Committing to the recommendations of Teaching Hard History means ensuring that field trips to antebellum plantations or colonial historical sites include thoughtful, reflective and honest learning experience for their students. Use this planning checklist to get ready for your journey—whether real or virtual.
Educators aiming to teach an honest and reflective history of chattel slavery may choose to take their students on field trips to antebellum plantations or historic sites once inhabited by enslavers and enslaved people. Understanding the five basic principles described in the feature story “Preserving a More Honest History” can help educators plan responsible explorations of these historic sites and the legacy of enslaved people who were forced to live and work on those lands.
How can I plan a responsible field trip to a plantation or historic site while staying committed to teaching an honest and reflective history of chattel slavery?
The Five Principles: Screen for Them in Advance of Your Visit
- Hire a knowledgeable, responsive staff.
- Provide the context behind the beauty.
- Humanize the experiences of enslaved people.
- Include descendant communities and personal narratives.
- Connect past to present.
Planning a thoughtful trip to an antebellum plantation or colonial home takes forethought and research. If possible, collaborate with school counselors, families, other educators and your students to ensure the trip is organized and executed in a way that is productive, educational and reflective of your classroom values.
Before you book a trip, call the site's customer service office and ask questions to assess for the five principles. Below is a sample script to guide you.
Hello, I’m calling to a plan a field trip for my third-grade students. We are interested in learning the histories of enslaved people on this land from their perspectives. I have some questions to help me best plan our trip.
- How are the tours created?
- How are tour guides trained?
- How is the history of enslaved people and their descendants prioritized throughout the tour?
- How are the personal experiences of enslaved people told? Film? Narratives? Letters?
- What resources do you suggest or provide for my students before/during/after our visit?
- What is the pace of the tour? Is there time for reflection and questions with students?
Visit the website and social media posted on behalf of the plantation site. Note the primary content featured in their marketing materials. Reflect on these questions:
- Does the website provide lessons for teaching the histories of enslaved people on their land?
- Does the website primarily highlight "the beauty" of the land?
- Does the website explicitly refer to the existence of enslaved people on the land?
- Does the website share sources for the stories of enslaved people and their descendants?
- Is there any evidence that scholars were involved in developing the interpretive materials?
Set and maintain clear behavioral expectations for students. Encourage students to think of themselves as historians. Emphasize the seriousness required for this learning experience by:
- Exploring imagery from the website or social media.
- Creating community agreements specific to the trip.
- Developing thoughtful questions.
- Reading about other people’s experiences visiting plantations.