Units January 3, 2024

Creating Communities



Lesson Summary: Students discover how the experience of enslavement informed culture and community for Black Americans, inspiring a legacy of resistance and responsibility today. Downloads: Unit resources

This unit was created by the Bronx School for the Arts team as part of the 2022 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately 5-7 weeks, with 45-minute lessons scheduled 3 times per week.


Students will...

  • Describe and explain the customs, beliefs, values, languages, structure, and governance of a community
  • Compare and contrast characteristics between different types of communities, including kingdoms in Africa before 1619
  • Evaluate how the legacy of resistance continues in current social movements

Unit Overview:

Our project focuses on the creation of communities. Our elementary-level study of community focuses on defining what a community is and exploring different types of communities. This unit will expand on our learning by exploring why and how people create communities. Using the text Born on the Water, we will explore how communities have formed throughout history. 

Students will understand that complex societies and civilizations persevere by adapting to and modifying their environments. Students will discover the common characteristics of communities, applying their learning to analyze the history of African people who were captured, brought to the Americas through the Middle Passage, and enslaved. As a result of being taken forcibly from their homes and families, the African people had to create their own community to survive - a new community “born on the water.” They were the people “who refused to die.” They created a legacy of resistance to brutality and oppression, a legacy that continued throughout history and lives on today.

Throughout our reading and discussion of Born on the Water, we will explore the following questions: 

  • What is a community? What does our community look like?
  • How does geography affect different communities? What are some defining characteristics of particular communities?
  • What is a kingdom? What were some defining characteristics of the Kingdom of Ndongo? 
  • How was the Kingdom of Ndongo similar and different to our community?
  • What were some defining characteristics of other African kingdoms?
  • What does it mean when something is stolen? What feelings does it evoke? Can a culture be stolen? Can people be stolen? Can a community be stolen? When do people create new communities?
  • What does it mean to resist something? What feelings does it evoke?
  • Who are some people who have resisted unfair, oppressive conditions and/or laws? How have they contributed to the legacy of resistance?

Performance Task(s):

African Kingdom Research Project:
Students will work in groups to research a kingdom in Africa and create a presentation board detailing the following:

  • Customs
  • Beliefs
  • Values
  • Languages
  • Patterns of organization (structure)
  • Governance 

Legacy Project:
Students will choose a current or historical figure who has continued (or currently continues) a legacy of resistance against oppression. Students will create an individual written or oral presentation (including, but not limited to: videos, posters, Google slides, essays, etc).


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