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Units August 9, 2022

Legacy of Slavery in Chicago and Beyond


Lesson Summary: Students examine how the legacy of slavery impacts a range of contemporary issues in Chicago. Downloads: Unit resources

This unit was created by educators in Chicago, IL, as part of the 2021 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately four weeks.


Students will be able to…

Week 1: Introduction to Research Project (Whole Class)

  • Define the central idea of “The Idea of America” and articulate the purpose of the unit
    > Healthcare
    > Labor
    > Music
    > Infrastructure
  • Review and complete The 1619 Project intro lessons on four topics:
  • Generate student interest in key areas of Chicago life and culture (Healthcare, Labor, Music & Infrastructure). Students will then choose ONE topic from the four to conduct further research on.

Week 2: Research Week

  • Students review curated research in small groups and create timelines and engage in historical thinking about their research.
  • Students write a thesis statement that answers the final essay prompt: How has the legacy of slavery impacted one of the chosen topics (Healthcare, Labor, Music & Infrastructure) for Chicago & Chicagoans?

Week 3: Writing & Presentation Week

  • Students will synthesize their learning over the past two weeks and draft an essay. Students will explore each of the four focus topics in a socratic seminar, using their expertise on their chosen subject to lead class discussions.

Unit Overview

Using The 1619 Project as a model, students will explore the legacy of slavery in Chicago. First, students will explore four topics: Healthcare, Labor, Music, and Infrastructure, and answer guiding questions designed to help students understand the claims authors of the The 1619 Project are making about the impact of slavery in the US. Then, students will analyze a series of primary and secondary sources related to those topics in the context of the city they live in: Chicago. Finally students will write a paper and participate in a socratic seminar that examines how the legacy of slavery impacts Chicago today. By the end of the unit, students will be able to describe, in speaking and writing, the ways in which slavery has impacted four key areas of Chicago life and culture.

Performance Task

Students will write an essay (approximately 400-500 words), explaining how the legacy of slavery can be seen in Chicago. Students will focus their research on the following areas of inquiry with a focus on the Chicago community: labor/employment, infrastructure, healthcare, and music.


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