Painting of Noyes Academy Removal by Mikel Wells. Source: Canaan Historical Society.

Students use primary sources to reconstruct the story of Noyes Academy in Canaan, NH, and challenge their assumptions about anti-Black sentiment in the antebellum North.

Grade Levels: 5 – 12

Topic: Racism in the North

Thinking Skills: Primary source analysis; Multiple points of view

Compelling Questions

Was anti-Black sentiment limited to the southern 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?

Activating Prior Knowledge

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?

Investigation of Primary Sources

Project this transcribed account. Read the account to the class and ask students where they think this happened and why.

Have students examine these two newspaper accounts from the Vermont Chronicle. They should first source the document, then close read and summarize, and finally corroborate the two, reconstructing the story.

Vermont Chronicle, July 30, 1835

Vermont Chronicle, August 27, 1835

Show this recreated painting of the event to support student summaries. Identify and discuss who might have been a bystander and who might have been an upstander during this event.

Summative Task (explanatory essay)

After examining primary sources detailing the story of Noyes Academy, imagine you are either a student at the school or an angry townsperson, and explain what happened from your perspective.

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