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Guiding Question: How did the principles of the Declaration of Independence contribute to the quest to end slavery from colonial times to the outbreak of the Civil War?
- Students will analyze the application of Founding principles of liberty, justice, and equality from colonial times to the outbreak of the Civil War by:
- Analyzing ideas and actions regarding slavery by examining primary source documents.
- Examining the ways in which legislation and policy, the courts, and individuals and groups were complementary in the quest to end slavery and the ways in which these methods of change were in conflict.
- Students will reflect on the ideas, institutions, and individuals in history to understand how we might apply the lessons gleaned from this period to today.
The following lesson asks students to consider how Founding principles have or have not been faithfully applied in the quest to end slavery. Students will look at primary source documents as they consider the following question: How were Founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice invoked or ignored in the quest to end slavery from the colonial era to the outbreak of the Civil War? The documents come from a variety of actors in the American republic: legislators and policy makers, the courts, and individuals and groups. As students go through the documents, encourage them not only to think about the principles of liberty, equality, and justice, but the way in which these groups interact with each other in creating change.
The main activity in this lesson requires students to conduct primary source analysis as a basis for important conversations. Questions have been provided for each primary source. Teachers may choose to use the provided questions as scaffolds for students or remove them as best suits their teaching situation. Graphic organizers have been provided to use in support. Students should have the Appendix: Annotated Founding Documents for reference during this lesson.
Cover image used with permission from the National Park Service.
Have students complete the Introductory Essay and accompanying questions.
Have students respond to the following prompt individually, in pairs, or as a class as best fits your classroom: If you want to change something in society, the best way to do it is: _______________________
If students need additional prompting, provide the following suggested answers: Make a law/Involve the courts/Bring attention to what needs to be changed/Convince others that change must occur/Other
Lead a brief discussion of student answers. Encourage students to explain their reasoning.
Students will analyze the primary sources using the questions provided with the documents. They can work individually, in pairs, or in small groups as best fits your classroom. Use the provided questions as scaffolds for students or remove them as best suits your teaching situation. The documents come from a variety of actors in the U.S. republic: legislators and policymakers, the courts, and individuals and groups. As students go through the documents, encourage them to think not only about the principles of liberty, equality, and justice, but also about the ways in which these groups interacted with each other in creating change.
Once students have completed the primary sources, distribute the Concluding Analysis. Sorting of the documents into the three groups can be done as a class, individually, in pairs, or in small groups as best fits your classroom. Note that students may place a document in more than one category. If this happens, encourage them to explain their reasoning to generate discussion. Allow students time to complete the final conclusion and analysis questions individually. These questions are meant to generate discussion.
Debrief with a class discussion if time permits and your classroom culture is well suited to dialogue. Students may also wish to share their responses in small groups or with you privately by posting to a class website.
Have students reflect on and answer the following question:
Identify an historical moment or person in this lesson who resonated with you. What lessons did this moment or person teach you? How might we apply those lessons to the present day?
Using the primary sources in this lesson, have students create an annotated timeline of important events in the quest to end slavery during this time period.
Assign students one or more documents contained in this primary source set and have them create a brief report or presentation on the context of the document, including the time and place it was created, the author and audience, and important phrases and arguments from the full text.
Have students research the American Colonization Society (ACS) and the Founding of Liberia. How did the ACS seek to address slavery and racism in the United States? Was it successful?
Have students research the life of Bishop Richard Allen and the creation of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church. How does the history of this church reflect both the harshness and the hope of the African American experience during this time?
Have students listen to and complete the Negro Spirituals activity on the Bill of Rights website.