Dear Educator,

As an educational nonprofit filmmaking organization, we are here to help you improve your teaching offerings during these trying times. Many educators are conducting crucial education through online webinars and online teaching.

Over the last twenty years we have been a consistent content creator in award-winning PBS films and lesson plans on topics such as interfaith tolerance, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and we have spotlighted heroic stories from the past. We are happy to share our teaching resources that have been created by professional educators and have been designed to meet state and national teaching standards. 

We have developed extensive lesson plans for our films that can be access the button below.
Here are four films and lesson plan ideas you can bring to your online class today:

1.     Important lessons from Muslim, Christian and Jewish coexistence in Islamic Spain “Al-Andalus” for today: coexistence, tolerance and interfaith cooperation. A new website around UPF’s Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain.

2.     We have six great short films from our Emmy-nominated film The Sultan and the Saint on “The Role of Jesus in the Islamic Tradition,” “Muslim-Christian Peacemaking,” and the “Neuroscience of Prejudice” including 90 pages of extensive curriculum and lesson plans from our film The Sultan and the Saint.

3.     The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is just around the corner. Check out our short film on a young girl’s first Ramadan in Nadia’s Ramadan . The website has great lesson plans on the lunar cycle and the importance of this holiday in the wider Islamic faith.

4.     The role of spirituality in overcoming adversity and crisis in UPF’s Enemy of the Reich: The Noor Inayat Khan Story.

If you’d like to sign up for any of our films please do so and we look forward to sharing vital resources for you moving forward.
Visit our newly launched Cities of Light website:
Here is a specific example of a classroom exercise around our film Prince Among Slaves .

Prince Among Slaves

Synopsis: Prince Among Slaves tells the story of Abdul Rahman, trilingual, a military general and heir to a West African nation the size of Great Britain, who did not return to Africa for 40 years. In that time, he toiled on Foster's plantation. He married a fellow slave, Isabella, and they had nine children. Gradually, he also became the most famous African in America, attracting the support of President John Quincy Adams and Secretary of State Henry Clay.

Relevant Grade: 8 – 12

Film Clip:  2 minutes (view here)

Full-length film 60 minutes. Available to stream by signing up, here
Referring to Abdul Rahman and Isabella, Kwame Anthony Appiah says, “They made the best they could of their circumstances. They found ways to figure out forms of solidarity, forms of resistance, forms of accepting what was going on, including, religious forms of acceptance in order to live their lives.” That is, they became resilient .

Abdul Rahman made many decisions in his life about when and how to struggle and resist the constraints of slavery, and when to accept his situation and work to ameliorate his condition within slavery. Participants are asked to consider and interpret Abdul Rahman’s crucial choices over forty years, beginning with his capture in 1788, his struggle to simply survive aboard the Africa , his subsequent escape from Thomas Foster’s plantation and his eventual voluntary return, his rise to a position of leadership on the plantation, and his final struggle to win freedom for himself and his family.

This process and its result are what we mean by the term resilience . In physical terms, resilience describes the ability of a material to absorb energy when struck, and then return to its original form. Psychologically, resilience is the capacity to cope with the onslaught of stress and adversity—bouncing back from it or steeling against it such that one’s ability to function returns to (or approaches) “normal” (its original form, as it were).

In times of calamity and uncertainty Abdul Rahman took refuge in prayer as one means for his survival. Here are some common prayers:

Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference. – Reinhold Niebuhr
Extended version:
God, grant us the...
Serenity to accept things we cannot change,
Courage to change the things we can, and the
Wisdom to know the difference
Patience for the things that take time
Appreciation for all that we have, and
Tolerance for those with different struggles
Freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways, the
Ability to feel your love for us and our love for each other and the
Strength to get up and try again even when we feel it is hopeless.

Niebuhr’s prayer outlines a workable strategy for cultivating resilience. All of the elements included in Niebuhr’s outline, Abdul Rahman found in the Qur’an. As a child, he had memorized large portions of Islam’s holy book. Research has confirmed that he was well schooled in many subjects, so he no doubt could turn for strength to the Hadith and other materials as well.


Surah al-Fatiha “The Opener” (1)

“We strengthen their hearts with patience.”

Surah An-Nasr “The Help” (110)

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

When God’s help comes, and the victory,
And you see mankind entering the religion of God in multitudes,
Then celebrate the praise of your Lord and seek His forgiveness. He is ever disposed to show mercy.

After watching the film, ask participants for examples of resistance as well as examples of acceptance of a difficult situation and work to ameliorate it.

Here are some suggestions for you – make a list of what everyone comes up with. Suggest these ideas in addition to what your group comes up with.
What are some examples of resistance?
  • Abdul-Rahman sold to Thomas Foster as a “brute Negro” – which meant that he had to endure “seasoning” once he got to Natchez.
  • “I tried to tell Mr. Foster that I was a Prince in Africa…”: not willing to let go of identity easily.
  • Mos Def: “Abdul Rahman refused to clear the fields. Defiance, in turn, brought the whip and deepened his resentment…” Abdul Rahman escapes!
  • When has chance meeting with Dr Cox, A R resists temptation to go with him (as Cox asks).
  • When finally takes advantage of the opportunity to write a letter home to Africa, Terry Alford says it was a way of protesting the negative situation unfolding on the plantation. [See script p. 11]
  • Wins passage back to Africa for himself but is reluctant to leave his family behind; works to gain their release, too.
  • When Gallaudet asks AR to write the Lord’s Prayer in Arabic, what he writes is actually the Fatiha.
Examples of acceptance of situation and work to ameliorate it
  • Chained and crammed in hold of slave ship: he must have accepted the situation and found ways to stay alive. That he made it to the Caribbean is significant.
  • Made a decision to “go with the flow” during the layover in the Caribbean. (See Alford)
  • Mos Def: “Slaveholders seasoned them as slaves, forcing them to learn English, stripping them of their customs and identities…” Abdul Rahman seems to have accepted the need to learn English, and learned the language quite well [eventually; probably only after the escape episode]
  • Zaid Shakir: “…in the wilderness, it dawned on him that he is no longer a prince…”
  • Terry Alford: “Someone brought up in Futa-Jallon believes that…it was part of a divine plan. His resignation to the will of God was demanded.”
  • A-R returns to Foster’s farm; lays on floor and puts Mrs. Foster’s foot on his own neck to signal submission.
  • From point of return from the escape, Abdul-Rahman does whatever job Foster assigns him; apparently does these jobs well; goes beyond that to demonstrate effective leadership; makes himself indispensable.
  • Decides to marry Isabella (accepting the fact that he’ll never make it back to his wife and children in Africa); goes along with a “Christian” wedding ceremony of sorts.
  • A R rises to position of authority on the Foster plantation. David Dreyer says “…he wasn’t made overseer; he was the de facto overseer.”
  • When has chance meeting with Dr Cox, A R accepts the reality of his situation, and is not tempted to violate local custom.
  • Abdul-Rahman does not correct Marschalk’s exaggerations, embellishments of his story.
  • When Henry Clay and others think he’s Moroccan, he chooses not to correct their assumption.
  • On fund-raising tour, “A R played to the press” and does not correct misimpressions and exaggerations; treats exceptionality as an advantage.
  • Has opportunity to write home to Africa, but delays.
  • When Gallaudet asks him to write the Lord’s Prayer in Arabic, he obliges (at least, he seems to).
  • Plays the agenda of the powerful American Colonization Society to his advantage.
  • Realizes that the political landscape is changing; accepts the need to depart for Africa, even though it means leaving his children and grandchildren behind; leaves on the Harriet, as guest of US government. 

The UPF Team