The traveling exhibit, Emancipation and Its Legacies, which took up residence at Bishop George Ahr High School on March 15, challenged students from local elementary schools to the high school within the Diocese of Metuchen to engage with history and essentially become historians.
The exhibition, on loan from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, presents a chronological display of Emancipation in the United States.
“The Bishop Ahr community was fortunate to have this wonderful exhibit be on display and it provided our students and faculty an opportunity to connect with the legacy of emancipation,” said John Roche, a teacher and Student Information Services Manager at Bishop Ahr.
Susan Paluskiewicz, teacher mentor coordinator at Bishop Ahr in Edison, arranged for the exhibit to be displayed as a culmination of the Year of Social Sciences.
The exhibit provided an opportunity for the students at Bishop Ahr to learn first-hand the history of emancipation in the United States, as well as the skills necessary to be a historian.
As part of Bishop Ahr’s continued outreach to the elementary schools in the Diocese of Metuchen, the Social Studies Department organized an interactive workshop for the younger students to participate in.
Students from St. James School in Woodbridge, St. Helena School in Edison, Perth Amboy Catholic School and Immaculate Conception School in Spotswood, were greeted by Roche and Social Studies Teacher Lynne Braine to begin working as historians.
The session began with a discussion of the causes of the Civil War and what information the students already knew about the war that divided the nation. They were then introduced to the craft of history and the skills necessary to construct a historical narrative.
Following the introduction to the exhibit, students were provided an opportunity to engage with the exhibit itself. Equipped with a student resource guide and a clear understanding of the question needed to be answered — What is emancipation’s legacy? — the students began to compile a narrative using the primary and secondary sources collected in the exhibit. The students were able to use detective skills to uncover the deeper meaning of the sources and how they directly relate to emancipation.
At the conclusion of the session, the students were asked to present their understanding of emancipation and the legacy that it has on the United States. The students were encouraged to recognize how each of them play a vital role in emancipation’s continued legacy in the United States.
Students in Braine’s and Roche’s Western Civilization Honors and World History Honors classes took part in a joint class. The students were challenged to use their historiography skills to create an argument about the exhibit. They had to rely on their past knowledge of slavery and American history.
Students in the Advanced Placement Art History class attended the exhibit in order to look for connections to the art they have studied in preparation for their AP exam. Students were asked to see how prejudice was presented in the exhibit and how prejudice was reflected in the art that had been viewed throughout the year. They finished with a discussion of the prejudice experienced in their own life and the connections that were made.
In the English III Honors classes, students viewed the exhibit through the lens of literature. They participated in an ekphrasis exercise. As the students viewed the exhibit, they were asked to select one image that spoke to them. Upon viewing it they were asked to create their own original written work — poems, monologues, or stories — expressing the emotions conveyed by the exhibit.
The exhibition, Emancipation and Its Legacies, was developed by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in partnership with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and is curated by David W. Blight, Class of 1954 Professor of History at Yale University, and Susan F. Saidenberg, the Director of Public Programs and Exhibitions at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.