• Walt Whitman to Langston Hughes: Poems for a Democracy

    Walt Whitman.

    Walt Whitman sought to create a new and distinctly American form of poetry. His efforts had a profound influence on subsequent generations of American poets. In this lesson, students will explore the historical context of Whitman's concept of "democratic poetry" by reading his poetry and prose and by examining daguerreotypes taken circa 1850. Next, students will compare the poetic concepts and techniques behind Whitman's "I Hear America Singing" and Langston Hughes' "Let America Be America Again," and will have an opportunity to apply similar concepts and techniques in creating a poem from their own experience.

  • The Red Badge of Courage: A New Kind of Realism

    Civil War-era portrait of a Federal soldier.

    The Red Badge of Courage’s success reflects the birth of a modern sensibility; today we feel something is true when it looks like the sort of thing we see in newspapers or on television news.

  • Lesson 3: A Debate Against Slavery

    Anti-slavery poster form the 1850s

    Sometimes, people will fight to keep someone else from being treated poorly. Disagreement over slavery was central to the conflict between the North and the South. The nation was deeply divided.

  • Lesson 4: Life Before the Civil War

    Anti-slavery poster form the 1850s

    Students demonstrate their knowledge of life before the Civil War, with an emphasis on differences between the North and South.

  • Lesson 5: Women's Lives Before the Civil War

    Anti-slavery poster form the 1850s

    What was life like for women in the first half of the 19th century in America? What influence did women have in shaping the attitudes towards slavery? Towards women's suffrage?

  • Walt Whitman's Notebooks and Poetry: the Sweep of the Universe

    Walt Whitman.

    Clues to Walt Whitman's effort to create a new and distinctly American form of verse may be found in his Notebooks, now available online from the American Memory Collection. In an entry to be examined in this lesson, Whitman indicated that he wanted his poetry to explore important ideas of a universal scope (as in the European tradition), but in authentic American situations and settings using specific details with direct appeal to the senses.

  • The Red Badge of Courage: A New Kind of Courage

    Civil War-era portrait of a Federal soldier.

    In The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane presents war through the eyes —and thoughts —of one soldier. The narrative’s altered point of view and stylistic innovations enable a heightened sense of realism while setting the work apart from war stories written essentially as tributes or propaganda.

  • Lesson 1: Factory vs. Plantation in the North and South

    Anti-slavery poster form the 1850s

    Students develop a foundation on which to understand the basic disagreements between North and South.

  • Picture Lincoln

    Anthony Berger of the Brady Studio, President Lincoln and his son Tad,  February 9, 1864.

    In this lesson students will learn about Abraham Lincoln the individual and the President. By examining Alexander Gardner's February 5, 1865 photograph and reading a short biography of Lincoln, students will consider who the man on the other side of the lens was. Students will demonstrate their understanding by writing an "I Am" Poem and creating their own multimedia portrait of Lincoln.

  • The Massachusetts 54th Regiment: Honoring the Heroes

    Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848–1907)

    The focus of this lesson is the Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Students will put themselves in the shoes of the men of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment as they read, write, pose, and then create a comic strip about these American heroes.