Slavery & Reconstruction

A New Order on the Sea Islands (1861-1863)

1861?  Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

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'Life on the Sea Islands,' Atlantic Monthly, May and June 1864.

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We read short excerpts from the journal of a young black woman from Philadelphia who worked as a missionary schoolteacher with the abandoned slaves, soon-to-be-freedmen, of the South Carolina Sea Islands.  Through this account, students imagine the enthusiasm for change in the young teacher’s pupils—a determination to learn that was strong enough to outlast their hard labor in the fields all morning before the afternoon at school.  Students also witness black soldiers in bright uniforms maintaining clean and comfortable camps and marching proudly in companies of the First (black) Regiment.  As one student wrote, “It kind of has the idea of … a new age coming.”

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Questions and Activities

Text:  Excerpt #1:  “The first day at school was rather trying….”

Text:  Excerpt #2:  “New-Year’s-Day — Emancipation-Day — was a glorious one to us….”

The excerpts are from Charlotte Forten, “Life on the Sea Islands,” Atlantic Monthly, May and June 1864.  She is writing about her experiences in the previous year or two.  (For links to the entire articles, a portrait of Charlotte Forten, and other related materials, scroll down to Additional Resources and click View More.)  The map at left is provided here for context and atmosphere.  We work with it in detail in subtopic 3 (The Landscape After Slavery, Part I).

For questions we asked students as they considered the excerpts, click View More.

Text:  Excerpt #1:  “The first day at school was rather trying….”

Text:  Excerpt #2:  “New-Year’s-Day — Emancipation-Day — was a glorious one to us….”

The excerpts are from Charlotte Forten, “Life on the Sea Islands,” Atlantic Monthly, May and June 1864.  She is writing about her experiences in the previous year or two.  (For links to the entire articles, a portrait of Charlotte Forten, and other related materials, scroll down to Additional Resources and click View More.)  The map at left is provided here for context and atmosphere.  We work with it in detail in subtopic 3 (The Landscape After Slavery, Part I).

For questions we asked students as they considered the excerpts, click View More.

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Student Responses

Text:  Excerpt #1:  “The first day at school was rather trying….”

Kalil:  Why did the older ones work in the fields in the morning and then come to school excited and eager to learn?  I want to include this [in a film version of “Life on the Sea Islands”] because I want to show the excitement of these teenagers.  I want to show how difficult it was for the young workers to have the energy to learn in school after working in the field.  …  [In the film scene I imagine], a student is asking another, in an upset and angry way, “Why do we have to work so hard out in this hot and steamy field?”

For more student responses, click View More.

Text:  Excerpt #1:  “The first day at school was rather trying….”

Kalil:  Why did the older ones work in the fields in the morning and then come to school excited and eager to learn?  I want to include this [in a film version of “Life on the Sea Islands”] because I want to show the excitement of these teenagers.  I want to show how difficult it was for the young workers to have the energy to learn in school after working in the field.  …  [In the film scene I imagine], a student is asking another, in an upset and angry way, “Why do we have to work so hard out in this hot and steamy field?”

For more student responses, click View More.

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Teacher Narrative

Coming soon….

Coming soon….

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Additional Resources

Click the highlighted words to go to any of the following five sources.  (To see all five, click View More.)

Charlotte Forten, “Life on the Sea Islands,” Atlantic Monthly 13:79 (May and June 1864), pp. 587-596, pp. 666-676.

Portrait of Charlotte Forten (c. 1870s), Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.

Click the highlighted words to go to any of the following five sources.  (To see all five, click View More.)

Charlotte Forten, “Life on the Sea Islands,” Atlantic Monthly 13:79 (May and June 1864), pp. 587-596, pp. 666-676.

Portrait of Charlotte Forten (c. 1870s), Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.