Skip to content Skip to navigation

“Conceived in Liberty, Born in Shackles”— How We Talk About and Teach Slavery in American History

a remote learning experience discussing how democracy is threatened and how educators protect democracy
May 28, 2020 - 3:00pm EDT

In this webinar designed to run approximately 45 minutes to one hour, Kenneth C. Davis will explore slavery’s central place in U.S. History. He will identify several central truths that he believes are core to understanding the role slavery played in shaping America from its founding as well as its continuing impact on politics, society, and racial divisions in the United States. The webinar will conclude with a discussion of specific strategies for integrating the history of slavery into the Social Studies classroom.

Myths and misconceptions about the role of slavery in U.S. History abound. Davis will highlight the fact that the enslavement of millions of people was not a sideshow in the founding of our country. It was a central drama. Slavery was not an institution confined to a few states in one section of the country. It was practiced in every one of the original thirteen states and it was a crucial engine that made fortunes and powered the American economy in the early 19th century.

Davis, who is the author of IN THE SHADOW OF LIBERTY and DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT® THE CIVIL WAR, will draw on points made in his article in March/April 2020 Social Education, as well as in his books. He will propose and elaborate on the following five points as the beginning of a new framework for teaching slavery:

  • Enslaved people were in America before the Mayflower Pilgrims
  • Thomas Jefferson condemned slavery in drafting the Declaration of Independence but other Founders scrubbed the language from the nation’s “birth certificate”      
  • Slavery was “baked in” to the U.S. Constitution
  • Slavery made the Civil War inevitable
  • The abolition of slavery after the Civil War did not end the stark divisions that plague the United States

Davis says that “The webinar is not a lecture but a conversation that is specifically designed to produce ideas and strategies that can be implemented in the classroom and beyond.” He asks participating teachers to bring their questions, concerns, and ideas as the webinar focuses on practical and actionable responses to teaching what has been called “the hard history of slavery.”  

Davis will provide links to resources, recent articles, and books on this vital subject. The webinar will be moderated by NCSS President, Tina L. Heafner.

Registration is free for NCSS members.  Not a member yet? Use the registration button to sign up now and receive open-access to the live webinar and recording.



Photo credit: Nina Subin
Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times–bestselling author of Don’t Know Much About® History, which gave rise to the “Don’t Know Much About®” series of books, and America’s Hidden History. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives, a Notable Book of the American Library Association in 2017. His most recent book, More Deadly Than War, was also named a Notable Trade Book for Young People by the Children’s Book Council and National Council for the Social Studies. His forthcoming book, Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy, will be published in October 2020.  In addition to his books, Davis has written for the New York TimesWashington PostSmithsonian, and Social Education, among other publications. A frequent guest on national television and radio, he has appeared on CBS This Morning, Today, CNN, and NPR. Davis enjoys both in-person and virtual visits with teachers and students. He lives in New York City and can be found on Twitter @kennethcdavis and through his website, 







Tina L. Heafner, Ph.D. has over 28 years of experience as a social studies educator in K-12 schools and a social studies methodologist in higher education. Tina is the 2019–2020 President of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). She served as Chair of the NCSS College and University Faculty Assembly (CUFA) from 2015–2016. At UNC Charlotte, Tina directs the Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and the M.Ed. in Secondary Education. Her teaching and research focus on effective practices in social studies education with particular emphasis in online learning and disciplinary literacy as well as curriculum and policy issues in social studies.




Registration is free for NCSS members. Not a member yet? Use the registration button to sign up now and receive open-access to the live webinar and recording.