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Crafting Freedom Materials Project

The Crafting Freedom Materials Project, funded by NEH, is dedicated to exposing 3rd-8th grade students to high-quality, scholarship-based educational materials on the African American experience during the Antebellum period. In this project, a team of scholars, teachers, and lesson plan developers and designers created teacher-friendly lesson plans, complete with Teacher Tools, Student Handouts, slide shows, and short videos featuring actors portraying each of the ten nineteenth-century African Americans. All of these materials are available to teachers nationwide via an easily-navigable website. The life stories and works of art and literature of these ten individuals engage students and teach critical history and language arts as well as other humanities standards. Moreover, these remarkable nineteenth-century African Americans provide exceptional role models. The Crafting Freedom website was launched in the summer of 2010. In 2013, a generous NEH grant funded converting 12 of these lesson plans so they can be available also on the EDSITEment website, NEH's online educational resource for teachers. The same grant also funded the addition of a new lesson plan on Lunsford Lane, an enslaved businessman and abolitionist.

The Thin Edge of Freedom: Thomas Day and the Free Black Experience, 1800-ca. 1861

The Thin Edge of Freedom: The Life and Times of Thomas Day is a 90-minute documentary film, targeted to PBS, on the life and times of Thomas Day. The film's creator and executive producer is Laurel C. Sneed, Director of the Apprend Foundation. The film project received a major Media-Makers Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the development of a script. The scriptwriter is multiple-award winning documentary producer and writer, Stephen Stept. He has been a principal of three major television projects funded by NEH: Henry Luce and Time-Life's America: A Vision of Empire, which he produced, wrote and directed for PBS's American Masters series; Darrow, a feature-length dramatic biography of Clarence Darrow, starring Kevin Spacey, which Stept conceived, co-produced and co-wrote for PBS's American Playhouse. Stept's most recent projects include: "Hubris: Selling the Iraq War" for MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show; writer, "August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand" for American Master's/WQED Multimedia. Stept also wrote an award-winning NEH production grant for the August Wilson Project. The Apprend Foundation continues to seek funding for the production of "The Thin Edge of Freedom: Thomas Day and the Free Black Experience, 1800-ca. 1861."

Crafting Freedom on NC 86: Discovering Hidden History with Mobile Technology

Crafting Freedom on NC 86 was an NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up grant to conduct the needs assessments and planning required to "re-version" a highway tour from the 1939 NC State Guide developed by the Federal Writers Project of the Work Project Administration (WPA) using content from Apprend's highly-rated Crafting Freedom Workshop (an NEH Landmarks of American History Workshop). A team with expertise in humanities content, digital media production, and instructional design met to assess open source mobile technology platforms and planned how to structure the content across different platforms. The needs of various audiences—such as teachers, students, scholars, ordinary citizens, and museum professionals at sites along Highway 86—were also assessed to determine how they can maximally benefit from a new mobile-technology?based learning experience. In addition, the rich history, especially the little known African American history, along North Carolina Highway 86 was expanded to incorporate new scholarship. The effort resulted in a research publication, a "white paper" that will be the basis for grant proposals which seek funds to produce the mobile technology-based tour of NC 86. This research also served as vital resource for educational institutions, non-profit organizations, and other groups seeking to deploy mobile technology for highway history tours. The research and development phase of this project is complete and the results of the needs assessment can be found in this white paper, Crafting Freedom, A Mobile Tour Along NC Highway 86: Using Mobile Technology to Enhance a Tour of African American Historical Sites and Museums Along a WPA Historical Highway. A mobile tour of the Union Tavern in Milton, North Carolina (the former home and workshop of Thomas Day, North Carolina's most acclaimed furniture maker) was created as a result of this study.

"The Missing Chapter in the History of Thomas Day"

Authored by long-time Thomas Day researchers, Laurel C.Sneed and Patricia Dane Rogers, this highly engaging 31-page research publication was made possible by a generous grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council in 2009, which in 1995 funded Sneed's research of Thomas Day's origins in Southern Virginia. This publication chronicles how in June of 1835, at the age of 34, Thomas Day traveled to Philadelphia and while there signed a statement saying that he had "availed [himself] during the session of the colored Convention, held in Philadelphia, June, 1835 of Mrs. Serena Gardiner's select boarding house." This statement was published as a card or classified ad in The Liberator, a national anti-slavery newspaper. It is unlikely that Mrs. Gardiner realized how dangerous it was for the name of a southerner such as Thomas Day to be published in a pro-abolitionist newspaper. In North Carolina, just being in possession of abolitionist literature was very dangerous. If caught with The Liberator or any abolitionist sympathizing literature, one risked being accused of disseminating it, a crime punishable by imprisonment, whipping, and even death. Others who signed Mrs. Gardiner's card along with Day were major African American businessmen and leaders in the country and many would become prominent anti-slavery activists. This article is the result of over a decade of research conducted under the guidance and with the interpretive assistance of leading historians specializing in the experience of free and enslaved African Americans such as John Hope Franklin, Ira Berlin, and Peter H. Wood. The article provides in-depth information about Day's personal history and explores the issue: how could Thomas Day, who was himself a slaveowner, attend an anti-slavery meeting and have close ties with anti-slavery activists. This article was updated in 2013 to include more recent research and a still further updated version of it appears in the Autumn 2013 issue of American Furniture Magazine. To obtain copies of this article, please e-mail Laurel Sneed at To book a presentation on Thomas Day by Laurel C. Sneed, please contact the North Carolina Humanities Council (NCHC), Road Scholars' Speakers' Bureau online or by phone at 336.334.5325.

Sharecropper's Daughter

Sharecropper's Daughter is a film-in-progress about Nellie "Chubbs" Miles, a talented African-American woman whose life story of triumph and tragedy provides a powerful prism through which to examine a little known facet of the American experience—that of economically challenged African Americans who grew up in the system of tobacco sharecropping in the mid 20th century. Miles has witnessed, first-hand, pre-industrial, industrial, and post-industrial America and has been an active participant and worker as a fashion designer and small business owner—yet she has always remained economically deprived without health insurance, credit cards or resources many Americans take for granted. At age 60 Miles started to be invited to go to schools and share her experiences and skills with young children. This film follows Miles from the first time she is invited to Discovery Charter, an inner city school in Newark, New Jersey until she moves from her rental home to the "big city" of Greensboro, North Carolina where she settled after living in a rural area of the North Carolina Piedmont since childhood.

Thomas Day CD cover

Exploring the World of Thomas Day

Exploring the World of Thomas Day is an interactive multimedia game that simulates the process of historical thinking and doing historical research. Targeted to elementary and middle grade levels, it is based on the detective-like experience creator Laurel C. Sneed had while researching the origins and early years of nineteenth-century free black North Carolina cabinetmaker, Thomas Day. Described by reviewers as "an interactive documentary," a "fresh approach to Black history," and simply as a "really cool game," Exploring the World of Thomas Day is in use in schools and media centers around the country and has won numerous national and international awards including being named one of the top 25 educational software programs in 2003 by Technology and Learning. This application contains many Thomas Day related primary sources that we aim to make available online to researchers along with the extensive archive of Day-related documents and resources the foundation has acquired since the early 1990ís. In addition, there is interest in making Exploring the World of Thomas Day available to a much broader audience as an on-line application.


Since 2004, the Apprend Foundation has offered week-long workshops for K-12 teachers from around the country (totaling more than 700 teachers from 38 states). Featuring Thomas Day and Elizabeth Keckly, our workshops highlight black artisans and entrepreneurs in the Making of America. Participants are immersed in antebellum black history and culture through touring plantations, traveling to little-known historic sites, and participating in seminars and research experiences at universities and museums. The Crafting Freedom Workshop will not be offered in the summer of 2014, but may be offered again in the summer of 2015.

Let It Shine

The Let It Shine experience was the first Thomas Day Education Project professional development experience offered to a national audience of teachers. It won an Exemplary Educational Project Award from the NEH in 2002 in addition to being rated excellent by participants. Much interest has been expressed in forming a national "Let It Shine" network of teachers, scholars, and ordinary citizens committed to infusing African American history and culture into the year-round curriculum. The concept is to have chapters around the country for this educational network. While there have been meetings spearheaded by Let It Shine teachers in Charleston, SC; Detroit, MI; and Baton Rouge, LA, funding is still being sought to establish a national Let It Shine network. A Crafting Freedom Facebook page has been established and is being viewed as a means of forming a network of teachers nationwide who are strongly committed to infusing their teaching with more knowledge of African American history and culture. This is the next phase of Let It Shine's evolution and it is hoped that this will be a critical step in bringing the concept of a national "Let it Shine" network into reality.

All content (c) 2009 by the Apprend Foundation.