How individuals shape history
Students meet the formerly enslaved woman who changed the course of history
Meadow Pond Elementary's fourth graders as well as remote-only fourth graders from across the district were eye-witness to history recently. They met Elizabeth Freeman, an enslaved person who filed suit for her freedom in 1781—and won!
She spoke to them as a free woman, from her own home, recounting how she overheard “All men are born free and equal,” a portion of the just-written Massachusetts Constitution, while cleaning up after her owners’ dinner. Freeman followed hope and took planned action that held the law to its word, ultimately gaining her freedom and setting the legal precedent to abolish slavery in Massachusetts.
Students' access to the virtual program of the Museum of the American Revolution, in Philadelphia, was set up by teacher Theresa Garber and made possible by the MPES Arts and Education fund. “Elizabeth Freeman's story augments our social studies curriculum in a unique way,” said Garber. “History is often told in events, dates, times, and places. I want our 4th graders to be curious about people and how individuals shaped our history.”
Lessons in primary research and personal character
In a Q&A following the performance, students asked Tiffany Bacon, the actor who played Elizabeth Freeman, and Megan Bowersox, one of the museum’s educators, a wide range of questions including how they knew so much about Freeman’s life. Bowersox described the documents on which the presentation was built: Freeman’s court papers, the deed to the property she purchased with her son-in-law and her will, as well as the inscription on the headstone at her grave.
Teachers' follow-up assignment prompted students to reflect on the ways in which they treat one another and what their actions can accomplish for themselves and for others.
“Elizabeth Freeman’s story of slavery and freedom is very important in teaching us that we should always stand up against injustice and not be afraid to speak out for ourselves or others when treated unfairly.”
"She showed that our dreams can come true."
"It was an amazing performance. This story is important because it shows that with a good heart and determination you can do anything."