Middle Passage Primary Source Activities



Great way to learn about the horrible conditions for African slaves traveling from Africa to the New World on the Middle Passage. Students will get a first-hand account of what it was like for the slaves. This works great for a class teaching about the history of slavery in the New World.

Zero prep! Files are editable, if you desire to make some changes.

Materials include

  1. Primary Source Excerpts from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African
  2. Reading check questions (including historical thinking questions)
  3. Summary and Vocabulary activity sheet
  4. H.I.P.P.O.S. Analysis activity sheet (Historical background, Intended Audience, Purpose, Point of view, Other, So what?)
  5. ANSWER KEY for ALL activities

How to use this activity

Since this activity includes a primary resource and three accompanying activities, it could be difficult to complete it all in one day. However, you could read the primary source (individually or as a class) and discuss. Then, students complete one (maybe two) of the activities. Finally, give the last activity as homework (or do it the second day).

Alternative activity ideas:

  • If distance learning: students read primary source and complete the activities at home (could discuss on Zoom if possible)
  • Read the primary source as a class and then conduct a Socratic Seminar (use the activities as homework)
  • Read the primary source in pairs, then have a round table discussion (student led, but teacher prompts historical thinking questions); do activities in class or as homework
  • Read the primary source for homework, discuss in class; do activities in pairs
  • Students read the primary source and complete activities; in pairs, present H.I.P.P.O.S.
  • Print the pages, annotate the primary source, take notes on the sides, and complete the activities
  • Students find another primary source that discusses the same historical event but is written from a different point of view; discuss (or write an essay)
  • Read primary source, then have a game show where the teacher asks questions (using the accompanying activities) and teams have to race to answer the question (with some modification, could be adapted into a Jeopardy-like game)
  • After completing the primary source and activities, create a simulation so students can understand how the Spanish and Aztecs might have felt during this time period

Students will be able to…

  • understand how difficult it must have been for the African slaves traveling to the New World
  • understand the attitudes of the slaves traders on the ship
  • understand some background information about Olaudah Equiano
  • think like a historian
  • read, comprehend, and analyze primary source using textual evidence to support an argument
  • summarize a primary source
  • improve their vocabulary
  • improve their ability to read and analyze AP US History DBQ documents (this is not a DBQ essay)

Additional information

Grade Level

9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Resource Types

Primary Source Activities, DBQs, Printables


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