West Africans in Colonial Mississippi Traveling Trunk

Carved wooden maskThe West Africans in Colonial Mississippi Traveling Trunk concentrates on that group's history in the area, how they came to be here, and their customs and cultural contributions. Contained in the trunk are objects that illustrate traditional West African ways, such as a woven paper hanging, traditional strip-woven cloth, a glass trade bead necklace, wooden and paper masks, traditional African games, and a balafon — a musical instrument similar to a marimba. A sixty-nine page teacher's notebook offers five days of lesson plans and associated activities along with numerous background and support materials.

The first lesson allows the teacher to evaluate the class's familiarity with the subject, then introduces the slave trade and the importation of West Africans by the French in the early 1700s. The West African game of mancala is taught, along with step-by-step instructions for making mancala games.

Accompanying teaching aids for the trunkThe second lesson focuses on West African people and the world's political landscape at the time of the slave trade, and traces the influence of Arabic cultures in the region. Traditional West African crafts including mask-making, story-telling, and cloth production are demonstrated. A mental arithmetic activity using traditional cowrie-shell money is also included.

Lesson three addresses colonialism, slavery, and the Middle Passage. Students will become familiar with the location and use of the Middle Passage by way of a mapping activity. They will also learn about Ibrahima, a West African prince forced into slavery, and will participate in a skit depicting his capture. A video of Ibrahima is provided.

Balafon, a traditional West African instrument similar to a marimbaThe fourth lesson concerns slavery in the French colonies. Copies of the "Code Noir" (Black Code) are provided in order to stimulate discussion among students concerning slaves' rights and restrictions. A graph reading activity is used to reveal population trends among Africans and Europeans during the eighteenth century.

In the final lesson, "Africans, Creolization, and Contributions," students learn of some of the contributions of West Africans to our region. Activities focus on Creole language and cooking.

The Traveling Trunk Program was developed for use with fourth- through twelfth-grade classes. Trunks are available September through November and January through May. The trunks are designed to be used as a one- to two-week unit and will be shipped the week before they are to be used in the classroom to allow the teacher to become familiar with the contents. The trunks should be returned on the Monday following the completion of the teaching unit. Trunks must be shipped FedEx, USPS, or UPS and insured for $500. Teachers may choose to transport the trunks to the Museum themselves. The Traveling Trunk Program was developed with funding from the Phil Hardin Foundation of Meridian. Additional funding was provided by BellSouth and BellSouth Pioneers.

For more information or to book this trunk call 601-576-6800.

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