Remembrance, Reparations, and Reconciliation: 400th Anniversary of the First Arrival

Remembrance, Reparations, and Reconciliation:

400th Anniversary of the First Arrival



Brendan Boylan

Sharon Kim

Course Overview:

This course explores the history of the first Africans in America and the evolution of slavery throughout the 17th century. Students will investigate the daily lives of African Americans in the 17th century and investigate and identify the turning point in which slavery started to become institutionalized. Students will then examine the legacy of slavery in present times and discuss ways to reckon with that history in terms of remembrance, reparations, and reconciliation.  

Course Objectives

By the end of the course students should be able to understand:

  1. The basic history of African Americans from 1619 to 1723
  2. How the system of slavery evolved in Virginia between the first arrival of Africans in America in 1619 through the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676
  3. How race and blackness was institutionalized throughout the the 17th century
  4. The effects that the institution of slavery had on African Americans and which still persist to this day
  5. Analyzing the effects of the institution of slavery in contemporary issues of race, politics, and economics.

Skill Objectives

By the end of the course students should have improved upon their skills to:

  1. Read, annotate, and analyze primary and secondary sources
  2. Identify, examine, and critique the author’s purpose and point of view as well as the intended audience for sources
  3. Evaluate the relevance and significance of a primary source
  4. Conduct individual research on a specific topic
  5. Construct critical arguments with a clear thesis supported with evidence
  6. Compare different perspectives of an argument
  7. Evaluate the impact of historical events
  8. Think critically and creatively about ways to remedy the legacy of slavery on current day Black Americans


Readings. Throughout the course we will have multiple readings that relate to the topic we are covering. The readings are assigned to give historical context and background. They are also exercises for students to improve upon reading primary and secondary sources, and are expected to be annotated and analyzed. These readings are critical to succeeding in the class as most classes will be mostly discussion based.

Discussion/Content postings. Throughout the course we will create discussion forums with daily prompts relating to the assigned readings. Students are required to create and comment on posts.

Creative Project. At the end of the course, students will have two options to use their creativity and present the themes and arguments of the course materials.

  1. Create a documentary about a specific modern issue stemming from the institutionalization of slavery.
  2. Create three songs, poems, or short stories relating to one common theme related to slavery or modern systematic oppression of Blacks


Class Structure

Weekly Socratic Seminars. Throughout the course we will have Socratic Seminars which are discussions with open-ended questions based on the assigned readings. Students can ask and answer questions while also thinking critically and formulating individual responses. The purpose of these seminars are to gain a better understanding about the text in a collaborative setting. This allows for a safe space to talk about ideas and hear different perspectives from others. Come prepared with a list of questions to ask regarding the texts.

Course Schedule

Week Day Topic Required readings
1 1 Introduction. Overview of syllabus and goals and expectations of the course.
What is a Socratic Seminar?
Virginia’s First Africans by Martha McCartney

Letter to Sir Edwin Sandys by John Rolfe

2 1619: Arrival of the Africans. History of the first African Americans in Jamestown

Discussion Post Due

Free Blacks in Colonial Virginia by Brendan Wolfe

Ch. 6 of African Americans on Jamestown Island by Martha McCartney

3 African American Life in the 1600’s. Socratic Seminar  – How did the life of African Americans differ from that of your expectations?

Discussion Post Due

Ch. 7 of African Americans on Jamestown Island by Martha McCartney

“American Heartbreak” by Langston Hughes

4 Bacon’s Rebellion: The Turning Point. Socratic Seminar – Why was this the major turning point?
Discussion Post Due
“An American Tragedy” by Glenn C. Loury

UN 72nd Session

5 Modern Day Issues. Socratic Seminar: What are modern day problems rooted in the institution of slavery?
Introduction to Debate
“Road to Zero Wealth”
Prepare for the debate

End of Week 1

2 6 Debate: Slavery by Another Name. Students construct arguments for and against the statement that mass incarceration is a form of modern-day slavery.
Introduction to Final Project
Come up with project idea!
7 Why Behind the What Why did people continue to rely on the systematic oppression and forced labor of African Americans? Work on your project!
8 Roundtable Talk: Reparations. How can we make amends for Virginia’s crimes on African Americans? What would provide justice for former slaves? Work on your project!
9 Now What. 400 Years: How should we remember it? How did VA schools teach the 17th century? How should it be taught? Keep working on your project!
10 Presentations

Final Projects DUE!


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