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Activity 1: Slavery and Antislavery

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Print out Leader Resource 1, Slavery and Antislavery and prepare to present its contents.
  • Print out Leader Resource 2, Slavery and Antislavery Quotes. Cut apart the quotes so there is one quote per slip of paper. Place the slips in a bowl or basket.

Description of Activity

Read, or present in your own words, the contents of Leader Resource 1, Slavery and Antislavery. Explain that while much has been written and celebrated about Unitarian and Universalist abolitionists, we may forget there was a range of opinion about how freedom for those enslaved should be achieved. There were even those among our religious ancestors who supported the institution of slavery, passively or actively. Explain that in this activity, participants will hear some of these voices.

Pass the basket of quotes, inviting each participant to select a slip with a quote to read aloud. With a small group, invite participants to choose more than one. Remind participants they are welcome to "pass" or to ask someone else to read a quote they have picked.

After slips are chosen, invite each reader to identify the date of the quote so the group can read the quotes in chronological order. Have participants read each quote aloud and share the information on the slip about the person quoted.

Following the readings, lead a conversation about the quotes using some or all of these prompts:

  • Many who engaged in the debate about slavery believed the prosperity and stability of the nation relied on social order. Some sought gradual, or limited, change; some felt the tactics of many abolitionists were simply too radical and disruptive. In what ways do you see freedom and a regard for harmony and order as connected? In tension?
  • Some Unitarians who were particularly invested in the economic engines of the North, such as mills, banks, and shipping were reluctant to undermine their own financial interests. How do you reconcile self-interest and freedom for all?
  • What does this 19th century issue teach us about our response to contemporary social issues?

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