Author: Bridget Fariel
Grade Level: 9-12
Length of lesson:
1 period
Download Activity

Historical Context:

  • Theme: Change and continuity in American democracy: ideas, institutions, events, key figures, and controversies
  • Era: The development of modern America (19th and 20th centuries)

Essential Question

How has Vermont history been shaped by its citizen’s attitude toward race?
How is propaganda used to help shape our attitudes about race?

Background Information

The Ku Klux Klan was formed in 1865 in Tennessee and quickly spread throughout the South. The Klan’s main purpose was intimidation of freedmen and restoration of white supremacy in the post-Civil War South. In 1915, a second Klan movement began in Georgia inspired by the film Birth of a Nation. This new Klan spread to the West and North and targeted not only Blacks but also other races and groups including Irish Catholics and Jews. Ku Klux Klan membership rose to an estimated five million people, in the 1920s, with thousands of Vermonters joining local chapters.

This activity could be part of a larger analysis of primary documents that reflect racial attitudes in Vermont history. It also might be used as an opening activity to introduce the topic.

Background Sources

Neill, M., Fiery Crosses in the Green Mountains: The Story of The Ku Klux Klan in Vermont. 1989


Poster Image of a Ku Klux Klan Rally (from Vermont Historical Society):
Poster Analysis Worksheet (provided in download)

Lesson Plan

  1. In small groups: Examine the poster using the poster analysis worksheet.
  2. Group discussion: Debrief responses as a group. Ask the group:
    • How has your analysis of the poster increased your understanding of the use of rhetoric to advance ideas?
    • How has your analysis increased your understanding of Vermont and the issue of race?


Informal observation of group presentations and worksheets.


6.4b Students examine local history by reading historical… documents.
6.12 Students identify and evaluate the concept of human rights.
6.14d Students …analyze perceptions of race, gender, ethnic group…as forces of unity and disunity.