Roles of African-Americans and their lives on Mulberry Row

Lesson Plan

Title:  Roles of African-Americans and their lives on Mulberry Row

Grade level: Elementary 4th Grade

Author Information:

Name: Kisha Christian MT, B.S
School: Oak Grove Bellemeade Elemenatry School, RPS District
School Address: 2409 Webber Ave.   City: Richmond      State: VA

Duration: 60 min

Purpose of the lesson: To analyze primary resources, identify plantation duties and roles, and interpret a memoir of slave descendant.

Challenge Question:

  1. What is a plantation and why was slavery necessary on many plantations?
  2. What were the various roles and duties of the slaves on the plantation?
  3. What types of evidence do we have about slavery that existed at Monticello?

Prior knowledge: Students will have prior understanding of slavery based on previous taught SOL VS. 3 e. Student will know that slaves were captured from Africa by the Portuguese sailors and brought to Jamestown against their will in 1619. The arrival of slaves made it possible to expand the tobacco economy. The institution of slavery lasted a long time because of slave owner’s dependency on slaves to work the tobacco field.

Virginia Standards of Learning-

  1. The student will demonstrate skills for historical and geographical analysis and      responsible citizenship, including the ability to
  2. identify and interpret artifacts and primary and secondary source                 documents to  understand events in history;
  3. d) draw conclusions and make generalizations;
  4. e) make connections between past and present;
  5. g) interpret ideas and events from different historical perspectives;
  6. h) evaluate and discuss issues orally and in writing;

             Review: VS. 3e The student will demonstrate knowledge of the first permanent English settlement in America by identifying the importance of the arrival of Africans and English women to the Jamestown settlement;

  1. The student will demonstrate knowledge of life in the Virginia colony by
  2. a) explaining the importance of agriculture and its influence on the institution of slavery;
  3. b) describing how the culture of colonial Virginia reflected the origins of European  (English, Scots-Irish, German) immigrants, Africans, and American Indians;

Objectives/Rationale: This lesson is a pre-lesson prior to a class visit to Monticello. Students will learn what a “plantation” is and why African-Americans were brought “against their will” to work on the plantation.  When students visit Monticello they will visually see what a plantation looks like and learn about the various roles that the African men, women, and children had while living on Mulberry Row.

One of the lesson challenges I will expect to encounter is that students will not understand the dynamics of slavery and the daily life of a slave. Most students only recognize slavery being in the field or in the home. It is my intent that after this lesson, students will have a clearer understanding of slavery and the various roles of workers on the plantation.

Warm up/Snapshot: (5 mins) 

KWL ChartStudents will work in groups of 4 or 5 to discuss and list what they already “know” about slavery. Then they will share “what they want to know” more about slavery as it connect to our Monticello visit. Throughout the lesson, students will add to the chart more information that they have learned or questions that they have.

Procedure:  (45 mins)

  1. Students remain in same groups from warm up. Students will rotate together to each activity and will answer the given questions that will be presented to them at each station.
  2. Students will write what they learned on the “L” side of the KWL chart prior to the next station.
  3. After all rotations, students will come together as whole group and share what they thought was most significant about their findings from each activity.
  4. Students will also share what they look forward to seeing on their trip to Monticello and write down a question that they will ask more about on their visit.

Activity 1: Looking  at Primary Sources

Students will be given several primary sources from Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book and interpret the following: (See resources in materials section to link Farm Book)

  • What type of record is this particular document showing?
  • Why would Thomas Jefferson be keeping this type of record in his Farm Book?
  • What evidence proves that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and how was it recorded?

Activity 2: Mulberry Row and slave duties

Students will look at a list of various roles and pictures from Monticello. Most pictures will show what slaves did in relation to working on Mulberry Row and the plantation field. Students will first sort pictures under the correct industries. Once students sort, one person from the group will be given the answer key to see if their job is correct. Then students will complete the worksheet for this activity which will help them to analyze the pictures in details.

Industries along Mulberry Row:

Joinery– A person who works with wood creating tables and chairs. (See picture of chimney-location of the Joinery shop.) Attachment #1

Nailery– A person who makes nails. Mainly a male slave of the age 10. Attachment #2

Cook- Head person who fixes all meals within the kitchen. Mainly works inside the house at Monticello. Attachment #3

Gardner– A person who tends to the vegetables, plants, and plowing of the garden.  Attachment #4

Nurse- A person who takes care of Thomas Jefferson’s grandchildren by tending to their every needs such as caring, feeding, and escorting them to various places. Attachment #5

Butler– A servant of the house, answered doors, ran household duties, instructed the maids of house what to do, and he was a waiter. Attachment #6

Blacksmith– Shoed horses, repaired metal plows, and tools. Attachment #7

Extra Pictures:

A picture of Monticello- Thomas Jefferson’s home

Phrase– “in the ground” A person who did not master a skill of weaving and is forced to work in the fields.

Pictures of what slave quarters looked like at Mulberry Row.

 Pictures of artifacts from Mulberry Row

 Pictures of the slave burial ground in the parking lot of Monticello.

Group 3: Memoirs

Students will look at an excerpt from the memoirs of Issac Jefferson and his life as a slave on the Monticello plantation. Have students read and interpet Chapter 1, 5, 6, and 9. (see book links below)

To learn more about Issac Jefferson, see

To see a full photo of Issac Jefferson, see

Discussion Questions:

  1. What was Issac’s job when he was a little boy? See Chapter 1
  2. After reading each chapter, what connections can you make with information we are learning about Thomas Jefferson role as Governor in the eyes of a slave?
  3. What did you find unique about Issac Jefferson’s memoirs?

Independent Work: (5mins)

On index card, students will write one to two questions that they will take with them to ask about at Monticello.

Students will complete the “learn” section on the KWL chart.

Conclusion/Exit Ticket  (5 mins)

Students will come back together  as whole group and discuss what they learned  about each station. Students will share what they would like to learn more about from the lesson. Students will make connections about the information they learned and what they previously knew about slavery.


  1. Students will be able to explain the importance of agriculture and its influence on the institution of slavery. Vs.4a
  2. Students will be able to identify various roles of a slave on the Monticello that is not limited to just in the home or the field.
  3. Students will be able to use the evidence of a slave memoirs to give examples of the slaves experiences at Monticello


Chart paper/ markers/ pencils/ index cards

Selected pages from Thomas Jefferson’s Farm House book:

Farm Book, 1774-1824, page 15,  by Thomas Jefferson [electronic edition]:               

Farm Book, 1774-1824, page 19, by Thomas Jefferson [electronic edition]

Farm Book, page 21 by Thomas Jefferson

Farm Book, 1774-1824, page 158,  by Thomas Jefferson [electronic edition]


Farm Book, 1774-1824, page 9, by Thomas Jefferson [electronic edition]

Select pages from Memoirs of a Monticello Slave:

Book: Memoirs of a Monticello Slave As Dictated to Charles Campbell in the 1840’s by Issac, one of Thomas Jefferson’s Slave.

Full book: Chapter 1 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 9

Map of Mulberry Row

Reading Plantation and slavery

Primary Resource Definition:

Roles of Slaves

Optional Table top materials: nails, quill pen, woman’s hat, sewing kit, small book

Assessment criteria:

  1. Students are able to explain in detail life on a plantation
  2. Students are able to explain how Thomas Jefferson’s record keeping is an account of what happened at Monticello.


 To Challenge the lesson:

Have them research more information about slavery and Mulberry Row on Students will write three things that they can share with group.

Students can also read online the full book of Memoirs of a Monticello Slave Full book: and share more information and present to the class.

To make lesson easier:

Students can examine pictures, discuss with a partner, and then illustrate a collage of what they have learned from the stations. Students can write in their own words what information was unique for them.

Students can also partner with another student to help read the Farm Book or the Memoirs of a Monticello Slave.