• Lesson 4: Abraham Lincoln, the 1860 Election, and the Future of the American Union and Slavery

    Created July 19, 2010
    Abraham Lincoln at the time of his historic debates with Stephen A. Douglas.

    This lesson plan will explore Abraham Lincoln's rise to political prominence during the debate over the future of American slavery. Lincoln's anti-slavery politics will be contrasted with the abolitionism of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass and the "popular sovereignty" concept of U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas.

  • Lesson 2: Slavery's Opponents and Defenders

    Idyllic cartoon of slaves thanking their master for taking care of them

    This lesson plan will explore the wide-ranging debate over American slavery by presenting the lives of its leading opponents and defenders and the views they held about America's "peculiar institution."

  • Lesson 1: An Early Threat of Secession: The Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Nullification Crisis

    Created July 18, 2010
    Henry Clay, author of the Missouri Compromise.

    Americans affirmed their independence with the ringing declaration that “all men are created equal.” But some of them owned African slaves, and were unwilling to give them up as they formed new federal and state governments. So “to form a more perfect union” in 1787, certain compromises were made in the Constitution regarding slavery. This settled the slavery controversy for the first few decades of the American republic, but this situation changed with the application of Missouri for statehood in 1819.

  • Lesson 3: The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854: Popular Sovereignty and the Political Polarization over Slavery

    Stephen A. Douglas

    Popular sovereignty allowed the settlers of a federal territory to decide the slavery question without interference from Congress. This lesson plan will examine how the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 affected the political balance between free and slave states and explore how its author, Stephen Douglas, promoted its policy of popular sovereignty in an effort to avoid a national crisis over slavery in the federal territories.

  • Carl Sandburg's "Chicago": Bringing a Great City Alive

    Carl Sandburg.

    In this lesson students examine primary documents including photographs, film, maps, and essays to learn about Chicago at the turn of the 20th century and make predictions about Carl Sandburg's famous poem. After examining the poem's use of personification and apostrophe, students write their own pieces about beloved places with Sandburg's poem as a model.

  • Images of the New World

    Detail of an engraving by Theodor De Bry (printed 1590)

    How did the English picture the native peoples of America during the early phases of colonization of North America? This lesson plan will enable students to interact with written and visual accounts of this critical formative period at the end of the 16th century, when the English view of the New World was being formulated, with consequences that we are still seeing today.

  • Mapping Colonial New England: Looking at the Landscape of New England

    A Dutch Map of the English colonies in North America around 1685 with an inset  view of New Amsterdam.

    The lesson focuses on two 17th-century maps of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to trace how the Puritans took possession of the region, built towns, and established families on the land. Students will learn how these New England settlers interacted with the Native Americans, and how to gain information about those relationships from primary sources such as maps.

  • William Penn's Peaceable Kingdom

    William Penn, Founder of the English colony of Pennsylvania

    By juxtaposing the different promotional tracts of William Penn and David Pastorius, students will understand the ethnic diversity of Pennsylvania along with the “pull” factors of migration in the 17th century English colonies.

  • Pearl S. Buck: "On Discovering America"

    American author Pearl S. Buck spent most of her life in China. She returned to  the U.S. in 1934 and became an advocate for immigration.

    American author Pearl S. Buck spent most of her life in China. She returned to America in 1934, "an immigrant among immigrants…in my native land." In this lesson, students will explore American attitudes toward immigration in the 1930s through Pearl S. Buck's essay, "On Discovering America." They will explore the meaning of the term "American" in this context and look at how the media portrayed immigrants.

  • Esperanza Rising: Learning Not to Be Afraid to Start Over

    Mexican woman farm laborer picking tomatoes in a California field, 1938.

    In this lesson students will look behind the story at the historical, social, and cultural circumstances that help account for the great contrasts and contradictions that Esperanza experiences when she moves to California. The lesson also invites students to contemplate some of the changes Esperanza undergoes as she grows from a pampered child into a resourceful and responsible young woman.