Teaching Hard History: Grades 6-12 Introduction

Welcome to Learning for Justice’s revised 6-12 framework for teaching American slavery.1 The team of educators and scholars who worked on this project are passionate about its importance and pleased to share this outline of the components of the framework along with advice for how to use them. 

Our goal is to inspire a widespread commitment to robust and effective teaching about American slavery in K–12 classrooms. This history is fundamental to understanding our nation’s past and its present. If the topic is taught with inadequate breadth or depth, students are unable to draw connections between historical events and the concurrent struggles for racial equality or to contextualize how the world they inhabit today was shaped by the institution of slavery and its ideological progeny, white supremacy. 

In 2018, Learning for Justice (then Teaching Tolerance) issued A Framework for Teaching American Slavery. The framework was welcomed and has been widely used by teachers, scholars and educational leaders at all levels, many of whom have engaged with us to expand the work. 

This new edition tells a substantially more inclusive story about American slavery—one that includes the enslavement of Indigenous people. This framework and its elementary companion are the results of extensive work with historians and educators. It has many additions, subtractions and improvements to its first iteration. We are confident that it will improve upon the support we offer to educators seeking to teach the essential history of American slavery.

Any national effort to improve our teaching about enslavement must help educators integrate this history into the existing curricula. It must make clear connections between the institution of slavery and the major events of American history. It must provide nuanced primary and secondary sources that educators and students can rely on to further meaningful inquiry and dialogue. It must also acknowledge the causal connection between American slavery and white supremacy, an ideology that disrupts inter-group relationships and undermines justice in our country even today. It is our hope that the Key Concepts, Summary Objectives and additional teaching resources presented in A Framework for Teaching American Slavery accomplish these goals and—in doing so—significantly raise the quality of our national dialogue about race, racism and racial reconciliation. 


Return to the Teaching Hard History 6-12 Framework


Editor's Note

  1. “American” is used instead of “United States” because the framework addresses the history of slavery beginning before the colonization of lands that are now the United States.

Group of adults listening to one person speaking.

New Virtual Workshops Are Available Now!

Registrations are now open for our 90-minute virtual open enrollment workshops. Explore the schedule, and register today—the first workshop begins October 16th and space is limited!

Sign Up!