Slave Trade Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Use this video-based lesson plan to teach your students about the evolution of the slave trade. Students will watch an engaging video describing the economics of slavery and the triangular trade system, then discuss related ideas before finishing up with an activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe the economics of trade in America
  • explain and discuss 'triangular trade'
  • discuss why slavery evolved in Colonial America


1 hour


  • Copies of the quiz, one for each student

Key Vocabulary

  • Indentured servants
  • Triangular trade
  • African slaves

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.7

Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.


  • Increase student engagement by asking them to define the word 'justify.' Compare and discuss answers.
  • Now tell students they will be learning about the reasons slavery evolved in the United States. Share prior knowledge, preview vocabulary, then start the lesson video The Slave Trade in Africa.
  • Pause the lesson at 1:57 and ask:
    • Why wasn't there a need for slaves in the first colonies in the New World?
    • Why didn't American settlers use Native Americans as slaves?
    • What were indentured servants and why didn't that system of workforce last?
  • Resume the lesson and pause again at 3:54. Discuss:
    • Why were African slaves a solution to the economic work-force issue?
  • Have students work in groups to list the reasons, then ask them to discuss:
    • Do these reasons justify the use of human slaves?
  • Resume the lesson and have students take the quiz when it finishes to determine student understanding.

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