved people participated in their own emancipation. We also included other less known Black abolitionists so their voices would be heard as well.”

Eliany G. ’24 added, “Throughout this project and the unit on racial slavery, I’ve learned about things I’ve never knew happened in history. Learning the truth about American history is crucially important. History is full of gory and scary themes, but it’s important realize that our world still shows traces of racial slavery today.”