Harriet Tubman: A Micro-Syllabus

So you’re excited about Harriet! ME TOO!

Harriet is a film directed by Kasi Lemmons, from a script by Gregory Allen Howard. It is set for a November theatrical release. It is, of course, a film about Harriet Tubman, the African American liberator of enslaved people who was also an advocate for the equal rights of women.

The release of this film gives a unique opportunity for educators and parents to take a refreshing look at Harriet Tubman’s life and legacy through lessons, projects, and field trips.

This is a micro-syllabus, in the tradition of the Nat Turner, Moonlight, and David Bowie Syllabi that I have previously created. Please use it as a starting point for your lesson planning about Harriet Tubman and Black History.


Film and Video Resources

Books for Emerging Readers

Books for Confident Readers

Books (and an article) for Seasoned Readers

The above links were thanks to the work of Rebecca Beatrice Brooks at Civil War Saga, from her post Best Books About Harriet Tubman. Like me, she is an Amazon Associate, so when you click any links in the Seasoned Readers section, she will get the credit!

Assignments and Activities

Projects

One of my favorite activities in the Nat Turner Unit was creating a mock jury deliberation. Students study a simplified version of the law, as it existed in the time period studied, and decide whether to convict or acquit. In that process, they learn about jury nullification. Mock jury deliberations are simpler to implement than a mock trial.

Field Trips

When Harriet gets a rating, bring the idea of a field trip to your principal and go through the process to organize the trip as soon as possible. Some teachers prefer to take trips as the last part of a unit, but I prefer to do it first. Seeing the film first gives students a starting point for discussion throughout the unit.

The theater closest to my school didn’t give a huge discount for film tickets, but it’s always worth asking. If the discount isn’t cheap enough, consider connecting with a local African American service organization, such as The Links, the AKAs, the Deltas, or the Alphas. They might be able to subsidize the cost of tickets and concessions, or even make it a joint project where they attend a screening with you and your students.

Always have a meeting with the attendees before you go on the trip so they understand the academic and behavioral expectations of their participation. Invite parents to come, too, especially if you expect students to be ruffled by violence depicted in the film.

Make sure you are aware of which students or their families have consented to being photographed. You’ll want to document the event and share it through your school’s social media.

Finally, do your best to see the film in advance of the students so you can develop discussion questions and identify potential triggers for you or the students.

Additions

Do you have any resources that you’d like to share about teaching Harriet Tubman? Share them in the comments section below!

About the Educator

Rashid Darden is a novelist, fraternalist, and seasoned educator with twenty years of service to children, opportunity youth, and adults. He is a native Washingtonian who has relocated to rural Northeastern North Carolina. Rashid is available for keynote addresses and professional development workshops. Please use the contact form on this site to reach him with your questions.

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