English 175, Hidden Town:

Slave Narratives, Global and Local 

Last year Wake Forest's “Slavery, Race and Memory Project” started work to “guide the research, preservation, and communication of an accurate depiction of the University’s relationship to slavery and its implications across Wake Forest’s history.” Questions about the relationships between Universities and the enslaved people whose unpaid labor they profited from are impacting campuses across and beyond the US South, from Georgetown students starting a reparations fund to the existence of a Universities Studying Slavery consortium. But in thinking about the multitude of ways that Wake Forest has profited from slave labor we will also look beyond our campuses and to the broader community, or the history of Winston-Salem. We will do this by considering not just a series of the most famous slave narratives ever written but by turning from those famous stories to local narratives and accounts of the lives of enslaved people in Salem, NC. And we will do this by working with Old Salem’s Hidden Town Project: a groundbreaking initiative that works to research and reveal the history of a community of enslaved and freed Africans and African Americans who lived in “Old Salem.” Ultimately students will contribute to hiddentown.org, working in groups to produce related research papers and creative projects that bring this material to life.

Course Texts

Additional readings are posted on Canvas.


Assignment details are or will be linked to each title.

  • To learn about both the history of slavery and the genre of the slave narrative

  • To produce, support, and revise argumentative essays

  • To improve close reading skills

  • To engage with both primary sources and literary criticism

  • To develop creative responses to a pressing matter of concern

  • To share information with both public and scholarly audiences

  • To share and collaboratively develop ideas about literature, criticism, and your own writing

  • To develop digital literacy in a multimodal world

Learning Objectives   

For more information see hiddentown.org.
Schedule for Each Week 

Monday: meet as a whole group to go over your reading and work for the week.  I’ll take questions, and our focus will be on explication, or your understanding of the texts we’re engaging with, along with specific skills.

Wednesday: meet in smaller cohorts or “sections” for about 20 minutes each.  These meetings will be focused your analysis and critique of the materials that we’re engaging with.  You’ll be shaping these discussions.

A brief note on learning in the present moment:
We’re all working in the midst of a prolonged state of emergency,  I understand that.  This is a time for empathy, this is a time for flexibility, and my goal is not to police your learning but to create the best environment I can for enabling you to learn.  If you find that you are in crisis, I will work with you.  

See Course Policies and Campus Resources here.

Accessible syllabus available here.

Schedule of Readings and Assignments

I. Famous Narratives

January 27: "The Idea of America" by Nikole Hannah-Jones


February 1: Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Preface – Chapter 8)

February 3: Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Chapter 9-Appendix)

                     Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” 

February 8: Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Preface – XXV)

February 10: Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (XXVI – Appendix)


February 15: Dave the Potter couplets and background 

       “Signifying Marks and The ‘Not Counted’ Inscriptions of Dave the Potter

        Introduce Critical Response Papers & Special Collection Projects

February 17: Critical Response Paper Workshops

II. Lesser-Known Narratives: Special Collections & Local Archives

February 22: MESDA Virtual Tour

         On the history and evolution of MESDA

         "Black and White all Mix'd Together": The Hidden Legacy of Enslaved Craftsmen

         Explore the MESDA craftsmen database using the “status” menu for free black, indentured,

        and slave artisans. Get a sense of what kinds of records exist for craftsmen of African descent.

         Submit Preference Form for Special Collections Texts & Groups by noon        

February 24: Critical Response Paper Workshops


March 1: Introduction to Special Collections

March 3: Go over special collections projects: group sign-up here.

March 8: Special Collections Project Workshops  

March 10: Go over special collections projects: group sign-up here.

III. Unpublished Local Narratives: The Hidden Town Project at Old Salem

March 15:  Introduction to your Hidden Town Projects & Objects 

                 Hidden Town website, along with the three linked pieces of coverage in newspapers

                 Hiddentown.org, view last year’s projects

                 Answer brief questions on the following google docs (Section L | Section M)

March 17: Optional Zoom meetings to go over special collections projects: sign up here.

                  Special Collections Projects Due by 10 PM

March 19: Submit Object Selections for Final Projects by 5 PM

March 22: How to do material culture research with Daniel Ackermann & Johanna Brown

March 24: Consult with your assigned librarian or archivist.


March 29: Zoom lecture on and context about Hidden Town from Martha Hartley, co-chair of the project.

                Sensbach, A Separate Canaan: The Making of an Afro-Moravian World, Introduction 

                Ferguson’s God’s Fields, Chapters 1 & 10.

                The Lebenslauf (i.e. life story) of Abraham, along with other materials (155-171) 

March 31: Zoom meetings in your small groups: sign up here.


April 5: Introduction to Digital Essays, Adobe Rush, and other possible technology with Brianna Derr.

April 7: No Class: “Spring Break”


April 12: Pitch your ideas to Old Salem’s Learning in Place Team: sign up here.

April 14: Zoom meetings with Brianna Derr to go over questions and ideas in your groups: sign up here.


April 19: Work-in-progress presentations to get conceptual feedback and ideas from the class

April 21: Optional Zoom meetings in your small groups: sign up here.


April 26: Draft workshops

April 28: Optional Zoom meetings in your small groups: sign up here.


May 3: Conclusions & Evaluations

             Submit written responses to work-in-progress presentations.

May 5: Zoom meetings in your small groups to go over any final questions: sign up here.


May 12: Submit final projects by 5 PM.

May 14: Submit reflective writing by 5 PM.