(From “Teaching Hard History” report by Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project)

Here’s a quiz that was created by the Teaching Tolerance project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, published with the SPLC’s permission. It accompanies a new report titled “Teaching Hard History,” a year-long look at how schools fail to adequately teach the history of American slavery.

See how much you know — or don’t know.

1. People enslaved by colonists in North America included all of the following except:

a) West Africans
b) Irish
c) Muslims
d) Native Americans

2. Why did the South secede from the Union?

a) To preserve states’ rights
b) To avoid rapid industrialization
c) To protest taxes on imported goods
d) To preserve slavery

3. Which formally ended slavery in the United States?

a) The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
b) The treaty ending the Civil War
c) The Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln
d) The Civil Rights Act of 1968

4. What was the Middle Passage?

a) A type of ship built specifically to transport human beings.
b) Another name for the “Triangular Trade.”
c) The journey across the Atlantic of Africans stolen for the slave trade.
d) A system of roads in West Africa leading to the coast.

5) How many of the first 18 U.S. presidents owned enslaved people at some point in their lives?

A) 6
b) None
c) 12
d) 3

6) At the peak of the slave trade, how many Africans were taken and transported across the ocean in a single decade?

a) About 80,000
b) About 260,000
c) About 520,000
d) About 860,000


1) B. Irish people were not enslaved by colonists in North America. Many suffered through horrible conditions of indentured servitude, but none were subject to lifelong, hereditary slavery

2) D. Every secession document cites slavery as the main reason the southern states seceded.

3) A. The 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865, formally ended slavery.

4) C. The Middle Passage was the “middle” leg of the triangular trade where Europeans ships sailed to Africa with finished goods, traded for abducted Africans bound for slavery, and brought them across the Atlantic to the Americas where they sold them for raw materials like sugar.

5) C. Twelve presidents enslaved people. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Tyler, Polk and Taylor owned slaves while in office. Van Buren, Harrison, Johnson, and Grant owned slaves, but not as president.

6) D. More than 860,000 Africans were taken and transported across the ocean in a single decade.