Finding Aaron

Teacher Notes:

Introduction to Case:

In this case, students follow the life and escape attempts of an enslaved man named Aaron of the course of four years. Students utilize runaway slave advertisements from the Virginia Gazette from 1767 to 1771 to track multiple escapes by Aaron and the quest of his masters to recapture him. Although the evidence paints only a partial picture of Aaron's life, students are challenged to a plausible explanation of what happened to Aaron between December, 1767 and January, 1771. Indicate whether you were satisfied with the evidence and list any additional questions that have been left unanswered through your investigation.

 


Acknowledgements:

The investigation, “Finding Aaron” was inspired by an exercise Dr. Stephanie van Hover, Social Studies professor at the Curry School at the University of Virginia, uses in her methods classes.

The ads can be found in The Virginia Center for Digital History (VCDH) project, “Virginia Runaways”. The website houses a searchable digital database in which researchers can find runaway and captured slave and servant advertisements from 18th-century Virginia newspapers.

Standards:

NCSS Theme II: Time, Continuity and Change
Focus on reading and reconstructing the past to:
1. include various perspectives on historical events;
2.draw upon historical knowledge during the examination of social issues;
3. develop the habits of mind that historians and schalors employ.

National Center for History in the Schools
Standard 2: Historical Comprehension
Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation
Standard 4: Historical Research Capabilities
Standard 5: Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making

Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Standards
Grade 8A8b: Analyze the experiences of African American slaves, free blacks, and the influence of abolitionists.

Virginia Standards of Learning
USI.9: The student will demonstrate knowledge of the causes, major events, and effects of the Civil War by:
a. describing the cultural, economic, and constitutional issues that divided the nation;
f. describing the effects of war from the perspectives of Union and Confederate soldiers (including black soldiers), women, and slaves.

Implementation Ideas:

 

Word document of Case and documents

 


Becoming a Detective

A descendent has traced her lineage to an enslaved man named Aaron and is trying to piece together his story. You have agreed to help her. She has provided a series of documents that follow. It is your job to determine the type of evidence included within this file, the credibility of each piece of evidence and how the evidence fits together. Finally, you will be asked to come up with a plausible explanation of what happened to Aaron between December, 1767 and January, 1771 and how you came to that particular conclusion.

 

Investigating the Evidence

Click here to view the documents.

  • Document A: Virginia Gazette December 17, 1767
  • Document B: Virginia Gazette April 28, 1768
  • Document C: Virginia Gazette December 22, 1768
  • Document D: Virginia Gazette Nov. 2, 1769
  • Document E: Virginia Gazette Jan. 3, 1771
  • Document F: Virginia Gazette Jan. 10, 1771

 

Searching for Clues

Please answer the following questions about each document or download the formatted Case File (Word Format | PDF Format).

  1. What type of documents are these? Who wrote the documents? To whom were the documents written?
  2. When was each document written? Provide a summary of each document.
  3. What questions did you ask yourself as you were reading through the ads?
  4. Why do you think the documents were written?
  5. Put together a description of Aaron based on the texts. Cite with quotation marks when using the direct text.
  6. Who was Henry Randolph? John Randolph? Given the evidence and prior knowledge, make your best estimate and explain how you came to that conclusion.
  7. What do you think happened to Aaron? Why? What are these conclusions based upon?
  8. What role did the courts play in this case?
  9. Based on this investigation and what you know about the process of history, what are some difficulties historians face in reconstructing history?

 

 

Cracking the Case

Based on your analysis of the six documents and citing evidence to support your answer, please write a plausible explanation of what happened to Aaron between December, 1767 and January, 1771. Indicate whether you were satisfied with the evidence and list any additional questions that have been left unanswered through your investigation.