Social Studies

Grade Level


Framework Standards

D1.1.9-12; D2.His.1.9-12; D3.3.9-12; D4.3.9-12

Really Free

To further challenge students, the art and life of folk artist Nellie Mae Rowe (1900-1982) provides a means for exploring the concept of really free, which is compared to the U.S. concept of freedom. Incorporating Nellie Mae Rowe in the inquiry also provides opportunity for cross disciplinary study with art. In this inquiry, students are tasked with producing art that expresses their personal concept of really free. Cross-disciplinary study could amplify student understanding of the assignment and their confidence in presenting their art when taking informed action at the end of the inquiry.

Students will engage in social justice work by participating in civic discourse regarding freedom, and by critically examining how the concept has been applied to white and Black citizens over time. Throughout the inquiry, students will engage in critical literacy and make connections between past and current events. Students will generate change by using their developed claims and art to engage the public in reflection regarding the concept of freedom in the U.S.

This inquiry embodies the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s principle of perseverance by highlighting the story and art of Nellie Mae Rowe, a Black female artist who used her later years to pursue the art mediums she enjoyed as a child. Having experienced Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and Post-Civil Rights Eras, Nellie Mae Rowe’s reflection of really free embodies the perseverance she needed to accomplish her goals.
We encourage teachers and students to visit our museum and explore how the concept of freedom evolved between the Revolutionary War and Reconstruction Eras. Visitors can also learn how modern unfreedoms plague our world by exploring our Invisible: Slavery Today exhibit.

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