Using Primary Sources to Teach the Lives of Black Americans in New Jersey
The New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance (NJSAA) was founded to encourage the teaching of New Jersey studies and to help teachers more efficiently and thoroughly present the study of the state to their students. In the spring of 1999, the alliance initiated awards to recognize innovation and creativity in teaching New Jersey studies on the elementary, middle, secondary, and college level. The 2022 high school educator selected for recognition by the NJSAA was Robert M. Fenster, Hillsborough High School. Mr. Fenster has created a pair of lessons focused on the lives of Black Americans in New Jersey, as told through an examination of primary documents, conversations around agency, and student-centered activities. His lesson plans highlight the roles of Black Americans in the American Revolution and the significance of gradual emancipation in New Jersey. The following is a modified version of the inspiring remarks made by Mr. Fenster at the October 2022 meeting of the NJSAA, in which he discusses his work—and how it’s never to late to start teaching New Jersey history, in its full and unvarnished form.
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