moses roper, a transatlantic antislavery activist &
three other tar heel advocates for freedom

a social studies lesson plan for grades 6-8

Printable Documents


In this lesson, students learn about transatlantic antislavery activism with a focus on Moses Roper (1815-1891) and his crusade in Great Britain to end slavery in America. They also learn about three other North Carolina-born activists who fought against slavery in America: David Walker (1796-1830), Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897), and George Moses Horton (1798-circa 1867). These three figures are featured on the Crafting Freedom Materials website with lesson plans, media, and materials.

David Walker wrote a long essay, Walker's Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World (1829). It argued for an immediate end to slavery and is considered one of the most important antislavery documents ever written. George Moses Horton, a literary poet, published many poems while he was enslaved. Some address his thoughts and feelings about slavery and several were published in antislavery newspapers. Harriet Jacobs wrote the first slave narrative written by a woman, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861). It exposed the widespread sexual predation and molestation of enslaved girls and women by their enslavers and powerful white men.

A major theme in American history is social movements that aim to bring about social change and greater social justice. The antislavery movement was a major social movement of the 19th century. After learning about Roper and the three other antislavery activists in America, students write a paper comparing and contrasting the activists' resistance to slavery and their work as antislavery writers and speakers. All four of these activists used words to fight slavery, yet they expressed themselves uniquely through poetry, speeches, and essays. How they used words reflected their special writing and/or speaking gifts as well as their personal experiences as eyewitnesses to slavery's wrongs. The rationale for students' writing the paper is to reinforce for them that activists in social movements often have the same goals for social change but can have different tactics for attaining those goals.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

• Recall who Moses Roper was and his significance as a transatlantic antislavery activist.

• Describe three features of the transatlantic antislavery movement.

• Recall who David Walker, George Moses Horton and Harriet Jacobs were and describe how each used their spoken and/or written words to fight against slavery.

• Compare and contrast the resistance to slavery and the antislavery activism of Moses Roper with that of other activists.

• Recognize that while social activists may share the same goal they often have very different tactics for achieving their shared goal, based on their unique experiences and talents.

Guiding Questions

Why was the antislavery movement important? What other social movements did the antislavery movement spawn? Do you think American democracy would have survived if slavery had endured? What talents/skills do you have that could serve or are serving a social movement that you care about today?

Suggested Time

Two class periods.

Preparing to Teach the Lesson

1. Review these Teacher Tools and Student Handouts:

– Teacher Tool 1 & also Student Handout 1: Moses Roper's Antislavery Activism

– Teacher Tool 2: Teaching Transatlantic Slavery and Antislavery Sentiment

– Student Handout 2: David Walker's Antislavery Activism

– Student Handout 3: George M. Horton's Antislavery Activism

– Student Handout 4: Harriet Jacobs' Antislavery Activism

2. Review writing samples of David Walker, George Moses Horton and Harriet Jacobs available in the instructional materials on the Crafting Freedom website in these lessons: Under George Moses Horton: "Slavery From a Poet's Perspective"; Under Harriet Jacobs: "The Empowerment of Harriet Jacobs" ; Under David Walker: "Comparing Language of Self-Empowerment.”

3. Review the Narrative of the Adventures and Escape of Moses Roper from American Slavery at

(Warning: Be aware that the narrative contains several descriptions of physical violence and torture.)

4. Print copies of Student Handouts 1-4 and collate into packets for students in this order: 1) Moses Roper, 2) David Walker, 3) George Moses Horton, and 4) Harriet Jacobs.

Teaching the Lesson (Suggested Steps)

1. Referring to Teacher Tool 2, give a lecture on this topic and ask students to respond to questions provided in the Teacher Tool.

2. Distribute the Reading Packets. Direct student attention to Student Handout 1. Using Teacher Tool 1 (same as Handout 1) as a reference, overview Moses Roper's life. Emphasize that he became an activist who crusaded, primarily in Great Britain, to bring an end to American slavery. Point out the underscored statements in the Teacher Tool 1/Student Handout 1. Explain that they are examples of actions of resistance Roper took when he was enslaved and also actions he took to fight slavery after he became free. Review several of these and discuss with students. (Students will need to identify similar resistance and antislavery action statements. See 5 below.).

3. Introduce David Walker, Harriet Jacobs, and George Moses Horton using Student Handouts 2-4. You may also use their bios on the Crafting Freedom website as references.

4. Draw Venn Diagrams so students understand what they are. Explain that the area where the circles overlap should encompass commonly shared actions of resistance to slavery and shared antislavery activism between the activists being compared.

5. Ask students to underscore actions each of the three other activists took on Student Handouts 2-4. Then ask students to draw Venn Diagrams to compare and contrast Moses Roper's resistance to slavery and antislavery activism with each of the other three figures' resistance and activism.

6. After students complete their assignment with the Venn Diagrams, lead the class in a discussion comparing Moses Roper's actions of resistance and activism with each of the other three.

7. Ask students to pick Walker, Horton, or Jacobs and write an essay that compares and contrasts their selected figure to Moses Roper.

Extending the Lesson

1. After slavery ended in America, Frederick Douglass wrote: “Though slavery was abolished, the wrongs of my people were not ended. Though they were not slaves, they were not yet quite free.” What did he mean by this?

2. Are there any similarities to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the abolitionist movement?

3. What do you think modern activists today can learn from these abolitionists or the abolitionist movement as a whole?

4. In the 19th century, campaigners organized boycotts of slave-produced goods to draw attention to the cruelty of slavery. Today, it is estimated that nearly 40% of the chocolate we eat is cultivated in conditions similar to slavery. How would you go about planning a boycott of chocolate that is not Fair trade?

5. In the 20th century, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X visited Britain. Research what each did in Great Britain and compare/contrast it with what the African-American antislavery activists did when they were in Britain in the 19th century. Address issues such as:

a) What did they have to say about American and British racism?

b) How, in your view, should the legacy of abolition be remembered in Britain and the United States?