• 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."

  • Folklore in Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

    Photograph of Zora Neale Hurston.

    Learn how writer Zora Neale Hurston incorporated and transformed black folklife in her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. By exploring Hurston’s own life history and collection methods, listening to her WPA recordings of folksongs and folktales, and comparing transcribed folk narrative texts with the plot and themes of the novel, students will learn about the crucial role of oral folklore in Hurston’s written work.

  • Was There an Industrial Revolution? New Workplace, New Technology, New Consumers

    Image Courtesy of American Memory.

    In this lesson, students explore the First Industrial Revolution in early nineteenth-century America. Through simulation activities and the examination of primary historical materials, students learn how changes in the workplace and less expensive goods led to the transformation of American life.

  • Was There an Industrial Revolution? Americans at Work Before the Civil War

    Image Courtesy of American Memory.

    In this lesson, students explore the First Industrial Revolution in early nineteenth-century America. By reading and comparing first-hand accounts of the lives of workers before the Civil War, students prepare for a series of guided role-playing activities designed to help them make an informed judgment as to whether the changes that took place in manufacturing and distribution during this period are best described as a "revolution" or as a steady evolution over time.

  • "To Kill A Mockingbird" and the Scottsboro Boys Trial: Profiles in Courage

    The Scottsboro Boys with their lawyer and guards (UPI photo, March, 1933).

    Students study select court transcripts and other primary source material from the second Scottsboro Boys Trial of 1933, a continuation of the first trial in which two young white women wrongfully accused nine African-American youths of rape.

  • Critical Ways of Seeing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in Context

    Depiction of Huckleberry Finn on 1917 sheet music cover

    By studying Mark Twain's novel, Huckleberry Finn, and its critics with a focus on cultural context, students will develop essential analytical tools for navigating this text and for exploring controversies that surround this quintessential American novel.

  • The Emancipation Proclamation: Freedom's First Steps

    Emancipation

    Why was the Emancipation Proclamation important? While the Civil War began as a war to restore the Union, not to end slavery, by 1862 President Abraham Lincoln came to believe that he could save the Union only by broadening the goals of the war. Students can explore the obstacles and alternatives America faced in making the journey toward "a more perfect Union."

  • African-American Soldiers in World War I: The 92nd and 93rd Divisions

    Painting of African American soldiers fighting German soldiers in World War I

    Late in 1917, the War Department created two all-black infantry divisions. The 93rd Infantry Division received unanimous praise for its performance in combat, fighting as part of France’s 4th Army. In this lesson, students combine their research in a variety of sources, including firsthand accounts, to develop a hypothesis evaluating contradictory statements about the performance of the 92nd Infantry Division in World War I.

  • 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 2: The Question of Representation at the 1787 Convention

    Signing of Constitution, by Howard C. Cristy

    When the delegates to the Philadelphia Convention convened in May of 1787 to recommend amendments to the Articles of Confederation, one of the first issues they addressed was the plan for representation in Congress. This lesson will focus on the various plans for representation debated during the Constitutional Convention of 1787.