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TPS Quarterly

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Taking a Closer Look at Slavery: Historical Print Advertisement Analysis


This activity should be used as part of a larger unit on the institution of slavery. Students take a close analytical look at an historical print advertisement for a slave market, and discover what it can tell them about slavery during this era. Students will perform a basic primary source analysis, interpret the story told by the advertisement’s text and illustrations and write a reflective essay, poem or story on this topic.


After completing the activity, students will be able to:

  • Perform a basic primary source analysis of an historic document
  • Interpret informational text using reading strategies
  • Apply reading and writing skills in the content area
"Negroes, Negroes." Print advertisement for slave auction, 1859

"Negroes, Negroes." Print advertisement for slave auction, 1859. Emergence of Advertising in America, 1850-1920 Collection – Database #B0430 John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library

Time Required

One to two class periods

Grade Level



African American History


National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860
Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877


McREL 4th Edition Standards and Benchmarks

United States History

Standard 13. Understands the causes of the Civil War

Historical Understanding

Standard 2. Understand the historical perspective.

Language Arts

Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
Standard 7. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
Standard 8. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes


Activity adapted from "Lincoln and Slavery: Taking a Closer Look at Slave Advertisements," a lesson plan created by Cheryl Best, Bunker Hill Community Unit School District, Illinois.

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