Lesson Plan: Overview

Cotton, Not Forgotten

Grade Level: 2nd
Hewn Timber Cabins on campus at Francis Marion Unviersity

Academic Standards

Standard 2-1:The student will demonstrate an understanding of cultural contributions made by people from the various regions of the United States.

2-1.2 Compare the historic traditions, customs, and cultures of various regions in the United States, including how traditions are passed between and among generations.

2-1.3 Summarize the cultural contributions of Native American nations, African Americans, and immigrant groups in different regions of the United States.

Social Studies Literacy Elements

G. Make and record observations about the physical and human characteristics of places.

H. Construct maps, graphs, tables, and diagrams to display social studies information.

K. Use texts, photographs, and documents to observe and interpret social studies trends and relationships.

L. Interpret calendars, time lines, maps, charts, tables, graphs, flow charts, diagrams, photographs, paintings, cartoons, architectural drawings, documents, letters, censuses, and other artifacts.

M. Use tables and graphs to observe and interpret geographic trends and relationships.

Historical Background Notes

South Carolina is known as “a little triangle on the map” with only 31, 113 square miles. In this small state in the Deep South, there are six different land form regions. They range from the Coastal Zone to the Blue Ridge. The coastal plain, which comprises two-thirds of the state, is divided into the outer coastal plain and the inner coastal plain. The terrain in this area is mostly flat with the elevation rising from 220 to 300 feet above sea level. (Edgar, Walter. South Carolina A History. Columbia, South Carolina: The University of South Carolina Press, 1998.) It is in this area of the state that Dillon County is located.

Dillon County, which was once part of Craven County, was authorized by the English Lord’s Proprietors in 1682. Later the territory, that is now known as Dillon and Marion, was once included in the newly formed Liberty County. It remained there and in 1868 the name was changed to Marion County. Nevertheless, even through the many name changes, the area played a significant role in the economic, social, and political responses of the county. In 1910 Dillon County was established from the northern portion of Marion County. The county became the forty-third in the Palmetto State and is almost triangular in shape. (Stokes, Donald T. The History of Dillon County. Columbia, South Carolina: The University of South Carolina Press, 1998.)

Dillon County is located in the northeast quadrant of South Carolina. It is bordered to the west by Marlboro County and the Great Pee Dee River; on the south by its parent county, Marion; on the east by the Lumber River; and to the north by the state line of North Carolina. It is an area rich in agricultural resources. (Stokes, Donald T. The History of Dillon County South Carolina. Columbia, South Carolina: The University of South Carolina Press, 1978.) The history of the area is just as diverse as its natural resources. Many of the old plantations of this area are still in existence today and are part of our agricultural production.

The county, now known as” quietly progressive,” is known for its vast amount of farm land and excellent growing conditions. Two of the main commodities of the area, both at the time of slavery and today, are cotton and tobacco. Farm acreage suitable for these crops can be found in great quantities in and around Dillon County. This is due in large part to the fact that most of the people who settled in this county were well versed in the many phases of agriculture. Rich, fertile river and creek land drew many good farmers to this area also. These families have passed the colonial farming methods down through the generations. With knowledge from the past and the new methods of today, farming is a growing economy. In fact, agriculture remains one of the many leading industries of growth in the state of South Carolina today.

Slave labor was an integral factor in the agricultural production of the state. Before 1865 slaves played a significant role in the developing culture of South Carolina. The economy of the state was largely based on the plantation system which depended on slave labor. Slaves brought much of their African culture with them, including their knowledge of farming. They also brought other aspects of their culture such as language, dance, woodcarving, and basket weaving. They reared their children in a culture that was steeped in their African roots, from cooking practices to folklore. The language, called Gullah, was a spoken language of Africans that could allow them to freely communicate with one another. Gullah was and still is unique to the state due to the area’s limited access and large concentration of Africans from many different regions. However, the slaves were never as numerous as the whites in our area of the state. Many of the plantation owners had anywhere from one to a dozen slaves. (Edgar, Walter. South Carolina A History. Columbia, South Carolina: The University of South Carolina Press, 1998.) These slaves were used to cultivate the many acres of farm land across the county. After emancipation, the census records show that most of the freed slaves remained in the area and took on the surname of their former masters. (Stokes, Donald T. The History of Dillon County South Carolina. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1978.)

Freed African Americans looked for ways to make a living after the end of slavery. Many looked to the landowners to continue providing farming jobs as a means of survival. Therefore, the landowners set up a new system to replace slavery called sharecropping in which the sharecropper gave the landowner a share of the crop, or they worked their own plots of land and paid the land owners a fixed rent. This is probably due to the fact that many of the slaves formed a bond with the overseers or masters and stayed on as tenant farmers or sharecroppers. On the other hand, the tenant farmer lived on the land provided by the farmer using the equipment of the farmer. The tenant farmer often became indebted to the farmer in many ways.

This was the case in many of the existing plantations of the county. The Bethea family of Dillon County, who received an original land grant, owned and operated a plantation in this area from the late 1700’s to the present. It is at this location that one of the slave cemeteries in the county can be found. Ten or more headstones and numerous unmarked graves tell a story from the beginnings of slavery to emancipation and beyond. Just before emancipation, the Bethea family had decided that the slaves on their plantations should be given plots of land on the west side of Reedy Creek. This area is now known as the Skillet. A descendent of the Bethea family, who was a census taker in 1963, was given the area of the Skillet as his territory. He found that many families held his family in high esteem due to the gift that was given to their families many years before.

The Hewn-Timber cabins, located on the grounds of Francis Marion University, and the Bethea plantation are both examples of what slave life was like in our area of the state. The cabins were built by African Americans who came to Mars Bluff as slaves in 1836. They depict the living conditions of slaves in our area. (Vernon, Amelia Wallace. African Americans at Mars Bluff, South Carolina. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.) Therefore, it is evident from these primary sources that slavery was once a way of life for many African Americans.


Primary Sources

Historical Markers in Florence County, South Carolina.  “Hewn Timber Cabins.” Photographs.  Available from the Internet, Pee Dee Resource Conservation and Development Council.  (22, January 2009).

McLaurin, Patricia.  “Old Slave Cemetery (slave cemetery) in Dillon County.”  Photograph.  McLaurin Family Album.  2003.  

Stroyer, Jacob. My Life in the South.  Salem:  Salem Observer Book and Job Print, 1885.  Available in e-book form on Documenting the American South Website.  “My Life in the South.” This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (6th of February, 2009).    

Taylor, Arie Reinhardt.  “The Cotton Fields.”  Photograph.  McLaurin Family, 1945.

Unknown, Artist.  “The Old Plantation.”  Photograph, 1790 – 1800.  Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation 2009, Williamsburg Virginia.

United States.  Bureau of the Census.  Population Schedules (South Carolina).  (M432 Reel 856).  Marion, Marlboro, and Newberry districts:  1850. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

Secondary Sources

Kamma, Anne.  If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America.  New York: Scholastic, 2006.

Nichols, Elaine.  The Last Miles of the Way:  African-American Homegoing Traditions 1890 – Present.  Columbia, South Carolina:  Dependable Printing Company, Inc., 1989.

Unknown, Author. “South Carolina Studies Weekly.”  Slavery. Available from The South Carolina Studies Weekly. Vol. 8, Issue 2, History section, p.2,3.

West, Jean M.  “Tobacco and Slavery:  The Vile Weed.”  Slavery in America. Available from the Internet. (3rd of February, 2009).

Knowitall.org. Available from the Internet, Gullah Net. SCETV Commission. (23rd of January, 2009).


Lesson Plans

Instructional Plan:

  1. The teacher will activate prior knowledge by pointing out that our country’s people have a great diversity in the way they live.  Different groups have different belief systems, customs, and languages.
  2. The teacher will guide children to think about the diversity of people in their classroom.
  3. The teacher will explain that this lesson centers on the many ways in which American culture is shaped by the cultures of immigrants who have come to the United States.

Guided Practice:

  1. To generate excitement about the lesson, the teacher will have music from the Gullah culture playing.  The teacher will then guide the students in answering the question:  What is Culture?  Under the title, the teacher will add the words language, food, music, beliefs, and customs.  Later in the lesson, the teacher will guide the students in comparing and contrasting their culture to that of slave children.
  2. The teacher will explain to the children that immigration or migrate means moving from one country to live in another.  He/She will then provide library books that show photographs of immigrants arriving on Ellis Island in New York and/or Angel Island in California.  The teacher will guide the students in thinking about what it must have been like for people to leave their homes and travel to another country where they possibly did not know the language or the customs. 
  3. The teacher will explain to the students that immigrants from Barbados and Europe came to South Carolina to work as slaves to the plantation owners.
  4. The teacher will read the newspaper article entitled “Slavery in South Carolina” from the South Carolina Studies Weekly.  Students will learn the importance of African American in our state.
  5. At this time, the teacher will show pictures of the Hewn Timber Cabins using the Smart Board.  The students will preview and predict what they are and how they think that they relate to the lesson.
  6. The teacher will point out the important significance of the Gullah language to South Carolina.  At this time, the teacher can pull up the Know It All web site to hear someone speak in Gullah.  The teacher can also allow the students to hear Gullah music.  Also, the teacher will relate to students that this language is still spoken on the Sea Islands of South Carolina.
  7. The teacher will then read the story If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America.  After discussing and reading about slavery, the students will assist the teacher in listing the customs and tradition of slaves on chart paper.
  8. The teacher will show a copy of a slave inventory from the year 1787.  The teacher will guide the students in answering the question:  Why were some slaves worth more money than others? On chart paper, the students will brainstorm different ideas about why they feel that some slaves were worth more than others.
  9. The teacher will show the students the painting, The Old Plantation. The teacher will begin the discussion by asking the students to describe the scene. The teacher may want to ask a few questions concerning the painting to initiate the conversation. Questions or prompts may include some of the following:
    1. Look at the buildings in the picture and describe the differences between the buildings in the foreground and the background. The teacher may have to point to the buildings for the students.
    2. Describe the people in the picture.
    3. What do you think these people are doing?
    4. What type of clothing are they wearing?
    5. What kinds of musical instruments do you see in the picture?
  10. Using the information obtained from all that they have read and discussed about slavery in South Carolina, the teacher will guide the students in drawing inferences about the everyday life of a slave.
  11. The teacher will now guide the students to thinking about slavery in our county (Dillon). Students have already studied Dillon County and are aware of the natural resources found in our area. The teacher will then pass around a tobacco leaf. The teacher will point out that during the 1700’s, tobacco was an important crop in South Carolina. The students will now view the website, “Tobacco and Slavery:  The Vile Weed.” The teacher will guide the students in thinking about why slavery and tobacco were tied to Dillon County.
  12. In discussing the natural resources found in our area during slavery, the teacher will show the students the photo of The Cotton Fields. The teacher will guide the students in pointing out some of the aspects that they see in the picture.
  13. The teacher will read to the children part of Jacob Stroyer’s book, My Life in the South. The teacher will read the paragraph that deals with how the slaves lived in South Carolina, emphasizing that although his experiences may have been similar to slaves in Dillon County that he was from Richland County. Therefore, there were different conditions for this region.
  14. In discussing slavery in South Carolina, the teacher will then show the students an example of shackles. The teacher will explain the term shackles and ask the students if they know why these might be used on slaves. The teacher may also wish to play the song, “Shackles on my Feet.”
  15. After showing the shackles, the teacher will then explain that slavery was also a part of our area. The teacher will show some of the slave records found in the archives showing the records of John Bethea. The teacher will explain that this plantation is actually in Dillon County.
  16. After discussing the records of a plantation owner in Dillon County, the teacher will show the students a picture of a cemetery in Dillon County, also see slave cemetery. The teacher will guide the students in discussing what type of cemetery they think that it might be. The teacher will then ask the students if they can identify any of the markings on the grave and what they think that they might symbolize.
  17. At this time, the teacher can explain a few of the customs associated with a slave burial. The teacher can use the book The Last Miles of the Way: African-American Homegoing Traditions 1890 – Present, to show photographs and give factual information.

Independent Practice:

  1. In answering the question proposed by the teacher, the students will make drawings next to each word to show examples of these cultural elements as they relate to their life today.
  2. After viewing the pictures of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, the students will write one thing that would be hard and one thing that would be exciting for an immigrant.
  3. After reading and discussing the story If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America, the students will retell the narrative in the first person as if they were living in that time period. In their narrative the students must answer the question: How did the slaves learn? The writing will be assessed using the rubric below in the Student Assessment section.
  4. The students will divide into four groups. The teacher will pass out four different excerpts from young slaves in South Carolina, see Tools section above. The students will use these accounts to form a class web of the culture of young slave children. The teacher will assess the web to see if they have included the aspects of language, food, music, beliefs, and customs.
  5. The students will compare and contrast the culture of slaves in the 1700’s to people of today.
  6. The students will complete the math activity using the sample work schedule of a slave, see Slave Work Schedule. (included in lesson)
  7. After viewing the painting, The Old Plantation, the students will role-play the scene.
  8. Student will complete The Old Plantation worksheet. The teacher will assess the work to assure that the students have an understanding of slave life in South Carolina.
  9. After learning about the life of a slave in South Carolina, the students will pretend that they are a slave and tell about their work and feelings and also how they live in their journal. The writing will be assessed using the rubric below in the Student Assessment section.
  10. After viewing the video of “Tobacco and Slavery:  The Vile Weed,” students will make inferences about why they feel slavery and tobacco are so closely united. The students will orally discuss their ideas on this issue.
  11. The students will imagine that they were living during the time of slavery. They will then give their opinion of slavery in their journal. The teacher will assess the writing using the rubric below in the Student Assessment section. The teacher will also be looking for evidence of why they feel the way that they do concerning slavery.
  12. In studying the traditions and customs of different cultures, the students will complete a time line of their life, see Examples of Students Work section below.
  13. In learning across the curriculum, the students will draw their interpretation of slave life in the Deep South.

Teacher Reflections

The Teaching American History in South Carolina Institute proved to be a very worthwhile learning experience.  It allowed me the opportunity to explore many different aspects of history and also different ways in which to think about them.  The historical content portion of the course reminded me of many facets of history that had been forgotten.  Now, I feel that I am more aware of American history in the Pee Dee and the impact that it has had on our lives.  The methods of instruction provided me with an abundance of primary and secondary sources that I can use in my classroom.  Many of the games and activities could be adapted to second grade students.  However, the most rewarding of all was visiting the different cultural institutions.  Visiting the different venues gave me an opportunity to realize how teachers could use each and every one in their classroom.

The partnership that I completed with Latta Revitalization proved to be a key component of my lesson plan. This partnership allowed my students to explore many of the historical areas of their own community.  During their visit to Veteran’s Park, they were able to attend a one room school, view farm tools and machinery of the past, and visit a museum with replica from their community.  My first lesson in the unit entitled, “Between the Rivers”, dealt with our community and its history.  Therefore, in partnering with Latta Revitalization, my students were given the opportunity to explore the community in which they live.

In the lesson, “Our Community,” students were also asked to identify natural resources found in our area.  During the summer institute offered by TAHSC, I was able to visit the Cotton Museum in Bishopville, South Carolina.  It was then that I realized by partnering with members of the Cotton Museum my students might actually be able to identify a natural resource that is found in abundance in our area of the state.  Cullen Bryant, a member of the Cotton Museum, is a local farmer in our area.  He graciously agreed to come and speak with the class on the importance of cotton in our area.

Having someone come into the classroom and speak on the subject seemed to make history come alive for my second grade students.  They really enjoyed the “hands on” experience of touching the cotton and pulling out the seeds. I only wish that the students had been able to take a field trip to the Cotton Museum; however, with the budget cuts during the year, this was not possible.  Nevertheless, this activity was a great introduction into the second lesson, “Cotton, Not Forgotten.”

This lesson entitled, “Cotton, Not Forgotten,” specifically discussed the cultural contributions of the African American people in our area.  At this time, slavery was introduced and the students were able to compare and contrast their lives today to that of slave children.  The students were very excited about this because they were able to bring in their prior knowledge to complete this task.  Personally, I was very amazed that they seemed to grasp the concept of time, which is often a hard skill for young children.  I believe that it was due to the first hand knowledge that they had from visiting the one room school and being able to compare their school to that particular school.  Also, during this same lesson, natural resources that were common in our area were discussed.  The students automatically remembered their lesson on cotton from the guest speaker.  It was at this time that they associated the importance of cotton with slavery in Dillon County.  They seemed to sympathize with the slaves and how hard it must have been to pick the cotton.

In working with TAHSC, I gained a greater knowledge of how to bring in both primary and secondary sources to use with my students.  Before this partnership, I was unsure of how to approach the subject of slavery with second grade students.  I was not even sure as to how much of the issue that they would understand.  However, the content instruction that I received over the summer, along with the class discussions, gave me a clear understanding of how the material could be presented in a way that students would be able to understand.  By using primary and secondary sources, I feel that my students have a much deeper understanding of the topic of slavery.  The primary sources really helped them see things first hand and made history come alive for them.

The methods instruction that I received over the summer had a tremendous impact on the success of my lesson.  I was able to use many of the exercises and pictures that we were given.  However, I did have to break it down for 2nd grade students and give a little more background information; nevertheless, it worked wonders and the students really enjoyed that portion of the lesson.  One student even made the comment that the one thing she enjoyed about the lesson was being able to run in the classroom with permission!  By using these activities, I feel that the students have a much better understanding of the topic compared to using the traditional method of paper and pencil.

Not only have the students enjoyed the lessons, but I have really enjoyed teaching these lessons.  Parents have shared that their children are really enjoying the history lessons and are actually helping their older siblings with some of the same information.  It is amazing to see the look on their faces when they see these primary sources and are actually able to comprehend what life was like during that time period.  Having visited the hand-hewn timber cabins on the grounds of Francis Marion University, I was able to come away with many great pictures of both the inside and outside of the cabins.  By visiting these cabins, I have a primary source that can be used for many years to come.  I am sure that I will continue to use these sources in my lessons in the future.  I even plan to add a few more sources and activities to the lessons.  In researching the topic, I have realized many ways in which I can expand the lesson to encompass more information.  Sometime in the future, when budget cuts are fewer, I hope I will be able to take the students to Francis Marion University and visit the slave cabins.

Traveling across the country and visiting the many different cultural areas of this great nation inspired me and gave me a sense of appreciation for history.  However, it was with the help of TAHSC that I realized how I could bring those childhood experiences into the classroom.  Many thanks to TAHSC for making history come alive in my classroom!

Student Assessment

  • The teacher will assess the student’s understanding of the unit with a formal evaluation, see Cotton Not Forgotten Test.  This evaluation will consist of multiple choice and short answer questions.
  • The teacher will assess the Venn Diagram in which students compare and contrast the characteristics of slave children to that of their own childhood.
  • Using the rubric below, the teacher will assess the student writing concerning slavery in the south.
4 Writing addresses topic and is clear and focused; mechanics are correct.
3 Writing addresses topic and uses appropriate words; minor errors in mechanics.
2 Writing addresses topic, but is vague; some words used incorrectly.
1 Writing does not address topic.


Examples of Students Work

Student Test

Student Test Page 2

Student Venn Diagram

Student Venn Diagram 2

The Old Plantation Worksheet

Math Activity Student

Student Time Line

Student Time Line 2

Student Drawing

Student Drawing 2


Patricia B. McLaurin
Latta, South Carolina