Interpreting Slavery with Children and Teens, under contract with Rowman & Littlefield, will be the follow-up to our first book, Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015).

In our travels to present Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites, and to conduct companion workshops, we have received many questions about how to talk with young visitors and with school groups about slavery and related topics. As a result, we have embarked on another round of surveys, site visits, and research aimed at illuminating best practices and deepening the conversation begun in our first book regarding the interpretation of slavery, especially for younger visitors.

The choice of the preposition “with,” instead of “for,” in our working title is deliberate. Interpretation is no longer a discipline in which museum professionals simply recite facts for visitors, and try to dictate how they should think about particular historical themes. Museum professionals now increasingly seek to share authority with their visitors: together, staff and visitors scaffold historical meaning and relevancy. Far from considering this development less important with children and teens, we are committed to approaching these visitors with as much respect as their parents increasingly receive.

Our own observations, as well as our conversations with colleagues, have raised a series of questions, which we plan to address in this new publication, including:

  • How can historic sites and museums create comprehensive and conscientious school programs about slavery? How can sites and museums adapt those programs to work with families visiting together, representing different developmental stages in a single group?
  • What themes and vocabulary about chattel slavery are appropriate at particular grade levels and developmental stages?
  • What kinds of activities on the topic of slavery are appropriate for different grade levels and developmental stages? What are the hallmarks of emotionally sensitive and pedagogically sound activities?
  • How can school and family programs address the challenges of the traumatic nature of the history and the resonance of the content with young people’s lives today?
  • How can museums help classroom teachers prepare their students for a field trip to a slavery-related site or exhibit? What resources and training can museums offer to teachers to help them teach slavery more comprehensively and conscientiously? What’s the best way for museums and historic sites to market their school and family programs about slavery?

Interpreting Slavery with Children and Teens will address these and other questions, providing history museums and historic sites with best practices about the latest methodology and pedagogy for interpreting slavery with children and teens.