High Impact Practices – Investigations at the African Burial Ground

Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the laws, documents and customs relating to African burials in early New York City.

Working collaboratively, teams of students will investigate various sub- topics and report (in writing and orally) on:
TEAM ONE: The earliest Last Will and Testament of an African in New York City and The Last Will and Testaments of  slave owners in New York City.
TEAM TWO: The laws regarding slave burials in New York City as well as other laws relating to slavery in eighteenth century New York City.
TEAM THREE: Eighteenth century burial practices in New York City including varieties of grave-goods and burial rituals.
TEAM FOUR: The recent history of the Burial Ground and the New York State laws on the desecration of graves.

The justification for this topic is to illustrate the unchanging nature of wills in the common law system as well as to reinforce students’ ability to analyze will clauses, In addition, this unit will expose students to the history (past and recent) of the African Burial Ground and the laws relating to burials in the eighteenth century and today.


1. A comparison of historical and modern New York wills.
2. The laws relating to slave burials in New York City
3, A comparison of eighteenth century burial practices (and grave-goods) compared to modern practices
4. The recent history of the African Burial Ground and the laws concerning the desecration of graves

a. Focusing event: A field trip to the African Burial Ground (290 Broadway)

b. Teaching procedures: Lecture from a National Park Ranger, an hour visit to the Visitor’s Center where students can begin researching their assigned portion followed  two weeks later by a group wiki and a group oral report (each group presents their research for no longer than 10 minutes – each student speaks for no more than two minutes) and individual memo on Blackboard.

c. Student Participation : Students will receive a personal grade for posting a memo synthesizing their research on Blackboard, Teams will also receive a group grade for their wiki postings and oral report.

1.Communication Skills: the ability to read, write and speak effectively.
2, Critical Thinking: the ability to analyze complex issues and to evaluate information.
3. Research and Computer Skills: the ability to acquire, evaluate and synthesize information using appropriate technology in an ethical and legal manner
4. Humanistic and Social Inquiry: an understanding of and respect for cultural diversity, the human experience and the interconnectedness of global and local concerns.

1.Will analysis exercise
2. Individual memo – rubric
3. Team wiki posting – rubric
4. Oral presentation – rubric

4 thoughts on “High Impact Practices – Investigations at the African Burial Ground

  1. I like that the students will work on four different topics relating to the subject of African burial laws. Allowing them to present their “expert” findings will build confidence and a strong sense of team. I am looking forward to hearing about the results of this project.

    Will the will analysis exercise be completed as a self reflection, peer evaluation or something different?

  2. This is exciting this assignment. You have selected a fascinating location which should help inspire the students. I think the division into groups studying different subjects and sharing their thoughts will be very effective. You seem to be developing many rubrics for this assignment. The rubrics might be a good addition to the information the students have as they start their projects.

  3. This assignment sound like a lot of fun. Being an engineer, I think as a student, I would need more structure in the description of the assignment. How is the student relating their topic to the course?
    As for grading, perhaps a breakdown of how much each part is worth and what the rubrics are grading on might help students get a clear idea of what is expected of them. Pardon my ignorance, please:)

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