Courageous Black Lives – Harriet Ann Jacobs and Eubie Blake

In History by Caris Adel2 Comments

Last fall I taught a class at our homeschool co-op on Courageous Black Lives. I was a little nervous about doing this topic, but ended up being able to frame the class in a way that not only discusses the courage and bravery of over 30 people that I want the kids to recognize, but also talks about the powers of white supremacy that they were fighting against. I’m slowly posting what we did and links to resources I used.

What does it mean to be Courageous? We’re going to look at why people were so bold and courageous, why they seemed to do things out of the ordinary, and what the ordinary things were that they were standing up against. Why did they need to be courageous? Each week we’ll look at a person throughout history, along with a creative black person that you should be familiar with who used their art courageously.

Harriet Ann Jacobs

harriet jacobs

Born: February 11, 1813

Died: March 7, 1897

African-American writer who escaped from slavery and was later freed. Famous for hiding in an attic for 7 years. Became an abolitionist speaker and reformer.


We learned about Harriet Jacobs, and also Nat Turner because they lived in the same region, and the fear/power involved affected Harriet.

Start video at 5:40

Harriet Jacobs – What Slavery Really is

Harriet Jacobs published the “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” in 1861, a true story of her life in slavery in South Carolina and her escape to the North after living almost 7 years in the attic. Her story portrays the abuses and hypocrisy of the master-slave relationship with a female slave.

Watch video 1:40-2:35, 3:34-5:46

Slaves Fought Back: Nat Turner

Some referred to him as “Prophet Nat Turner”. Nat Turner was born on October 2, 1800, in Southampton County, Virginia, the week before Gabriel was hanged. While still a young child, Nat was overheard describing events that had happened before he was born.

Timeline Activity

Harriet Ann Jacobs Timeline

Harriet Ann Jacobs Timeline 1813 Harriet Ann Jacobs is born in Edenton, N.C. to Delilah and Elijah Jacobs. 1819 Harriet’s mother dies. At age six, Harriet goes to live with her mother’s white mistress, Margaret Horniblow, in Edenton. Through Miss Horniblow’s tutelage, Harriet learns how to rea…

– Put timeline in order as a group – glue to large paper


Laws and Practices  (we’re going to keep a list of all the laws we come across)

– Fugitive Slave Act

– laws after Nat Turner

         – no preaching by slaves, free blacks

         – no religious meetings – 39 lashes

         – no inciting people to rebel, insurrection, riots


Power Discussion

Using the form below, we reviewed the lesson and they filled in the squares. Some of the kids drew pictures to represent it if they didn’t want to write it all out.  

Who Had the Power?  Dr. Norcom, and his kids who thought they had power. We talked about Dr. Norcom and how you can be ‘good’ – helping people, healing people, be respected, and still be supporting or doing terrible things that hurt and kill people.

What Was the Injustice? being enslaved. We talked about language difference between ‘a slave’ and ‘enslaved person’.
Who Were the Allies? people who mailed letters, her grandmother, abolitionist friends

How Could It Have Been Fixed? Been set free, his children not going after her. We talked about why she was pursued so long and hard – people in power want to keep their power, and when people in power are afraid, what do they do?

What Were the Acts of Resistance and Courage? hiding, running away, writing her story


Power Worksheet


“I resolved not to be conquered again.” ― Harriet Ann Jacobs

(Put the new Nat Turner movie on your radar!)

Eubie Blake

Eubie Blake

Born: February 7, 1887

Died: February 12, 1983

Composer, lyricist, and pianist of ragtime, jazz, and popular music. Creator of the ground-breaking show, Shuffle Along (now on Broadway again!)


Start video at 1:40

Minstrel shows

from Ken Burns Jazz (for educational purposes only)

Watch the first 2 minutes

Blacks and Vaudeville: PBS documentary

PBS two-hour documentary on “Vaudeville”: the segment on Blacks and Vaudeville (19 min). Beginning in the 1880s and through the 1920s, vaudeville was home to more than 25,000 performers, and was the most popular form of entertainment in America. From the local small-town stage to New York’s Palace Theater, vaudeville was an essential part of every community.

(really 96. But this video is so great. Eubie is one of my favorite people I’ve come across in researching for this class.)
Watch video 2:58-4:00, 10:10-10:30, 11:55-12:47

Eubie Blake at 100

Eubie Blake at 100 Originally uploaded by palindup but with lip sync problem


Read relevant section from music article

Paper Plate Portrait Activity

– how people see you, how you see yourself

– discuss how white people saw black people, how black people saw themselves

“The proudest day of my life was when Shuffle Along opened. At the intermission, all these white people kept saying, ‘I would like to touch him, the man who wrote the music.’  At last, I’m a human being.” – Eubie Blake

  Print and handout appropriate page



Week 1 – Benjamin Banneker and Music from Slavery

Week 2 – Harriet Ann Jacobs and Eubie Blake

Week 3 – Mifflin Gibbs and Lucille Clifton

Week 4 – Robert Smalls and Elizabeth Catlett

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  • Leslie DeJarnette

    This sounds like a cool class. I wonder if anyone in my co-op would be interested in teaching it? Thanks for sharing your resources and for stopping by Literacy Musing Mondays.

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