PS/IS 686 | Brooklyn, NY

Grade 7 Humanities: Week of 11/11/2019: Is It Not Enough That We Are Torn From Our Country And Friends?


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Dear Families,

Slavery existed for millennia in numerous cultures all around the world before colonial America. However, it was transformed into an inordinately cruel and permanent position in the Americas until we fought a war with ourselves centuries later to finally end it.

Sometimes people like to justify our participation saying that “we didn’t start it” and “slavery was already prevalent in Africa.” And while slavery was ubiquitous enough in Africa, it was different from what developed in the colonies. African slavery was not permanent or inherited. The offspring of slaves were not automatically enslaved and could become socially and politically upwardly mobile. 

In America slavery mutated.

It was permanent.

It was hereditary.

Enslaved individuals had no civil rights; no human rights. 

It would not be until the end of the 19th century, following the emancipation, when people whose condition had been slavery were final able to record their own legal names. Even with today’s advances in DNA testing, it is dubious whether or not the ancestors of slaves will ever be able to construct full family trees.


Ms. Sacilotto


Conferencing together in Google Drive during all parts of the writing process. It’s an incredibly useful tool for questions, suggestions, and commendations . . .

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Inspired by Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains, students wrote as the character Ruth . . .

by Eavan A.

I hear the words they say.

They call me simple. Stupid. Slow. The beginnings hiss out of their mouths. Some people say that esses make you sound like a snake, but the snake that bit Isabel was silent. I was three when that happened. I listened for the hiss. There was no hiss, just a whick-whick of its tail through the grass and Isabel’s scream.

The only hisses are in the mouths of the people that hate me.

Sometimes the words don’t come out right. Sometimes they stumble over one another, tripping as they try to make their way into the world. Sometimes my tongue can’t quite move itself fast enough to make the words sound like everyone else’s.

Simple. Stupid. Slow.

But my ears always work. I listen to every word that comes out of people’s mouths, smooth and quick. Their words aren’t clumsy and quiet like my words. And I watch, and I understand more than anybody thinks I do. And what I’ve seen, and what I’ve heard, is the disgust on their faces when they look at me, and the way they talk to other people about me like I’m not there.

Simple. Stupid. Slow.

Isabel is the only one that ever talks to me, but she never explains anything. Nobody ever explains anything to me. I know that Momma was sick, and I know that Isabel and I were sick too, but Isabel and I got better except for the little raised marks all over, and Momma was just… gone. And a year later, Miss Mary Finch was gone, too, but no one told me where or how. There was a wagon ride and a new place and a lot of people arguing. And I didn’t ask questions. I couldn’t ask questions, because my words never come out any way people could understand me. So all I did was keep working. I kept working and I listened and I watched and I didn’t mind about whoever I was working for. It didn’t matter who I was working for.

Simple. Stupid. Slow.

None of them cared about me. Not even Isabel.


by Natalie P.

Hi. My name is Ruth. I have a sister named Isabel and my life is a great adventure. Momma died from this thing called ‘smallpox’. Miss Mary Finch told Isabel; “Smallpox is tricky. There’s no telling who it’ll take’, she told Isabel. I really hope it doesn’t take Isabel. It can take me, as long as it lets her be. It’s a struggle, but anything that doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. Do you like that? I made that sentence when I was younger to make me happier. We are attending the burial of our owner, Miss Mary Finch. This occasion presents a great deal of hope for me and Isabel, as Miss Finch planned to free us in her will. But, when Isabel confronts Miss Finch’s brother about this, he basically thought  she was making it up. Mr. Robert threatened to beat Isabel up for ‘lying’. Isabel held my hand as Mr. Robert said such horrible things to us. He said he was going to sell us. “ It’s the truth!” Isabel said. I looked up and her and gripped her hand anxiously. I wanted to calm her down, before we got beat, Isabel couldn’t keep herself quite. And she has a right to speak. We are free, aren’t we? No. No negative thoughts. Oh, a shiny pebble. *bent down and picked it up*

 I had the faintest memory of when we were sold, long ago. I was so young, just a baby, I wasn’t even baptized yet. I remember hearing someone yell, “ I”M A MAN. “ I couldn’t stop crying. I remember Poppa fought like a lion when they came for him. I remember Momma fainting and me in Isabel’s arms. That was sad, but it didn’t kill me, and I became stronger. That’s the up-ie  side. The bad-ie side is the fact that we couldn’t take anything. Not Momma’s shells, nor my baby doll made of flannel bits and calico, not even the wooden bowl that Poppa made for Isabel.

Anyway, it’s midday, and we are already in Newport following Mr. Robert up the steps of Sullivan’s Tavern. Isabel and I have never been in a tavern before. It’s like this large room, I think about twice as big as Miss Mary’s house, with two wide fireplaces, one on each side of the wall. The room was filled with tables and chairs and as many people as church on Easter Sunday, except church was never cloudy with tobacco smoke, nor that iky smell of roast 

Me nor Isabel haven’t eaten anything all day, and Mr. Robert pointed to a spot in the corner and ordered us to stand there. I wanted to ask if I could sit, but I didn’t want to be beat. 

Oh, this woman burst through the door, and she’s holding food.  I really, really hope she’ll give us a little bit. Oh, goody, their talking about us. How pleasant.  Oh, I was right, she is nice! She offered us some food, free of charge. She poured a cup of cider, and I chugged it down ever so fast and held out my mug for more. I’m happy, but Isabel had a vibe, a ‘flea’ vibe.  

Wait, what? Jenny, the nice woman, said, “ I’d help you if I could. It’d be the least I could do for Dinah.” That’s Momma’s name. She knew my Momma, She said she knew both Momma and Poppa. She said she held Isabel when she was only a day old. Cool! 

Jenny said that she was an indentured servant when she was Isabel’s age too. She commented on Isabel’s amazing memory. Isabel and I exchanged glances and she asked if Jenny would buy us. She said she would not dare. 

Bill rushed in and took us away from the kind lady, and we stood while another woman and Mr. Robert talked about us as if we were inanimate objects. The woman’s name was Missus Lockton. Isabel took my hand and we stepped within reach. Missus Lockton studied us, she made us take off our kerchiefs so that she could check for nites. She asked what we could do, and Isabel told Missus Lockton her abilities. Then she asked about mine, and before Mr. Robert could speak, Isabel stated my talents. Missus Lockton bent down and told me; “I do not brook foolishness.” I shook my head and said; “No foolin’ “

Missus Lockton told us we were to only refer to her as Ma’am, and she said some other mean stuff. Then she said that she wanted us, and I was terrified. 

Just then, Jenny spoke up and said, “ I’ll take them.” YES!!! Both Isabel and I crossed our fingers for Jenny to buy us, but Ma’am wants us as well. We started costing more and more until Jenny could not pay anymore and it was settled. We belong to Missus Lockton, A.K.A Ma’am. This is horri – a great adventure. A challenge, but we will get stronger, and we will soon be free. I just have to hope. 


by Ian C.

I see thousands of graves, while I sit next to the coffin of who owned me, or at least my body, no one but me can own my soul. Isabel gets off and runs ahead. We pass the cemetery with mothers grave. Isabel gets back on. We go pray for Miss Mary Finch. The earth bangs on the coffin lid. I draw a line in the dust with my toe. Isabel walks over to the pastor. They argue. I squeeze her hand. 

We go home on a wagon. and get our clothes and shoes. Nothing else. No more home left. Isabel grabs seeds and shoves them into her pocket. We get back on the wagon. I watch as home disappears.

We get to the town and go to a tavern. It is big, bigger than our home before. People are arguing. It is loud. I was worried I would have a fit, as Isabel and mom call it. A big woman comes out of a door carrying a tray with food on it on her hand. She sets it down in front of someone and then Mr. Robert and the big lady start talking. Soon the man who was given the food comes over, and joins the discussion too. The big lady pulls us through the door. She gives us food. She and Isabel talk. We go out again. There is now a woman and a man with Mr. Robert. They are fancy. We stand against the wall. I sneeze. Isabel takes me by the hand and leads me over to the rich lady. She inspects us. She asks Isabel a question. They start to talk. The lady asks me something. I respond. They talk some more. I hug Isabel.


by Selena M.

I sat down next to the coffin— the coffin where my previous owner laid. She wore a dress, her hair washed. I turned to see my sister, Isabel, pleading before she ran off to momma’s grave. Momma had died from smallpox, which left Isabel and I saddened, I remember bawling my eyes out on that day. But that day has passed and I cannot keep crying. Isabel and I had gotten smallpox, which only left us with tiny scars, fortunately. What’s going to happen now that Miss Finch was gone? Clank! Her coffin was set on the ground. I placed my thumb in my mouth.

After Miss Finch’s funeral, I drew a line in the dust with my toe. Suddenly, Isabel grabbed my hand and walked over to Mr. Robert and Pastor Weeks, dragging my along. What is she doing? 

“Pardon me, Pastor Weeks, sir.” Isabel said politely. “May I ask you something?” 

The man put his hat on, “Certainly, Isabel.”

Isabel’s grip on my hand tightened and I grew even more confused. “Where do you think we should go?”

“What do you mean, child?” The man asked.

“I know I’ll find work, but I can’t figure where to sleep, me and Ruth. I thought you might know a place.” Isabel said. 

I looked at Pastor, seeing an evident frown on his face. “I don’t understand what you’re saying, Isabel. You’re returning with Mr. Robert here. You and your sister belong to him now.” He replied.

I frowned. I liked Miss Finch. She promised Isabel and I freedom. I didn’t bother to say anything though.

“Ruth and me are free, Pastor. Miss Mary Finch freed us in her will. Momma, too, if she had lived. It was done legal, on a paper with wax seals.”

The mention of momma made me feel weak, it saddened me. I bit my lip for a moment. 

“That’s enough of you, girl. Time for us to be on the road to Newport.” Mr. Robert said. 

“Was there a will?” Pastor asked Mr. Robert.

“She didn’t need one, I was Aunt Mary’s only relative.”

I was confused. Are we going to have freedom? I stopped listening to their conversation to think. I didn’t quite understand what was going on. 

“It’s the truth,” Isabel said desperately.

I held her hand tighter, feeling nervous. 

“I said silence!” Yelled Mr. Robert, startling me.

“Isabel remember your place.” Pastor said. “You and your sister belong to Mr. Robert now. He’ll be a good master to you.”

I looked at the ground. I refused to believe a man who shouted at my sister was a good person. I hated arguments, along with tense conversations. Just then something caught my eye. I bent down to pick up the pebble. I wanted to seem unaware, naive. Maybe if I acted like it it’d be for the better. 

                                                                       * * *

Tears rushed down my face as Isabel and I were held at what people called an auction. I didn’t fully understand what was happening. Prices were being shouted. We were being sold! I felt even more tears on my cheeks. 

                                                                       * * *

I took a while to process what just happened. Isabel and I had just gotten off from a ship and a lady by the name of Madam Lockton was now our “owner”. I blinked, watching her trying to defend her chest from being searched. I giggled at the sight of her defending her underlinen. But I realized what was a grave mistake. She whipped around, demanding who laughed at her. I felt my heart beating quickly. I was nervous. Should I confess? But what if I get in trouble? Madam Lockton doesn’t seem like one to fool around. What should I do?


I raised my head to see that Madam Lockton had slapped Isabel. My eyes widened. It’s my fault! Why was she slapped? I quickly realized that Isabel had taken the blame for me! It was my fault she was hurt. I felt guilty but I didn’t say anything. Why? Why would she take the blame for me? I laughed! It was me! Not her! I gulped, making a mental note to avoid angering Madam Lockton. 

                                                                        * * *

I stood still, near Madam Lockton. I was all dolled up. I sniffed quietly. My eyes were all red from crying previously. It was like when Momma died. Just not as bad. 

“Isabel” I called out to my sister, who was ahead of me.

“What did I tell you?” Madam Lockton asked in a tone full of fury, directed at me. 

“Shhh.” I placed a finger in front of my lips, making a shushing sound. I hated this. I hated Madam Lockton. I’m scared of her but hate her at the same time. Which one? I remained silent after replying to Madam Lockton. I wondered when I would talk with isabel again. Would I even be permitted to? What would happen if I talked to Isabel in secret? Would I be punished? No, I don’t want that. I don’t!


by Kelly V.

My life is very hard. I’m a five year old girl from Rhode Island. I live with my older sister, Isabel. Many say that I’m very mature for my age. Both my sister and I developed symptoms of Smallpox, which had actually killed my mother about a year ago. I lost both my parents and Isabel is all I have left. According to her I’m “simple-minded and prone to fits.” To be honest, I don’t know whether or not that’s a good thing. 

My previous master, Miss Mary Finch, had passed away, so my sister and I were about to attend her funeral. As everyone was gathering, I overheard some older men talking about my sister and I. I didn’t quite hear exactly what they were saying, but I for sure heard our names. 

When the funeral was almost over, I realized that Isabel wasn’t next to me. I got worried and wanted to go look for her, but I didn’t want to get in trouble so I decided to stay where I was. After a few minutes had passed, Isabel finally came back. She explained to me that she went to see our mother who was buried here.

When everyone started leaving, Isabel started speaking with Mr. Robert. At first I wasn’t sure what she was saying, but I soon figured it was about where we were going next. Not long ago, Isabel told me that Miss Finch promised that we would soon be free and could live in Rhode Island. I miss it actually living there with my family.  

When we were taken back to Miss Finch’s house, we were told to take our blankets and shoes with us and leave everything else behind. Mr. Robert didn’t let me take my doll. I wanted to cry. I kissed my doll goodbye because I was most likely never going to see her again according to Mr. Robert, and that’s when I realized, we were about to be sold. 

Time had passed and we were at a place called Newport which was still in Rhode Island. I could tell Isabel was just as nervous and sad as I was.

Isabel and I were brought to a place with lots of people. I think it’s called an auction, but I’m not fully sure. I also wasn’t sure on what was about to happen, but Isabel and I hugged each other very tightly. We prayed that we wouldn’t be separated. 

After a few minutes, a nicely dressed couple came over to us. They examined us very well and soon started speaking with Mr. Robert. They talked for a while and they ended up buying us. I was relieved that they bought both of us and that we weren’t separated, but I for sure didn’t have a good feeling about these owners.




Inspired by The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or, Gustavus Vassa, the African . . .


Sorrow by Nico R.

The sea.

A slave ship.

A multitude of black people. 



of all chance of returning to my native country. 

Put down

under the decks

the loathsomeness of the stench,

and crying together.

I would have jumped over the side,

but I could not.


Terror by Daria G.

They were going to kill me.

United to confirm me in this belief.

I no longer doubted my fate


Black people all around me

They talked to me

But all in vain

Abandoned to despair

Deprived of all chance of returning

I became so sick and low

Not able to eat.

I now wished for my last friend, Death, to relieve me.

I would have jumped over the side

Lest we should leap into the water!

But I can’t.


Death by Hudson I.

Chained together

Stories, astonishment

Life, death

on board ship

Groans of the Sea.

Crying, misery

Natives parted


Together expressing


Shrieks of Terror

One Day

at a time

All wishing for

the Last Friend, Death.


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