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WA trunk contents imageThe West Africans in Colonial Mississippi Traveling Trunk concentrates on that group’s history in the area, how they came to be there, and their customs and cultural contributions. Contained in the trunk are objects that illustrate traditional West African ways, such as a woven paper hanging, traditional strip-woven cloth, a glass trade bead necklace, wooden and paper masks, traditional African games, and a balafon — a musical instrument similar to a marimba.

With this trunk students will have an opportunity to:

  • Play the traditional African counting game of mancala and compete in a mancala tournament
  • Learn about the Middle Passage
  • De-seed cotton
  • Learn Creole terms
  • Play an African instrument

A teacher’s notebook and material list is included in the trunk. This trunk is organized as a five-day unit but teachers are encouraged to organize, revise, and adapt its contents to best fit the needs of their students.

Day One

The first lesson allows the teacher to evaluate the class’s familiarity with the subject, then introduces the slave trade and the importation of West Africans by the French in the early 1700s. The West African game of mancala is taught, along with step-by-step instructions for making mancala game boards.

wa trunk mancalaDay Two

The second lesson looks at the land, people, and customs of West Africa. Students identify the location and characteristics of the major physiographic regions and rivers of the area; African tribes and ethnic groups are discussed, using trunk artifacts such as beads, cloth, and masks; and the influence of Arabia on Africa is identified in regards to language, design, and religion.

Day Three

Lesson three addresses colonialism, slavery, and the Middle Passage. Students will become familiar with the location and use of the Middle Passage by way of a mapping activity. They will also learn about Ibrahima, a West African prince forced into slavery. A film of Ibrahima, entitled Prince Among Slaves, is provided.

Day Four

The fourth lesson concerns slavery in the French colonies. Copies of the “Code Noir” (Black Code) are provided in order to stimulate discussion among students concerning slaves’ rights and restrictions. A graph reading activity is used to reveal population trends among Africans and Europeans during the eighteenth century.

Day Five

In the final lesson, “Africans, Creolization, and Contributions,” students learn of some of the contributions of West Africans to colonial culture, especially in regards to food and language.

Trunk Competencies Chart

Contents of Trunk

Trunk Weight and Dimensions

  • Weight: 38 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 18” (h) x 23” (w) x 30” (l)


To learn more about the Traveling Trunk Lending Policies and Procedures, the content of specific trunks, or to book a trunk, please contact:

Outreach Programs Coordinator
Museum Division, MDAH
P.O. Box 571
Jackson, MS 39205-0571
Phone: 601-576-6997