How Did Women's Fight for Freedom Impact the Law in Early America?


Grade Level
Upper Elementary; Middle; High School

Standards and Skills
Virginia Standards of Learning: Virginia Studies; US History 1; Virginia and US History
Standards of Learning: VS.4a; US1.5b; US1.5d; VUS.2b; VUS.3c

Using Information Sources; Organizing Information; Questioning and Critical Thinking Skills; Comparing and Contrasting; Determining Cause and Effect; Making Connections; Demonstrating Comprehension

Meets National Standards of Learning for Social Studies


Students will examine freedom suits brought by two enslaved women and be able to describe their results and long term legal impact.

Essential Question
How did women’s fight for freedom impact the law in early America?



Step One
The two freedom cases are condensed into essays consisting of several sentences. The teacher will cut those sentences and each student will get a sentence. Students will have five minutes to find a sentence that is from their case, then meet, read and discuss what they think they know about their case and their prediction on how the suit will be settled. At the end of five minutes, students should exchange sentences and rotate, repeating the previous process.

Step Two
After the second rotation, students should gather in groups based on their case (Key or Bett). Students then have five more minutes to put the sentences together, read all of the facts of the case, determine the basic facts of the case, and then report back to the class with their predicted outcome.

Step Three
After each group has shared their findings with the class, the teacher should share the official results of each freedom suit. Once students have learned that each woman was ultimately successful, the teacher should share that this is not the end of the story and proceed to step 4.

Step Four
The teacher should now share the two primary sources – Selected Virginia Slave Laws (1657-67) and 1790 U.S. Census – with the class and lead the class in an analysis. Have the students hypothesize how each of the primary sources relates to one of the freedom suits. Then, share the long-term results of each case with students. Were their hypotheses correct?


Exit Ticket
Students should write a sentence or two as an “exit ticket” that answers the essential question: