Lesson Plan: Overview

Lesson Plan Three: Free Blacks in Charleston, South Carolina before the Civil War

Grade Level: 8th


Academic Standards

Standard 8-1: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the settlement of South Carolina and the United States by Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans.

8-1.4 Explain the growth of the African American population during the colonial period and the significance of African Americans in the developing culture (e.g., Gullah) and economy of South Carolina, including the origins of African American slaves, the growth of the slave trade, the impact of population imbalance between African and European Americans, and the Stono Rebellion and subsequent laws to control the slave population.
Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Civil War—its causes and effects and the major events that occurred during that time.
8-3.1 Explain the importance of agriculture in antebellum South Carolina, including plantation life, slavery, and the impact of the cotton gin.
8-3.3 Draw conclusions about how sectionalism arose from events or circumstances of racial tension, internal population shifts, and political conflicts, including the Denmark Vesey plot, slave codes, and the African American population majority.

Historical Background Notes

No historical background notes available for this lesson plan.


  Secondary Sources
Berlin, Ira.  Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South.  New York: New York University Press, 1974.
Boone Hall Plantation.  Information available online at http://www.boonehallplantation.com.
Brown, Alfonzo.  Gullah Tours.  Tours Monday - Friday, 11:00 a.m. and Saturday, 11:00, 1:00, and 3:00.  43 John Street, Charleston, S.C.  February 2004.
The Chicora Foundation. "Free Persons of Color in Charleston, South Carolina, Before the Civil War." SCIWAY: South Carolina’s Information Highway.  Available online at http://www.sciway.net/hist/chicora/freepersons.html.
Copp, Roberta. Jehu Jones: Free Black Entrepreneur. Public Programs Document Packet no. 1.  Columbia, S.C.: South Carolina Department of Archives, 1989; reprint 1991.
Drayton Hall.  Information available online at http://www.draytonhall.org.
Magnolia Plantation. Information available online at http://www.magnoliaplantation.com.
Middleton Place. Information available online at http://www.middletonplace.org/.
Poole, James.  "On Borrowed Grounds: Free African American and Life In Charleston, South Carolina, 1810-1861." Essays in History. Vol. 36.  Cochran Department of History, Univ. of Virginia, 1994.
Trinkley, Michael and Debi Hacker. 1996.  The Other Side of Charleston.  Archaeological Survey of the Saks Fifth Avenue Location, Charleston, South Carolina.  Research Series 45. Columbia, S.C.: Chicora Foundation, Inc., 1996.
United States.  Department of the Interior.  National Park Service.  Charles Pinckney National Historic Site. Information available online at http://www.nps.gov/chpi.
Vogeler, Ingolf."Free Black Slaveowners in South Carolina." Available online at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Lesson Plans

No lesson plan available.


The focus question for this lesson is: Did free blacks live in the State of South Carolina before the Civil War?  Did they live in Charleston?  The students will learn the answer to these questions through class discussion and research and incorporated their findings in a creative writing project.  This lesson takes one class period of 90 minutes.

1. Hold a class discussion on the role of free blacks in Charleston, South Carolina.
2. Students will then read several articles from the web sites listed.  They will then scan one to two of the books gathered for them to peruse. 
3. When the students have read the articles and perused the books they will complete the following assignment:

Write a letter to your great grandmother living in a western city of the United States.  You have grown up hearing her tell stories of the family and how your roots started on the east coast in the city and state of Charleston, South Carolina.  You can clearly remember her telling you that your ancestors have always been free people, even during the darkest days of slavery in the Deep South.  All memories take her back to stories about the city of Charleston.  Your grandmother also knows that your people came over from Saint Domingo.  She is a little foggy on other details of the family's past and her age is definitely not working in her favor.  She is also very ill at this time and is not expected to survive another summer.

You want to give your granny a gift.  Not some useless trinket but a solid connection to her ancestry.  You want to trace the past and path of the family.  Your goal is to present this gift to your grandmother to get the one reward you desire more than any other, which is simply a smile on her beautiful, golden brown face.

The search will begin in Charleston, South Carolina.  Write the letter to your Grandmother telling her all about your research success.  The story you are writing is one of fiction but it must include some factual data as well.  List a real person of color you came across in the articles or book(s) that you scanned and use this person as the foundation of your story.  Use true areas and street names in Charleston.  Place them on plantations that exist or existed during the time chosen.  The jobs the family worked must be jobs that were held by free blacks during this period.  Create a date that parallels the time.  Use as much factual data in the letter as you can.  Incorporate events mentioned in some of our studies falling around the same date.  In essences, make your letter a fine combination of both fact and fiction.

Teacher Reflections

No teacher reflections available for this lesson plan.

Student Assessment

No student assessment available for this lesson plan.

Examples of Students Work

No examples available for this lesson plan.


Provided by the Teaching American History in South Carolina Project