Were their hands clean? Are my hands clean?


Students examine local store advertisements from the 18th and 19th centuries to consider how people in our local communities were connected to the triangle trade. They then reflect on how their own economic choices are influenced by causes they care about.

Triangle Trade, Transatlantic Slave Trade, Slavery in the North

Enduring Understanding

Slavery existed in the North and was central to the development and growth of the northern economies.

Compelling Question
How were New Englanders connected to the triangle trade?

Historical Thinking Skills
Sourcing and Evidence; Synthesizing Sources

Lesson Outline

Activating Prior Knowledge/Building Historical Context

Review the triangle trade, familiarizing students with the geography and history of the triangle trade. Review goods that were typically traded between New England and the West Indies. Triangular Trade map worksheet

Investigation of Primary Sources

Examine a shipping news advertisement from a 1768 Portsmouth newspaper. Source the document and connect the ingoing and outgoing ships to the triangular trade map. Shipping News worksheet

Examine advertisements from Vermont newspapers and identify West Indies goods being sold in Vermont stores. Note the goods being received in Norwich (including wheat and produce)–New England provisioned the West Indies with food, livestock and, later, manufacutred goods such as shoes and tools. Hand out the Triangle Trade Worksheet, along with one of the advertisements to pairs of students to read and analyze.  Norwich Advertisement;  Brattleboro Advertisement ; Triangle Trade worksheet

Students could search in Chronicling America for West Indies goods being sold in their own communities.

Summative Assessment

Explanatory Essay: After examining local store advertisements, explain how local community members were connected to the triangle trade.

Listen to Are my hands clean? Have students identify an issue they care about, such as climate change or child labor, and consider how their clothing or other purchases connect. How might they raise awareness?
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