A few days ago


My 9 year old is homeschooled. We use the child led method and when she gets interested in something we go with it. Today we spent the day at a historic museum in GA and she was very upset about the slavery part. We are taking her to the black history museum next week but in the mean time I’d like to focus her studies around black history and slavery and what great things they accomplished. We bought a copy of Martin Luther King’s speech and will be reading it and hanging it on her wall.

You must understand that my children have been raised that colors don’t matter when it comes to how they should treat a person but this whole slavery thing is hard for me. How do I tell my little one how bad it really was without scaring her? Do they have sites where kids can go and learn about it? Also any guidance on what to teach her for black history is appreciated!

Thanks so much in advance!

I posted in history too hoping to get some guidance from somewhere!

Top 10 Answers
A few days ago

Favorite Answer

At nine years old your child is just entering the time in her life where she can start processing the concept of something like slavery. She isn’t fully ready for all the terrifying details.

You might want to consult sources like the one below


The PBS site offers enough to satisfy your child curiosity without getting too graphic (although I would be sure to check yourself in advance).

My advice to you, (as I am a historian who specializes in slavery) give her a grip of the basics. Tell her that in the past the law allowed men to own other men. That this allowed a certain group of people to be controlled and bought by other people. Explain that slaves didn’t have the same legal rights as white Americans. They couldn’t associate freely, speak freely, possess firearms, etc. It is a great way to teach her about the Bill of Rights if you contrast the rights of white Americans with the slaves lack of rights.

Feel free to email me if you have any more questions.


A few days ago
Has she read the American Girl books? The Addy books are about a young girl during that time period. Might be a good way to discuss it.

Also make sure you treat it from all angles — not all slave holders were horrible, awful people; the Civil War wasn’t JUST about that, etc, etc. Decide if you want to focus on American slavery or the issue as a whole — The Hebrews in Egypt, etc….

Go to the library and check out books about famous American’s who were previously slaves. Different States stances — KS for instance was a crucial swing state.


A few days ago
At this age I would read some simple books, read them aloud together; watch some DVD’s or movies.

One DVD that comes to mind is from Adventures in Odyssey; Race to Freedom, it is about the underground railroad.

Other good books are Amos Fortune, Free man, by Elizabeth Yates, the Slave Dancer by Paula Fox, and so on.

An interesting piece to study would be the role of Kentucky in the early stages of the Civil war; Kentucky was a key state in this war; it gives you a good look at how the country became so divided.

When she gets a bit older; you may want to pre-read these first, are the books by a black author/comedian called Dick Gregory.

He will give you a “real” look on black history.

We include his writings as well.

Some of the other posters bring up a good point, being from Europe I studied slavery but from a different perspective.

Slavery takes on many forms, from hand maidens in ancient times, to the Chinese laborers who built the railroads in the US, to today’s use of cheap labor in the form of illegal aliens; it would be a shame to limit the studies on slavery to just one time period in America.

Many other countries had some form of slavery, even indentured service was a form of slavery.

Have fun.


A few days ago
Thrice Blessed
You must be careful with a child of 9 not to go into too much detail. You can actually be somewhat glad that she is a little upset, it shows you’ve instilled in her a sense of fairness an justice. A good, but easy book for her age level is “The Drinking Gourd”, its about the underground railroad. In fact I would recommend including a lot of books on the underground railroad in your study, just to let her see that there were people, both black and white, who hated the idea of slavery and wanted to end it.

The American Girls books have some good historical fiction set in that time period, its been a very long time since my daughter used these books, but I think some are about a girl named Addy, who was a slave, but escaped with her family. There was another about a girl whose grandpa owned slaves, and I feel helped to get the message across that even the slave owners were people with good traits as well as bad, and that many of them were ignorant, having been taught since childhood that this evil was actually okay.

Any librarian should be able to help you find the American Girls books.


A few days ago
Get out of the American mind-set and explain to her that is slavery is by no means limited to these shores or this time in history .Explain to her that if we all trace our roots back far enough we will find slaves on the family tree.

Tell her about Moses freeing his people from their ancient Egyptians masters. After all Isn’t that the historical basis of Exodus ?

Rent the movie Spartacus [ the Kirk Douglas version]

Tell her that Greek slaves built Roman cities


A few days ago
You have been given some excellent resources. You might also look into the American Girl books. The Addy series is all about slavery. It is told from a 9 yo girls point of view. The book is historical fiction but it really opens up the topic.

A few days ago
I wouldn’t worry about it scarring her. There will always be horrible things in life. Focus on the positives. Tell her things like…

1. Slavery was occuring world wide, and our country abolished it and our way of thinking has come a long way.

2. Other civilations have benefitted from our costly war for freedom.

3. Not all slaves lived a miserable experience.

Horrible things happen everywhere and in everyone’s life. Living through them and learning from them give us wisdom and experience.


A few days ago
You might try studying Phyllis Wheatley, the 18th century poet. Wheatley was a slave who really became a member of her master’s family. She only addresses slavery in one Poem, but she discusses it in many of her letters.

Also, you might want to study the history of slavery in general and the struggle for the ending of slavery in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

You should acknowledge that American slavery was particularly brutal in comparison with other western nations. but there is no need to dwell on that aspect. Slavery is wrong, because God created us to be free, regardless of how the slaves in question are treated.


A few days ago
There’s a line between stating the basics of slavery and getting into detail. For example, you can explain that slaves were mistreated (very much so) without going into details of beatings.

At 9, your child is old enough to understand, at this level.

There’s nothing wrong with her being upset. In fact, you can use this to educate.


A few days ago
Ms. Phyllis
As a African American homeschooling mother, I am appalled at some of the answers you are receiving and astounded by the cavalier attitude of others regarding slavery. My son, who is 7, is also homeschooled. He has an African American mother (me, of course) and a Nigerian (Yoruba) father. I have talked to him about slavery, and I have also taught him about the accomplishments of Africans pre-slavery. African history does not begin with slavery.

Most African American slaves did lead horrible lives but overcame in spite of it. Phillis Wheatley was the exception, not the rule. She had masters who allowed her to learn to read and write. She was later freed and married a free African American man; perhaps this is why her poetry did not focus on slavery. She led a privileged life, as far as slaves were concerned, but this was most unusual.

The most horrific part of slavery was beating people into subjugation, not allowing them to speak their African native languages, and separating husbands from families, children from from families, etc. An entire group of Americans have no “roots” so to speak, and I believe, this is why there is much self-hatred and self-loathing among many (not all) African Americans today. Slavemasters purposefully and systematically destroyed an entire group of people, but in the words of poet Maya Angelous, “And Still I Rise.” The Africans who were brought here were taught that everything about them was bad, i.e., their hair, their full lips, their skin color, their speech patterns, etc. Many Africans internalized this and subconsciously and indirectly taught their offspring the same things and self-hatred, self-loathing, inferiority complexes have been perpertuated to date. I thank God that my parents were among the enlightened ones who truly believed they were not inferior and spent their lives teaching their children that they were indeed beautiful.

The effects of slavery are far reaching. Yes, other groups of people were enslaved, but the “peculiar institution” of slavery in the United State sof America was one of the most heinous and brutal.

I implore you to teach your child the truth; through this, she will learn the difference between right and wrong. She sounds like a sensitive, loving person. Teach her the truth in a way she can understand it. As her mother, you know what she is capable of processing and her maturity level.

I would suggest that you not only teach your daughter about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but that you also teach her about Malcolm X, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. DuBois, Mary McLeod Bethune, Marcus Garvey, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, etc. We hear so much about Dr. King, but there were others like Malcolm X; he once taught violence against whites but later came to embrace, accept, and love all people. (We usually only hear about his “hate the whites” stage of life, but rarely hear about how he matured and evolved as a human being.) The possibilities with child led learning are endless.

I hope this is helpful.