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Crafting Freedom: Black Artisans, Entrepreneurs, and Abolitionists in the Antebellum Upper South

Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 4, 2013

Two one-week workshops for eighty school teachers on African-American entrepreneurship in the antebellum South, as represented by Thomas Day and Elizabeth Keckly.

This workshop uses the lives of two independent artisans to illuminate the African-American experience in antebellum America. Thomas Day, a free black artisan in Milton, North Carolina, was "one of the most prominent furniture makers in the antebellum South." Elizabeth Keckly from Caswell, North Carolina, who purchased her freedom from slavery, became proprietor of a shop in Washington, DC, where she was a dressmaker for and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln. The lives of Day and Keckly illuminate a "central paradox of American history: how the institution of race-based slavery coexisted with the expansion of political rights and economic opportunities for most Americans in the 19th century" and how the entrepreneurial activities of free artisans, although not typical of the time, advanced independent economic, social, and political life in the Southern black community. The participants visit Union Tavern, the home and shop of Thomas Day; the town of Milton; Burwell School, where Elizabeth Keckly grew up in slavery; and Stagwell Plantation. Among the key topics are the advancement of African-American freedom through business enterprise, management activities on slave plantations, artisanship, and artistic expression. The workshop faculty includes Laurel Sneed (Apprend Foundation), Peter Wood (history, Duke University), William Andrews (English, University of North Carolina), Juanita Holland (independent historian), Michele Ware (English, North Carolina Central University), site staff, and contemporary African-American artisans. Master teachers assist the participants in the development of lesson plans. The participants read Keckly's memoirs and recent writings by scholars, including William Andrews and Peter Wood.

Dates: June 20–25 or June 27-July 2
Director(s): Laurel Sneed
Grantee Institutions: Apprend Foundation
Location: Chapel Hill, NC

About NEH Landmarks of American History: Workshops for School Teachers

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the federal government. As part of the NEH’s We the People program, we offer the following Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for School Teachers. NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops provide the opportunity for K-12 educators to engage in intensive study and discussion of important topics in American history and culture. These one-week programs will give participants direct experiences in the interpretation of significant historical and cultural sites and the use of archival and other primary evidence. Landmarks Workshops present the best scholarship on a specific landmark or related cluster of landmarks, enabling participants to gain a sense of the importance of historical places, to make connections between what they learn in the Workshop and what they teach, and to develop enhanced teaching or research materials.

Amount of Award

Teachers selected to participate will receive a stipend of $1,200 at the end of the residential Workshop session. Stipends are intended to help cover living expenses, books, and travel expenses to and from the Workshop location.


These projects are designed principally for classroom teachers and librarians in public, charter, independent, and religiously-affiliated schools, as well as home schooling parents. Other K-12 school personnel, including administrators, substitute teachers, and classroom professionals, are eligible to participate, subject to available space.

Teachers at schools in the United States or its territorial possessions or Americans teaching in foreign schools where at least 50 percent of the students are American nationals are eligible for this program. Applicants must be United States citizens, residents of U.S. jurisdictions, or foreign nationals who have been residing in the United States or its territories for at least the three years immediately preceding the application deadline. Foreign nationals teaching abroad at non-U.S. chartered institutions are not eligible to apply.

Applicants must complete the NEH application and provide all of the information requested to be considered eligible.

New this year: An individual may apply to up to two NEH Summer Programs in any one year (Landmarks Workshops, Summer Seminars, or Summer Institutes), but may participate in only one. Please note that eligibility criteria differ significantly between the Landmarks Workshops and the Seminars and Institutes Programs.

How to Apply

Please e-mail, telephone or send by U.S. Post a request for application information and expanded Workshop descriptions to the Landmarks directors listed here; in many cases, these materials will also be available on project Web sites. You may request information about as many Workshops as you like, and, as noted above, you may apply to up to two programs but participate in only one.