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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, 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 improve close reading skills

  • To produce, support, and revise argumentative essays

  • To engage with both primary sources and literary criticism

  • To develop creative responses to a pressing matter of concern

  • To write and create for both public and scholarly audiences

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

  • To respond to and incorporate feedback 

  • To create polished work by revising something repeatedly

  • To develop digital literacy in a multimodal world

Learning Objectives   

Course Schedule and Classroom:
Section A: MW 12:45-2, Room 1505, Wake Downtown
Section B: MW 2:15-3:30, Room
 1505, Wake Downtown
A brief note on learning in the present moment:
We’re all working in the midst of a prolonged state of emergency, and 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.  

I ask, in turn, that you be aware of the very real possibility that we may have to shift to online learning. If that is the way things develop I'm prepared to pivot, and we'll meet as a full class on Mondays but in discussion or project groups on Wednesdays. 

For the time being, however, we'll be in person with masks.

See Course Policies and Campus Resources here.
For more information see

Schedule of Readings and Assignments

I. Famous Narratives

January 10: "The Idea of America" by Nikole Hannah-Jones

January 12: Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Preface – Chapter 10)

January 17: No Class: MLK Day

January 19 : Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Chapter 11-Appendix)

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

January 24: Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Preface – XXV)

January 26: Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (XXVI – Appendix)


January 31: Dave the Potter couplets and background 

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

        Introduce Critical Response Papers 

February 2: Critical Response Topic Workshops

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

February 7: MESDA 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 9: Critical Response Draft Workshops


February 14: Introduction to Special Collections

February 16: Go over special collections projects: group sign-up here.

February 21: Special Collections Work-in-Progress Workshops  

February 23: Work on special collections projects

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

February 28: 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 2: Introduction to your Hidden Town Projects & Objects 

                 Hidden Town website and other coverage of the project

March 7: No Class: Spring Break

March 9: No Class: Spring Break

March 14: Help with your material culture research with the Old Salem team 

March 16: Consult with your assigned librarian or archivist.


March 21: View past projects at

March 23: Zoom meetings in your small groups: sign up here.


March 28: Introduction to Digital Essays, Adobe Rush, and other possible technology with Brianna Derr.

March 30: Zoom meetings with Bri to discuss your tech plans: sign up here.


April 4: Pitch your ideas to Old Salem’s Learning in Place Team: sign up here.

April 6: Zoom meetings to go over questions and ideas in your groups: sign up here.


April 11: Work-in-progress presentations to get conceptual feedback and ideas from the class

April 13: Zoom meetings in your small groups: sign up here.

April 18: Draft workshops: Digital Projects 

April 20: Draft workshops: Research Guides 


April 25: Conclusions & Evaluations

             Submit written responses to work-in-progress presentations.

April 27: Zoom meetings in your small groups to go over any final questions: sign up here.


May 3: Submit final projects by 5 PM.

May 4: Submit reflective writing by 5 PM.

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