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Marlipit aerial- August 2021

Beneath the Floorboards:
Whispers of the Enslaved
at Marlpit Hall

Virtual Professional Development Course
for Grades 3-12

Teaching Slavery

The topic of slavery can be daunting for even the most experienced educators. Students react with varying degrees of realization and comprehension; it can be emotional at times, and questions can be challenging. This professional development program provides educators with the background knowledge and confidence necessary to offer strong answers to difficult questions. You will also learn skills to analyze and interpret historical documents like historians do. It is our hope that you will find these skills beneficial in fostering meaningful and impactful classroom discussions. 
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Video Tour

The following short video tour will give you a brief introduction to the exhibit space. You will meet seven of the twelve known enslaved individuals at Marlpit: Tom, Clarisse, Elizabeth, York, Will, and Hannah.

Exhibit Research on Slavery in New Jersey

These materials, researched by our award-winning team of curators, will help you learn the core facts and concepts necessary to effectively teach the subject of slavery in New Jersey. 

Primary Source Workshop

These materials, researched by our award-winning team of curators, will help you learn the core facts and concepts necessary to effectively teach the subject of slavery in New Jersey. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the more common questions we receive on field trips to Marlpit Hall. These answers are the ones we typically provide. The topic of slavery is complex and in-depth, and for our younger students we offer strong building blocks for understanding the full devastations of slavery as they mature intellectually. While there are many different opinions from highly respected educators in the field on if, when and how the sexually explicit topics of rape and breeding should be presented to upper elementary students, we do not highlight this aspect at this level, though this is simply the approach we have chosen to take. Though highly impacted, high school students are more than capable of hearing the full weight of the"adult answers." For our upper elementary educators, only you know the level of emotional and intellectual maturity of your students, so feel free to customize the information to guide the discussion at your discretion. Answer A is for high school to middle school, Answer B is for upper elementary students to middle school. 

1. Who was Hannah's / Clarisse's husband? Alternatively, "Who was Matilda's / Elizabeth's / Will's father?"

Middle School / High School response:
We do not have records on who the husbands/fathers of the women and children were. Marriages of the enslaved were not legally recognized but rather "accepted" out of tradition if the enslavers were inclined to allow it. It is more than likely that unmarried enslaved women who became pregnant had fallen into the hands of the white males in the household, or in the surrounding local areas. Enslaved women had few options to resist that would not end in severe punishment to themselves or potentially their own sale away from those they loved. They had no legal recourse against the act. Birth records listing children born as "mulatto" are clear indicators of Black/White intercourse, though in the absence of a primary source account describing the relationship, we are unable to say for certain what the actual events were surrounding the child's birth. The use of the word "rape" is certainly appropriate and applicable to any instance in which the woman does not have a say in her life or fears for her safety if she does not acquiesce. 

Upper Elementary response:
We don't know who Hannah's husband was (alternatively, who Matilda's / Elizabeth's / Will's father was, as we do not have a primary source record naming them. We do know that Clarisse got married to Reverend XXX XXX after the Civil War, because we have a newspaper article that tells us this event happened, but we cannot say for sure who Matilda's father was.

2. Why are there so many different reward prices offered in the Runaway Ads? Some ads offered one penny, while others offered forty dollars...

 It all depended on how badly the enslaver wanted to get the individual back. Some people had the attitude that the escaped individual was legally their property and must be returned regardless of reward, else that would be considered stealing. 

3. Why didn't all the slaves just run away?

Running away was an exceptionally brave act of resistance that could potentially result in death, but almost certainly in severe punishment if the enslaved individual was caught - which was a high probability. Choosing not to run away did NOT mean the enslaved individual was happy or complacent with their situation. There were many valid reasons not to run:
1. Fear of severe punishment for themselves or those they left behind
2. Unwillingness to leave loved ones behind
3. Lack of provisions (adequate food, money, clothing, shelter)
4. Lack of destination (where would they go?)
5. Uncertainty (would the situation be worse elsewhere?)

We also cannot know how many people planned to run every day, but did not have a viable opportunity to do so. 

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