Grant Helps AUNE Alums Write Curriculum on Early Black Vermonters

A historical marker and a book inspired Antioch University of New England (AUNE) alumnae and teachers Jennifer Manwell and Beth White to develop a history curriculum for elementary and middle-school students. They have won a Library of Congress, Teaching with Primary Sources program grant of nearly $20,000 to do so.

The book was Discovering Black Vermont, by Elise Guyette, which pieces together the lives of free black farmers living in Hinesburg, Vermont, from 1790 to 1890. The marker commemorates the early black settlers in Hinesburg. Manwell and White attended Guyette’s dedication of it last September.

“I was raised not even a mile from these old foundations, and I had no idea that there was a thriving mixed-race community that had a biracial school, church and families,” White said.

The grant will allow Manwell (’01, Experienced Educators) and White (’03, Teacher Certification) to write an inquiry-based curriculum called Historical Forensics: A Simulation Game. Students will analyze primary sources such as documents, letters and songs to explore the complicated issues African-Americans encountered daily in pre-industrial New England. The simulation game will also help students consider issues of freedom and justice from different perspectives. Steve Holmes (’03, ES Teacher Certification) will provide technical and artistic support for the physical elements of the simulation.

“Looking at history through the eyes of unsung heroes and everyday citizens whose stories rarely make it into standard history books can help students foster a sense of what it means to be human,” according to Manwell.

Tom Wessels, core faculty member in AUNE’s Department of Environmental Studies, will interpret the historical landscape in Hinesburg where the community of African-Americans lived. Using that information, Manwell and White will develop materials that educators may borrow from historical societies or download from websites of affiliated institutions.

“I am thrilled to be involved to help give voice to people whose stories have been largely missed, not just in Vermont, but the whole rural Northeast,” Wessels said.

The Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program grant encourages teachers to use digitized primary sources from the Library of Congress. A primary source is a document or object, such as a diary, written or created during the time being studied. Turning Points in American History, based in Vermont’s Champlain Valley, is providing additional matching funds, and several affiliates are giving in-kind donations.

Manwell and White have thirty combined years in education, most recently at the Neighborhood Schoolhouse in Brattleboro, Vermont, and the Compass School in Westminster, Vermont.

White has received a graduate fellowship from the University of Vermont, where she is entering a PhD program in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.

Learn more about the Teaching with Primary Sources program.
Find out more about Turning Points in American History.