Lesson Plan Eleven (Student Resources)

Amazing Grace.


America has made great strides in race relations and in confronting prejudice and discrimination, but it is still important to understand the horrors that were a part of the slave trade. One of the worst horrors was the conditions on slave ships, and many slaves died on the voyage to America.  One positive event that began to change public sentiment on slavery occurred when former slave ship Captain John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace.”


John Henry Newton (July 24, 1725 – December 21, 1807) was an English clergyman and former slave-ship captain.  At age 18, Newton was forced into naval service by the Royal Navy. After many floggings, he asked to transfer to a slave ship bound for West Africa called the Pegasus.  Later, Newton began reading the Bible, had an epiphany at sea, and then converted to Evangelical Christianity. He still made three further voyages as the captain of slave-trading ships, but after a stroke, he retired from the sea and became a minister. He wrote over 200 hymns, including “Amazing Grace,” butdid not renounce the slave trade until later in his life.
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Epiphany – suddenly understanding something or perceiving something in a new way; grasping reality through a simple, striking event; an illuminating discovery or realization (adapted from Merriam Webster).