Friday, January 7, 2011


I have the honor and pleasure of teaching a home-school co-op class every Thursday. We are studying history and literature through the use of the American Girls Books (an excellent historical fiction series!). We are currently focused on "Addy Learns a Lesson", the story of a runaway slave and her new life in Philadelphia.

I like to show a lot of pictures of when I am teaching. I think it makes things more real for those of us who have not lived through certain time periods. We focus on similarities we can find and compare and contrast the differences. As I was preparing for the upcoming classes I will be teaching on this very ugly period of American history I stumbled upon an image.

As I was looking at this picture I was thinking about how this would be a good way show them what being whipped was like. The scars that were left, give them an idea of the very real pain that was inflicted upon one human being from another.

Then my eye caught this description, "Slave named Peter, revealing horrendous scars on his back from whippings. "Overseer Artayou Carrier whipped me. I was 2 mos. in bed sore from the whipping. My master come after I was whipped; he discharged the overseer," spoken by Peter as he sat for pi.pi. c" (source)

And it hit me. Peter. This man had a name. His name was Peter. Here I was preparing a lesson to teach my girls that slaves were people and to open their eyes to some of the atrocities that took place towards other human beings on American soil. And yet I was the one looking at a picture of a man and not seeing the man. Not seeing the very real person that he was.

I teach a mixture of third and fourth graders. I showed this picture to them because I think it's important that they know that slavery was real. It made them uncomfortable. I'm glad. Slavery was rea. It was hard. It affected people. It tore families apart, caused an insurmountable of pain and devestation, changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Human beings created in the image of God. Treated like animals. Insufficient ammounts of food, clothing, shelter, respect, rest, medicine.

Slavery is not dead. I want those girls in my class to be shaken up, I want them to take these lessons and as they grow I want them to learn about the humans that are today being taken as slaves and I want them to care. I want them to learn about organizations like Love146 that battles against the child sex trafficking. I want them to learn about the hundreds of children that are being stolen from thier homes in Africa and forced to become child slave soldiers. I want them to partner with Invisible Children. I want to capture that childhood innocence of knowing when things just aren't right before they grow up and become calloused. And while I don't think explaining child sex trafficking is appropriate for third and fourth graders I do hope that by instilling in them a strong sense of injustice for those who are oppressed now, even if just over the course of a couple of weeks, a seed will be planted that will continue to grow as they grow.

I can't do anything to help Peter. But my knowledge of him can help me to take action for those living in the here and now. Peter should have never of had to have endured what he did. Neither should anyone else who is enslaved. I am glad that that picture was taken. I'm glad that someone understood the importance of documenting what happened. I am also glad that whoever took the picture had the forsight to have Peter turn towards the camera. There is a face to go with the wounds. One that I will not be forgetting anytime soon. 

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