Author: Nancy Lewis
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 did the assumption of rights and protections change as African Americans strove for full citizenship from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement?


A good overview of the women’s suffrage movement both in America and Europe is available on Scholastic’s website
The Library of congress website “Votes for Women” offers a timeline

Primary Source

Students will use the quotes from the Spartacus website for this activity
For a slave narrative, students will read Henry Banner’s account of slavery as he remembered it in 1938: Hurmence, Belinda. “Henry Banner.” We Lived in a Little Cabin in the Yard. Winston-Salem, N.C.: J.F. Blair, 1994. 88-90. Print., or one from the WPA Slave Narrative Collection that makes reference to citizenship.


Citizenship worksheet (provided in download).

Lesson Plan

For this activity, students will work in pairs to answer questions on the worksheet using one account from either the slave narrative, or quotes from numerous sources from the Spartacus website.

  1. The teacher begins this activity by asking students to brainstorm rights and protections they assume they have by being a U.S. citizen. A review of the Amendments might begin the conversation. Prompts could include rights to speech, privacy, rights of the accused, voting, etc.
  2. The teacher then asks students if every citizen has those rights. Do all citizens assume they have those rights? Are those rights really guaranteed for everyone? Has this always been true?
  3. Students work in pairs to investigate the assumptions African Americans had about their rights and protections between 1860 and 1960. Each pair is assigned one reading from the Spartacus website and the slave narrative to answer the questions on the activity sheet. Once students have read, discussed and completed the worksheet, they will report to the whole class their assessment of the assumptions of citizenship based on the reading.


Students are assessed formatively on their completion of the assignment, on the quality of their analysis, and on their engagement in the activity.


6.3 Analyzing knowledge
6.6 Being a historian
6.11 Institutional Access