• Lesson 1: From Courage to Freedom: The Reality behind the Song

    Frederick Douglass.

    One myth that Southern slave owners and proponents were happy to perpetuate was that of the slave happily singing from dawn to dusk as he worked in the fields, prepared meals in the kitchen, or maintained the upkeep of the plantation.

  • Lesson 2: Black Separatism or the Beloved Community? Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

    Malcolm X argued that America was too racist in its institutions and people to offer hope to blacks. In contrast with Malcolm X's black separatism, Martin Luther King, Jr. offered what he considered "the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest" as a means of building an integrated community of blacks and whites in America. This lesson will contrast the respective aims and means of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. to evaluate the possibilities for black American progress in the 1960s.

  • Lesson 2: The Battles of the Civil War

    Created July 17, 2010
    "A Harvest of Death."

    Through the use of maps and original documents, this lesson will focus on the key battles of the Civil War, Gettysburg and Vicksburg and show how the battles contributed to its outcome. It will also examine the "total war" strategy of General Sherman, and the role of naval warfare in bringing about a Union victory.

  • Lesson 3: The Gettysburg Address (1863)—Defining the American Union

    Photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg dedication. Lincoln is highlighted in this image  in the middle of the crowd at the dais.

    This lesson will examine the most famous speech in American history to understand how Lincoln turned a perfunctory eulogy at a cemetery dedication into a concise and profound meditation on the meaning of the Civil War and American union.

  • Lesson 1: Fragment on the Constitution and Union (1861)—The Purpose of the American Union

    Library of  Congress image of 1860 campaign illustration of Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln

    How did Abraham Lincoln understand the relationship between principles of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution? In this lesson students will examine Lincoln's "Fragment on the Constitution and Union" a brief but insightful reflection on the importance of the ideal of individual liberty to the constitutional structure and operation of the American union written in the last days of December 1860 when his election as president had brought the crisis of the American "house divided" to a head.

  • Lesson 3: African-Americans and the New Deal's Civilian Conservation Corps

    Barracks Door, Civilian Conservation Corps.

    The Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal recovery and relief program provided more than a quarter of a million young black men with jobs during the Depression. By examining primary source documents students analyze the impact of this program on race relations in America and assess the role played by the New Deal in changing them.

  • Romare Bearden's "The Dove"—A Meeting of Vision and Sound

    Romare Bearden, (1911–1988)

    By examining The Dove by artist Romare Bearden, students will learn to appreciate the artistic and intellectual achievement of Black artists in America in the first half of the 20th century. By listening to music, students will see how art and music intersect to tell us a story. They will relate that story to their own lives.

  • Lesson 1: The Battle Over Reconstruction: The Aftermath of War

    President Andrew Johnson presided over the early days of Reconstruction.

    This lesson covers two essential aspects of Reconstruction: the condition of the southern states at the close of the war and Lincoln’s plan for restoring them to the Union. In examining the conditions of the southern states, students consider both the physical conditions (i.e., the impact of the devastation of war) and the political condition of these states (i.e., what was the proper relationship between southern states and the Union upon their surrender at Appomattox?)

    Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8
    Curriculum Unit

    Life in the North and South 1847–1861: Before Brother Fought Brother (5 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    More Americans lost their lives in the Civil War than in any other conflict. How did the United States arrive at a point at which the South seceded and some families were so fractured that brother fought brother?

    A complex series of events led to the Civil War. The lessons in this unit are designed to help students develop a foundation on which to understand the basic disagreements between North and South. Through the investigation of primary source documents —photographs, census information and other archival documents—students gain an appreciation of everyday life in the North and South, changes occurring in the lives of ordinary Americans, and some of the major social and economic issues of the years before the Civil War.

    Guiding Questions

    • What differences existed between ordinary Americans living in the North and those living in the South in the years before the Civil War?
    • What important issues are reflected in the differences between life in the North and the South?
    • What kinds of changes were taking place in the United States at the time?

    Learning Objectives

    • List three differences and three similarities between life in the North and the South in the years before the Civil War.
    • Discuss how these differences contributed to serious disagreements between the North and South.

    Preparation Instructions

    The Civil War erupted after a long history of compromises and sectional debates over representation, federalism, tariffs and territories. Though many of the political differences are beyond the scope of the intermediate curriculum, students can use their analysis of archival documents to begin to appreciate the differences between the North and South and the changes afoot in the United States that contributed to the developing conflict.

    Before you begin to teach this unit, review the suggested activities and familiarize yourself with the websites involved. Select, download and duplicate, as necessary, any documents you want the class to use.

    For the census activity in Lesson 3, either the teacher or students will need to keep a calculator at hand.

    You may wish to provide students with a copy of the Document Analysis Worksheet, available through the EDSITEment resource The Digital Classroom, to guide them as they review the documents in this unit.

    The purpose of this lesson is to prepare students with background information for understanding the causes of the Civil War. You can find information on the causes of the Civil War, accessible through a link from the EDSITEment resource The Internet Public Library.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    6-8

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > People > African American
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
    • History and Social Studies
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
    • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Demographic Changes
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
    • History and Social Studies > World > The Modern World (1500 CE-Present)
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Economic Transformation
    • History and Social Studies > People > Other
    • History and Social Studies > People > Women
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Slavery
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Debate
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Textual analysis
    • Using primary sources
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    From Courage to Freedom: Frederick Douglass's 1845 Autobiography (3 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    In 1845 Frederick Douglass published what was to be the first of his three autobiographies: the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. As the title suggests, Douglass wished not only to highlight the irony that a land founded on freedom would permit slavery to exist within its midst, but also to establish that he, an American slave with no formal education, was the sole author of the work. Written in the years following his 1838 escape from his Maryland slaveholder, the narrative reveals numerous instances of Douglass's courage on his journey from slave to free man. Douglass himself punctuates this route by sharing with the reader his tenacious and ingenious efforts at learning how to read and write, his risky physical opposition to a "nigger-breaker," and his escape to New York. These courageous acts pale, however, beside his most overt and possibly dangerous act: the publishing of his autobiography before his freedom had been purchased. Indeed, in 1845 Douglass was still legally a slave; at any time he could have been betrayed, hunted down, captured and returned to his master who, more than likely, would have sold Douglass further down South as punishment. It was not until 1847, while Douglass was traveling and lecturing in England that friends bought his freedom. For Douglass, however, his personal declaration of freedom and independence occurred two years earlier with his Narrative.

    The Narrative in itself is remarkable for the views on slavery and slaveholders that Douglass bravely presents. First, Douglass asserts his humanity in the face of the dehumanizing institution of slavery. In doing so, he sets an example to other slaves to insist upon their humanity, and he persuades his reading audience to acknowledge this humanity, too. He claims as his intellectual birthright the opportunity to learn to read and write. He refuses to accept anything less than his own physical, spiritual, and intellectual freedom. Moreover, he never hesitates to criticize directly—often with withering irony—those who uphold slavery and those who prefer a romanticized version of it. Pitilessly, Douglass offers the reader a first-hand account of the pain, humiliation and brutality of the South's "peculiar institution." His is not an account of moonlight, magnolias, and happily singing workers. Instead, he points out the cruelty and the corrupting influence of power not only on the victim, but also on the perpetrator—the slave holder. Lastly, Douglass's Narrative is a courageous work because it confronts the misuse of Christianity in perpetuating the widely held belief in the slave owner's "God-given" right to own or sell other human beings.

    In this curriculum unit, students will read Douglass's narrative with particular attention devoted to chapters 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, and 10. They will analyze Douglass's vivid first-hand accounts of the lives of slaves and the behavior of slave owners to see how he successfully contrasts reality with romanticism and powerfully uses imagery, irony, connotative and denotative language, strong active verbs, repetition, and rhetorical appeals to persuade the reader of slavery's evil. Students will also identify and discuss Douglass's acts of physical and intellectual courage on his journey towards freedom.

    Guiding Questions

    • How does Frederick Douglass's skilled use of language paint a realistic portrait of slavery?
    • How successful is Douglass in persuading the reader of the evils that slavery inflicts on both slave and slaveholder alike?

    Learning Objectives

    • Analyze and understand a specific type of historical and literary primary document, the slave narrative/autobiography.
    • Recognize and explain the use and effectiveness of precise word choice, imagery, irony, and rhetorical appeals.
    • Learn to look for and contrast instances of reality and romanticized myth by using the slave narrative as a source for historical study.

    Preparation Instructions

    • Locate Douglass's 1845 Narrative at the EDSITEment-reviewed Library of Congress American Memory Project
    • Familiarize yourself with the history of slave narratives by reading William L. Andrews' "An Introduction to the Slave Narrative" found at the EDSITEment-reviewed UNC Chapel Hill's Documenting the American South website. This essay explains the purpose of the slave narrative as "to enlighten white readers about both the realities of slavery as an institution and the humanity of black people as individuals deserving of full human rights." The essay touches upon the popularity of the narratives before the Civil War and also notes specific characteristic traits of the slave narrative—traits which can easily be seen in Douglass's narrative. For example, the slave narrator portrays the plight of slaves as "a kind of hell on earth." "Hope contends with despair" and then "impelled by faith in God and a commitment to liberty and human dignity comparable to that of America's Founding Fathers," the slave narrator finds sanctuary and freedom in the North. Andrews's essay concludes by noting the influence of slave narratives upon modern black autobiography.
    • Obtain a concise overview of Douglass's life at the EDSITEment-reviewed National Park Service Links to the Past: American Visionaries—Frederick Douglass website. The site offers a complete overview of Douglass's life, whereas the 1845 Narrative itself ends with Douglass's freedom.
    • The EDSITEment-reviewed website Silva Rhetoricae has definitions and examples of the following persuasive appeals and rhetorical devices (click on the word to see in-depth definitions and examples):
      • Persuasive Appeals (overview)
      • Logos: appeal to reason
      • Ethos: appeal to one's own character
      • Pathos: appeal to emotion
      • Irony
      • Repetition (repetitio)

        Other terms that might be of use in the conversation include imagery, connotation, and denotation. Definitions and examples are available both at Wikipedia and Dictionary.com, available via the EDSITEment-reviewed Internet Public Library:
      • Imagery: (Wikipedia) (Dictionary.com)
      • Denotation—generally, the literal meaning of a word: (Wikipedia) (Dictionary.com)
      • Connotation—generally, the possible supplementary, implied meanings behind a literal meaning (Wikipedia) (Dictionary.com)
      • Wikipedia provides the following examples to describe the difference between Denotation and Connotation:
        • For example, the word "city" connotes the attributes of largeness, populousness. It denotes individual objects such as London, New York, Paris.
        • For example, a stubborn person may be described as being either strong-willed or pig-headed. Although these have the same literal meaning (i.e. stubborn), strong-willed connotes admiration for someone's convictions, while pig-headed connotes frustration in dealing with someone.

          Teachers may want to create a handout or a power point file for students with definitions and examples of persuasive appeals, repetition, irony, imagery, connotative and denotative language as found at these sites.
      Since Douglass does use the "n-word"—nigger—at times in his narrative, teachers may want to alert their students to that fact and perhaps give them some historical and cultural context for the word. When reading aloud, students should be given the option to say or not say the word—if they should encounter it—as they please. The classroom must be a comfortable place for all if Douglass's narrative is to be studied well and appreciated.
    • Read John Picker's introduction to spirituals and the essay on spirituals by Thomas Wentworth Higginson's essay "Negro Spirituals" found at the EDSITEment-reviewed American Studies at the University of Virginia For a concise history of spirituals see also www.negrospirituals.com
    • To extend the lesson on spirituals, review the EDSITEment lesson plan Spirituals, which explores how spirituals play a role in African-American history, from the Underground Railroad to the Civil Rights Movement.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > People > African American
    • Literature and Language Arts > Place > American
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
    • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Biography
    • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Essay
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Literary analysis
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Online research
    • Writing skills