African American History: 1619 to the 21st Century

Thursday, July 26 - Saturday July 28, 2018

How can we employ African American history to help today’s students embrace their role as 21st century citizens?

Christopher Newport’s Center for American Studies presents a three-day workshop on African American history. This workshop coincides with the Virginia 2019 Commemoration of the first landing of African Americans in 1619.

Teachers will visit Fort Monroe for an onsite experience with the first arrival site and the “Freedom Fortress” of the American Civil War. Teachers will work with historians, scholars, and educators to shape lessons for their classroom. 

Tentative Agenda
Thursday, July 26
Noon to 1:30 p.m. Check-in

1:30 p.m.

Introductions, logistics and overview of the program

2 p.m.

Keynote – America’s Promise of Freedom and Equality 
Cassandra Newby-Alexander – Interim Dean, College of Liberal Arts at Norfolk State University, Norfolk State University

An overview of British exploration, Jamestowne in 1619, the arrival of African Americans, the slave system contrasted with the revolutionary Enlightenment ideals and promise of freedom and equality followed by time for Q&A.

3:30 p.m.

African Americans and the Chesapeake Bay
A guided tour at the Mariner’s Museum. Since first arriving on a Dutch ship at Old Point Comfort in 1619, Africans have played important roles in the history and economy of the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay's waterways fed the plantation system that drove the slave trade, but it also offered many a pathway to freedom.

5:30 p.m.

Dinner on your own.

7:30 p.m.

Document Analysis Activity 
India Meissel – History Department of Lakeland High School in Suffolk, Virginia and President of the National Council for the Social Studies

Teachers break into teams. Each team takes a document to analyze. Possible documents include excerpts from Virginia Declaration of Rights, the Virginia Slave Code, Emancipation Proclamation, Plessy v. Ferguson, and Brown v. Board of Education. Teams will report back to the group. The activity should have teams represent graphically key questions about the relationship between people and their government and strategies for using documents with their students.
Friday, July 27

8 a.m.

Coffee and Danish
8:30 a.m. Depart for Fort Monroe

9:30 a.m.

Tour Fort Monroe 
The tour provides an overview of the historic site including the 1619 African arrival and the Union Army fortress that provided freedom for African Americans during the American Civil War. The tour will emphasize the changing face of the fortress and surrounding community throughout its history. The group will meet a Civil War soldier and discuss the events that occurred at “freedom fortress.”


Box lunch. Depart for CNU.

1:30 p.m.

Keynote – Emancipation and the Promise of Reconstruction
The ideals of the Abolitionist movement, emancipation, and Reconstruction gave way to the reality of racial enmity and Jim Crow. 45 minute lecture / program followed by time for Q&A.

3 p.m.

India Meissel – History Department of Lakeland High School in Suffolk, Virginia and President of the National Council for the Social Studies

Activity focused on American reformers and advocates for abolitionism and civil rights. Using primary source materials teachers chart the course of the movement from activism through legislation (and sometimes to repeal). In addition to presenting content, teachers develop lesson for implementing the approach in their classroom. Teacher groups will prepare a presentation for the following day.

5:30 p.m.

Dinner on your own

7:30 p.m.

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A Conversation with Valerie Gray Holmes
Valerie Gray Holmes is a historical interpreter and performer who portrays the lives of 18th, 19th, and 20th century African Americans for teachers and students around the country. This performance and discussion will focus on the opportunities and challenges of teaching African American history in the classroom.
Saturday, July 28

8 a.m.

Coffee and Danish
9 a.m. Pulling Together All the Threads
This session is an opportunity to review the major themes of the conference and examine how to bring those themes together in active and engaging ways in our classrooms. Time will be provided for the teams to complete and polish their presentations.

10:30 a.m..

Teacher Presentations
Following up from the Friday afternoon's activity, teacher groups present and critique their lesson plans.


Lunch - Summary of the workshop and debrief and feedback from teachers on the workshop.

1:30 p.m. 


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Registration deadline is June 1, 2018. All attendees will receive a stipend of $250. Free overnight accommodations in one of the Christopher Newport Residence Halls are available upon request. (See registration form below.)

Only 30 teachers will be selected.

For additional information, please contact Cheryl Potthast at


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