Students entering an introductory survey course on African American literature have uneven background knowledge on the history of slavery in the United States. Given this, one of the key challenges in teaching the slave narrative is helping students appreciate the rhetorical intervention that these narratives made in antebellum debates about the slaves’ humanity. To highlight the urgency of these humanizing claims, it is necessary for students to understand how slaveholders viewed their property. This article describes how I use eighteenth- and nineteenth-century wanted advertisements for runaway slaves to frame classroom discussions about the slave narrative. This lesson enhances skills of careful observation, critical questioning, writing to discover, and comparative analysis as it deepens students’ knowledge of African American literature.

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