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APRIL 4, 2011


What Can Clothing Tell Us about the Enslaved?

Clothing provides a window into the lives of the people who have gone before us. This is especially important when researching the enslaved, since there are limited primary sources about the ins and outs of their everyday lives. As historian Linda Baumgarten wrote, "…if we know such details as how they dressed themselves in the morning, what it felt like to be laced into stays, or what it was like to wear coarse linen and woolen while working in a Virginia tobacco field, we might better understand the routine, human aspects of their daily lives, which are so seldom revealed in the written records they left."

Primary Source of the Month

Enslaved Girl by Mary Anna Randolph Custis, 1830.
"Enslaved Girl" by Mary Anna Randolph Custis, 1830. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Depictions of enslaved African Americans are rare, particularly images that lack the distortions of caricature and stereotyping. This portrait by Mary Anna Randolph Custis, the daughter of George Washington's adopted son, is unusually empathetic and closely-observed.

A More Perfect Union EFT
The Next Electronic Field Trip
is A More Perfect Union
October 13, 2011

Check out our new tutorial!

Downloadable American History
Lesson Plans from ABC-CLIO
and Colonial Williamsburg

Teaching News

Library of Congress Primary Source Sets

Have you seen the primary source sets assembled by the Library of Congress? They are a great resource for engaging students with a variety of primary sources on a wide range of historical topics, from Westward Expansion to Children's Lives in the Twentieth Century to Political Cartoons. Each set comes with a Teacher's Guide and analysis tools for the classroom, and the sets are correlated to state and national standards.

April Podcasts
April Podcasts
04/04: Beer and Whiskey in the Colonies
(podcast and vodcast)
04/11: Williamsburg's Publick Gaol
04/18: Accidental Feminists
04/25: What Makes a Good President?

The Idea of America
The Idea of America
A digital American history program that inspires and prepares high school students for active citizenship, developed by Colonial Williamsburg and distributed by Pearson Education.


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Colonial Williamsburg for Teachers


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2011–2012 Electronic Field Trip Scholarships


Teaching Strategy: "Carried With Him Sundry Clothes"—Slave Clothing Through Primary Sources

Enslaved people in North America in the eighteenth century had different jobs, lived in different locations, and had different kinds of masters. They wore different things, and that diversity will be reflected in primary sources. In this lesson, students will use portraits, runaway ads, and an interactive web activity to learn what the clothing of the enslaved can reveal about their lives.

Colonial Williamsburg Teaching Resources for Your Classroom

2011–2012 Teaching Resources Catalog

Colonial Williamsburg offers a variety of quality materials to assist you in teaching eighteenth-century life, including:

  • A Day in the Life Series (DVD, CD-ROM)
  • What Clothes Reveal (Hardcover Book)
  • Eighteenth-Century Clothing at Williamsburg (Hardcover Book)

Don't forget: Women's History Month promotions continue until April 30!

Kids Zone: History, Games & Fun
Games, activities, and resources about life in colonial America.

2010 Distance Learning Award
21st Century Award
for Best Practices in Distance Learning, preK–12
United States Distance Learning Association, 2010

Quotation of the Month

"Also NED, a fire-man, a black fellow, remarkably well made for strength, about 5 feet 7 or 8 inches high, generally laughs when he speaks, has a large mouth, which is seldom shut, Virginia born, inclinable to be fat, has a sluggish walk, and broad shoulders... I can give no particular description of their clothes; I do not know of their carrying any more than their suits of cotton and osnabrugs."

Runaway advertisement from the Virginia Gazette (Purdie), Williamsburg, March 7, 1766.

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