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Primary Sources - Workshop in American History Workshop 4 - Concerning Emancipation: Who Freed the Slaves?homesitemap
Before You Watch - link Lectures and Activities - Link Classroom and Applications

Workshop 4
Classroom Applications

Reflect on how you teach emancipation in your classroom. How would you teach it differently with primary sources?

Now consider these lesson ideas contributed by Primary Sources teachers:

Image of Cheryl Maloney

Research and Examine Emancipation Using Multiple Sources
Contributed by Cheryl Maloney

This activity works best if students begin with an understanding of historiography. I began by assembling as many different United States history textbooks as possible, including middle school, high school, and college texts. The students then read and analyzed what each textbook author(s) wrote about emancipation: the language, headings, photographs, number of pages, and context. Once they completed this research, the students worked in small groups to compare their findings, then shared their findings with the entire class.

This in-class assignment was followed by a short research project. Each group was assigned to find similar information in different sources: a biography, an Internet site, an encyclopedia, a history of the Civil War, and a book about the history of African Americans. Again, students looked at language, headings, photographs, number of pages, and the context. The groups brought their findings to class to be shared and compared.

For the final part of the activity, the students became historians. Using primary source documents, they researched and then wrote a section for a textbook on the Emancipation Proclamation. The students examined documents such as the Emancipation Proclamation, letters from runaway slaves, Hunter's orders, and the essay by Frederick Douglass. I provided them with a list of questions to frame their work. Once the research and the writing were completed, the students shared their text with the class. I then shared my interpretation of the questions.


Image of Eugenia Rolla

Discuss the Freedmen Memorial Monument
Contributed by Eugenia Rolla

This activity was used as a review of the Emancipation Proclamation and Reconstruction, as well as to assess students' understanding of Lincoln. I started off the lesson with general questions about Reconstruction (when, what, who, etc.). Then I asked my students to think of words that describe Lincoln historically.

Next, I showed the students the very powerful picture of the Lincoln Freedmen Memorial. We began a student-centered and student-driven discussion with a few central questions: "What do we see in this picture?" "How accurate a depiction is this?" "What historical moment does this reference?"

My students then began discussing and debating the implications of the picture. When needed, I prompted them or redirected them with questions regarding the symbolism of the crouched man in broken chains and Lincoln's positioning. Toward the end of the discussion, I brought up Lincoln's legacy as the Great Emancipator, but many students rejected that label and provided astute counterresponses. However, they also recognized Lincoln's role in providing the avenue for emancipation. This was my ultimate objective: for the students to reach this conclusion based on their discussion of the picture. In the meantime, I also used their comments as a means of assessing their understanding of Lincoln.


Image of Larry David

Analyze the Emancipation Proclamation
Contributed by Larry David

In a large group discussion, my class and I analyzed the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln's letters, and documents relating to the use of captured slaves in Union armies. The lesson focused on the purpose and effect of the Emancipation Proclamation. After an initial analysis of the Emancipation Proclamation, some of my students questioned why it was released since it did not appear to do anything. Some of the questions we discussed included:

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Why did Lincoln issue the Emancipation Proclamation? What was the need for it?

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If the Emancipation Proclamation did not do anything then, why is it so important now?

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Does this change how you feel about Lincoln?

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If Lincoln did not die when he did, what might he have done regarding African Americans?


Image of Yvonne Powell

"I think I was guilty of... being very dependent upon the textbook as a way of presenting what was really a cursory survey course in U.S. history. Not next year. The curriculum will be completed, but it will be in the words and the writings of the men and women who've created that history. It will be Lincoln's words in Lincoln's mouth. It will be Mariah Stewart's words in her mouth."
— Yvonne Powell

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