Profiles

Passionate conversation and okra stew

Boarding student and Peddie tour guide Hall ’20 recalls a particular history elective that kept the entire class engaged.

I’m not going to love every single class that I take at Peddie. The purpose of high school is to start thinking about some of the things you are really passionate about and pursue them to their maximum potential. This way, you find the classes that don’t feel like chores — the ones that you actually enjoy.

One class that specifically comes to mind is Mr. Treese’s “Slave Trade and the Atlantic World,” a history elective. The class was comprised of some of the most unique people I have ever met. A mix of juniors, seniors and post-graduates, every student held their own differing opinions and ways of thinking. Everyone participated in class, and even though we’d sometimes get off-topic and start wild conversations, we always successfully navigated back to our original topic and came full-circle in our discussion.

We would discuss topics like the symbolism in the novel “Homegoing” or how Toussaint Louverture was able to gain power during the bloody Haitian revolution. Everyone seemed to enjoy being in the class; long blocks didn’t feel so long, and there were times when I even felt the urge to stay past our allotted class time and continue the conversation.
 
What also made this class unique was the fact that Mr. Treese didn’t teach at us; he taught with us. Instead of lecturing and bombarding us with presentations and notes, Mr. Treese would present a topic and let us navigate it together while steering the conversation in the right direction and posing challenging questions along the way.

Mr. Treese would present a topic and let us navigate it together while steering the conversation in the right direction and posing challenging questions along the way.

The syllabus of the class covered many sensitive topics, which revolved mostly around the transatlantic slave trade of the 16th through early 19th centuries. We studied how places in Africa, such as the Congo, were decimated by power-hungry Europeans, the slave rebellion of Nat Turner, and everything in between. This dark side of history can be difficult to discuss. Reading and learning about the inhumane conditions of the ships that brought millions of Africans to the Americas was in all painful. Still, it evoked prompts for respectful and meaningful discussion, which was a pivotal part of the class. 

To cap off the end of the term, our last class met in the lounge of Mr. Treese’s dorm. We had learned about the food and music of slaves and their influence on the modern world. That day, we ate traditional okra stew, a staple of Southern soul food, and biscuits to go along with them. It was eye-opening for me to see how all of the things we learned in the past still impact today’s world and its culture. 

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