Published Date

October 31, 2016

Resource Type

AHA Resource, For the Classroom


African American, Slavery


Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, United States

This resource is part of the AHA’s Teaching with #DigHist series.


By John Rosinbum

This assignment offers students the opportunity to use their visual and/or technical skills to create a visualization of the transatlantic slave trade. In the past I have asked students to create their own digital projects or data visualizations of various historical events, even if those projects only exist in the analog world through story boarding. Here, students will use the information provided by Voyages to create either a digital or an analog data visualization of the trade. In addition they will write a detailed guide explaining their process and defending their choices. This assignment asks them to think deeply about the process of visualizing history and personally involves them in the process of generating a better understanding of the past. What does it mean to create a visualization? How does any presentation of the past make an argument? After completing the project, the students will conduct a “gallery walk,” where they post their visualization and guides in the classroom and their peers provide peer review via sticky notes.

The visualization’s guide requires students to explain their use of the historical thinking skills identified by the College Board for AP World, European, and US history. In addition, the assignment meets Common Core standards for writing and social studies by asking them to compose a detailed explanatory text and by pushing them to look at the ways they constructed their own secondary source. The assignment is suitable for undergraduates and can easily be paired with a trip to the library or a media center to increase media literacy and introduce students to digital tools for data visualization.

Download the assignment and rubric as a PDF.

For more about using Voyages as an easy entry into digital history projects for students, see John Rosinbum’s blog post on AHA Today: “Teaching the Slave Trade with Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database.”