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North or South? Racial Attitudes before the Civil War

Download Activity Author: Joe Deffner
Grade Level: 5 - 8
Length of lesson:
1 period optional extensions/homework

Historical Context:

  • Theme: Change and continuity in American democracy: ideas, institutions, events, key figures, and controversies
  • Era: The American Republic: 1760-1870

Essential Question

Was anti-Black sentiment limited to the southern (and soon to be) Confederate states in the years leading up to the Civil War?
What were racial attitudes in the North in the years leading up to the Civil War?

Overview

This lesson uses online resources including a compiled town history, magazine articles, and a contemporary folk painting, to examine an eye-opening incident in New Hampshire history. It gives students what may be a surprising glimpse into pre-Civil War racial attitudes in the North.

Online Information

Chronology of the Town of Newport, NH, (see 1835 sidebar)

Magazine articles about the incident at:

Materials

  • Paper and writer’s journal. Overhead or projector to use with laptop.
  • Two documents to use with overhead/projector (included in download):
    1. 1. The 1835 sidebar from the Town of Newport Chronology (see above) with key identifiers removed (Noyes Academy Overhead1.doc)
    2. The original 1835 sidebar including the identifiers (Noyes Academy Overhead2.doc).
  • (Optional) Painting Analysis Worksheet (included with download).

Lesson Plan

  1. Begin the lesson by asking students to do a silent quick write in their writers' notebooks responding to the prompt: "How did Northerners feel about slavery? How did Southerners feel about slavery?"
  2. Have students share their responses with a partner.
  3. Share a few responses with the larger class.
  4. Project Noyes Academy Overhead1.doc (with identifiers removed).
  5. Read the document aloud and ask students where they think this incident happened and why (thinking about what they just wrote).
  6. Project the complete document with locations filled in (Noyes Academy Overhead2.doc). Students are usually quite surprised. This leads to a very fruitful discussion of the question, "What does this incident say about racial attitudes in the North?"

Follow Up/Extensions

Depending on where a teacher wants to go with this lesson, there are a number of possibilities:
  1. Have students respond to the question in #6 above for homework.
  2. Use the discussion as a jumping off point for researching complicity in the slave trade in the North. The Hartford Courant (Northeast Sunday Magazine) did a series entitled “Complicity” about five years ago and would be a good resource.
  3. Have students examine the painting of the Removal of Noyes Academy, (page down to the bottom to see the painting by Mikel Wells) and write a response to the painting using the Painting Analysis Worksheet (included in download).
  4. Have students look at the reasons given for removal and what residents’ fears were and compare them to reasons given against immigration and the fears people say they have today. You can find lists of these fears in many places, but here’s a decent pro/con list
  5. Using the same idea in #4, have students tune into a talk radio show about immigration and have them listen for and identify these same arguments against immigration.

Assessment

While not formally assessed, student work in this lesson (especially in Follow Up Activity #4 above) can be used as a formative assessment to determine whether students are beginning to grasp the connection between pre-Civil War racial attitudes and current events relating to immigration.

Standards

6.4 Historical Connections
6.10 Meaning of Citizenship
6.13 Institutional Access
6.15 Forces of Unity and Disunity

Flow of History
c/o Southeast Vermont Community Learning Collaborative
P.O. Box 300
Brattleboro, VT 05302
1.866.889.0042
flow@learningcollaborative.org