Lesson Plans and Activities

State v. Will

Students will explore the landmark NC Supreme Court case State of NC v. Negro Will. Will was enslaved by James Battle (who purchased Rocky Mount Mills in 1847) in Edgecombe County, NC. In 1834, after being shot in the back by Battle’s white overseer, Will defended himself with a knife, resulting in the death of the overseer. In this activity, students will predict what they think happened to Will when being tried as they learn the actual case outcome. They will then determine how they think best to publicly acknowledge the case today, using NC’s highway historical marker as a point of discussion. 

World War II on the Homefront in Rocky Mount

*Accompanying Powerpoint*

Rocky Mount Mills can serve as a microcosm of how a factory and a community fared and adapted on the home front during World War II. In this activity, students will utilize primary source excerpts from The Riverside Bulletin, a newspaper published by Rocky Mount Mills during WWII, to gain a more localized understanding of topics such as war time rationing, work force changes, patriotism, communication with soldiers, and more. 

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Rocky Mount Mills

Students will consider the impact the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had on Rocky Mount Mills, where the workforce changed from predominantly white to predominantly African American employees within the following decade. Using primary sources, including interview excerpts with Rocky Mount citizens, students will explore the period of integration as it relates to the Mills.

Mill Work and Mill Villages 

In this lesson, students will examine the nature of mill work and life in mill villages through reading and oral history interviews conducted with former employees of Rocky Mount Mills. Students will then independently research a particular aspect of the diverse history of Rocky Mount Mills and creatively demonstrate what they’ve learned by creating a class mural.

Rocky Mount Mills Living Museum

Students will creatively interact with and display what they learn about a topic related to Rocky Mount Mills by creating a group museum exhibit.

Rocky Mount Mills Oral History Interviews

This file contains links to interviews conducted by Community Histories Workshop which address various topics and themes and provide first-person accounts of the history of RMM, the Mill Village, and surrounding areas. Interviewees also address additional historical issues, such as segregation, civil rights, and more, all from a local perspective. Particular excerpts (with start and stop times) that teachers might find useful in bringing in local voices into the classroom have been noted within the chart.

CHW’s entire collection of interviews and excerpts can be browsed HERE.

Analyzing Runaway Slave Ads

An area of keen interest to historians, teachers and students in Eastern North Carolina is the institution of slavery and the lives of slaves and slave owners. Unfortunately, historical documents and evidence of this early history are rare. An exception to this is the large number of runaway slave advertisements collected in a joint project by UNC-Greensboro and NC Agricultural and Technical University. The website, Runaway Slave Advertisements,” holds a data base of 2,400 runaway slave ads from 1750 to 1865. This large database of archival records will allow students to complete the data analysis chart provided and extrapolate information and historical trends on slavery. This hands on activity will allow students to explore the past and make their own interpretations.

Industrial Development

Students will be able to explain aspects of change and continuity throughout the Industrial Era utilizing the history of the Rocky Mount Mills by analyzing primary texts, illustrations, and photographs associated with the mills. Although it is common to refer to a select number of years between the 1800’s and 1900’s as the Industrial Revolution, industrialization is actually a gradual process that unfolds starting in as early as the 18th century before becoming globalized in the later 20th century. The Rocky Mount Mills provides an exemplary opportunity to examine the way industrialization fundamentally alters the production of goods, impacts the environment and economy (locally and distally), and develops local communities.

Civil Rights Time Capsule

The following is a digital time capsule, that students can create individually or in groups, where they research and incorporate sources and events, in which they create a ‘time capsule,’ in which they discuss/justify eight total items, events, leaders, or ideas that are significant enough to incorporate into the Civil Rights Movement time capsule.

Minors in the Mill

Students will learn about child labor at the Rocky Mount Mills. Included in the lesson, are oral histories/interviews from people who worked in the Mills and those whose family members worked at the mills as children. Students will also have the opportunity to analyze oral histories as a primary source analysis tool. The lesson is tailored to cover standard 8.H.3.2: how changes brought about by technology and other innovations affected individuals and groups.

Railroads and the Mill

Students will learn about how the railroad system affected the Rocky Mount Mills area. Included in the lesson, are postcards, maps, photographs, and oral Histories. Students will also have the opportunity to analyze oral histories as a primary source. The lesson is tailored to cover standard 8.H.3.2: how changes brought about by technology and other innovations affected individuals and groups.