MAAP | Mapping the African American Past

Welcome to the MAAP Lesson Plan Collection

African American history is a required component of the New York State social studies curriculum in 4th, 8th, and 11th grades. MAAP lessons, developed at Teachers College, Columbia University, help teachers at all levels engage content on this website through stories about building community, resisting slavery, and contributing to New York City's development.

Lessons are geared towards 8th grade to 12th grade students. For many lessons, a 4th grade adaptation has also been provided.

Established Goals:

  • NY State Standard 1 - History of the United States and New York
  • Key Idea 1- The study of New York State and United States history requires an analysis of the development of American culture, its diversity and multicultural context, and the ways people are unified by many values, practices, and traditions.
  • Key Idea 3 - Study about the major social, political, economic, cultural, and religious developments in New York State and United States history involves learning about the important roles and contributions of individuals and groups.

Big Idea for Curriculum:

The paradox of struggling for freedom within the context of slavery (or more broadly individual choices vs. social context).

Essential Question of MAAP Curriculum:

What choices do individuals, groups, and communities face/make in the context of oppression (slavery)?


African American Community and Culture

The first module, entitled "African American Community and Culture," examines the African American community in depth, exploring the historic factors that shaped the community as well as ways in which members of the community define themselves through art, words and action. Students will learn about forces such as slavery and discrimination that influenced the African American community as it developed in the United States. Students will also study the intellectual and artistic achievements, political leadership and cultural institutions of the African American community in New York City. Throughout this module, students will examine primary resources that reflect the challenges that the African American community faced as well as the contributions the community has made and continues to make to life in New York City.

Resistance and Self-Determination

The second module, entitled, "Resistance and Self-Determination," centers on members of the African American community and the ways in which they resisted slavery and oppression. Students will have the opportunity to study the lives of major African American figures such as James McCune Smith, Frederick Douglass, and Marcus Garvey. Each of these leaders promoted different philosophies to counter slavery and discrimination. By the end of the module, students will be able to consider which of these methods of resistance were most effective. Furthermore, students will apply the lessons of African American resistance and discuss the ways in which we can counter discrimination and oppression today.

Building New York

The third and finale module, Building New York, involves the story of slavery in New York and how it parallels the economic foundations of the city, as well as the considerable economic contributions of free African Americans to the growth of the city in the years both before and after the abolition of slavery.

Today, New York is considered the economic capital of the world. But the economic culture of New York was created when the Dutch settled on the shores of the Hudson River. In 1621, the Dutch West India Company acquired unilateral control of the slave routes from West Africa to the West Indies. Since the Dutch West India Company controlled these trade routes, slaves were easily accessible to create a permanent settlement for the expanding Dutch empire. In effect, enslaved Africans were transported into the region and helped to create the economic conditions that served as the antecedent to Dutch colonial success. Moreover, the slave trade continued into the era of British reign over the newly named New York City as another colonial government benefited from the most un-American of American institutions.

Many of the city's most important works projects also benefited from the labor of free Africans. Though conditions were extremely difficult for African Americans in the years following the abolition of slavery, they were able to build numerous communities and businesses that contributed to the further economic expansion of the bustling metropolis. In this unit students will examine the economic history of New York within the context of slavery and the broader African American experience.

The purpose of these lesson plans is threefold:

  1. For students to understand the history of slavery in New York by utilizing economic concepts and considerations.
  2. Teachers will be able to incorporate these lessons within a thematic approach that addresses the economic concepts of slavery in New York.
  3. Students will understand that while the African American community was often marginalized and the victim of oppression, it contributed significantly to the economic development of one of the world's most important cities through the labor of its people and through the building of businesses and communities.

Produced by CCNMTL, Chase, Teachers College, and CCI