Chronicling America: Uncovering a World at War

I have been a pacifist and, to a certain extent, I still am one, and, therefore, I am able to understand their point of view...I can see no way that any right thinking person can refuse to follow the president in his course concerning the way. Most of the pacifists’ positions are not only illogical, but silly.

—Clarence Darrow, The Daybook, April 20, 1917

One hundred years ago, the European nations were embroiled in a Great War. The United States attempted to continue trade and diplomatic relations with a world in conflict. This lesson gives students the opportunity to interact with historical newspapers available through Chronicling America and read the conflicting viewpoints of America's opinion leaders and ordinary citizens. Students will engage in dialogue as they struggle to decide: should the Unites States remain neutral or join the fight?

By providing students with the tools to analyze primary source newspaper articles printed from 1914 through 1917, they will be able to understand the diversity of public opinion regarding the U.S. entry into World War I from multiple perspectives and practice thinking critically about the variety of public opinion available in this medium.

Guiding Questions

Why was America so divided about the prospect of entering World War I in 1917?

How did Americans react toward the events of the World War I in their hometown newspapers?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to: Read and analyze several newspaper articles to determine the point of view of the author

Understand the reason behind why some Americans advocated involvement in the war while others opposed U.S. involvement or maintained a neutral stance