A New Proposal for Teaching About Slavery in America

In early 2018, a group of educators and museum professional met to discuss the inadequacies of how the United States’ history of slavery was being taught in schools and interpreted in museums. The National Summit on Teaching Slavery, as it was called, was sponsored by James Madison’s Montpelier and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and held at Montpelier. Out of the conference came a new model for teaching about slavery:

Engaging Descendant Communities in the interpretation of slavery at museums and historic sites: A Rubric of Best Practices Established by the National Summit on Teaching Slavery.

The “Rubric,” as it is called, was issued 25 October 2018. In the words of the document, “the Rubric builds a scalable methodology that sites can utilize to rate themselves as they engage descendant communities in their work. It contains concrete steps to ensure high-quality research, make connections and maintain relationships with descendants, and create inclusive, and accurate and empathetic exhibits and programs. It gives museums a place from which to start addressing difficult themes and traumatic legacies of slavery. Most importantly, the Rubric insists sites work with descendants of the enslaved at every step to ensure that they are interpreting slavery in a manner that is effective, informative, and respectful of the experiences of the millions of men, women, and children who were enslaved.”

For more information about the Rubric, the Summit, and Montpelier, go to