We started with reading aloud portions of “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave” in an effort to get them used to using a “ primary source” This helps them to get an eyewitness view of the cruelties and spirit crushing impact of slavery.
We followed this with lessons on the various compromises of the antebellum period in which Congress tried unsuccessfully to balance the interests of “Free Soil” states with slaveholding states. The class engaged in a notetaking and discussion exercise with excerpts from Ken Burns’ “The Civil War” documentary.
The unit ended with a reading of journal entries by John Wilkes Booth and others about the Lincoln assassination.
The unit was a great chance to see what the students knew about the Civil War and to add to their knowledge base. It helped students to develop an understanding of the issues Americans were struggling with at that time.