Slavery and the Civil War

How and why did the war become a war to end slavery? Download Primary Source Set: Slavery and the Civil War

By examining actions and words of black and white Americans, slaves, and government officials, this set is designed to help students understand how the meaning and purpose of the Civil War evolved from 1861 to 1865.

American Revolution and Natural Rights

How did the American Revolution develop the concept of natural rights? Download Primary Source Set: American Revolution and Natural Rights

This source set introduces traditional documents of the Enlightenment and the American Revolution which focus on the idea of natural rights. It then provides primary document evidence to link American Revolutionary ideas to anti-slavery, women’s rights, and the French Revolution.

Western Expansion

How did leading American thinkers(such as artists, intellectuals, religious and government leaders)justify America’s westward expansion in the 19 century? Download Primary Source Set: Western Expansion

This lesson includes a number of strategies designed to improve student reading comprehension, writing ability, and critical thinking, such as the ability to cite specific textual evidence to support analysis, to integrate visual information with print and visual texts, and writing explanations.It al

Abolition of Slavery Movement

How effectively did Frederick Douglass’ 1845 autobiography respond to the claims from the 1830s that slavery was a “positive good?” Download Primary Source Set: Abolition of Slavery Movement 

With the assistance of targeted literacy support strategies, students will read and analyze excerpts from Calhoun’s speech and Douglass’ autobiography. They will determine the claims each historic figure made and the evidence they used to support their claims.

Declaration of Independence

How did the Patriots justify their separation from Great Britain? Download Lesson: Declaration of Independence

This 8th grade lesson is designed to support student understanding of the key reasons why the Patriots decided to break their ties to Great Britain. Through the examination of primary sources, Common Sense and the Declaration of Independence, students will identify the meaningful passages of texts that warrant the Americans’ desire for political freedom.

The Constitution

What was The Great Compromise? And how did the Constitution get ratified with the inclusion of the Bill of Rights? Download Primary Source Set: The Constitution

The U. S. Constitution vested the federal government with power divided among three branches, while it also preserved states’ and individual rights. Teachers can use the metaphor of a three-legged stool to describe the three branches of government.

US Abolitionism


Students examine the national abolitionist movement that arose during the nineteenth century. Although the abolitionist movement is quite popular with students seeking to connect these early activists to rights movements of the next century, it is extremely important that students learn about abolitionists in their own contexts. Abolitionists were considered the most radical reformists by both Southerners and Northerners; their arguments about the immorality of slavery were never popular with the vast majority of Americans.

Abolition of Slavery Movement

Frederick Douglass, born a slave in 1818, would become one of the most visible and outspoken black abolitionists of the 19thcentury. He grew up in a rapidly expanding United States, whose very expansion stoked debate over the existence of slavery. White slavery advocates began a new vein of argument in defense of slavery: it was no longer an “evil,” but “a positive good.” In his famous 1837 speech to Congress, John C. Calhoun made his “positive good” claim, arguing both blacks and whites benefitted from the institution of slavery, especially as it was constructed in the South.

Founding of the US

Why did Thomas Paine argue for independence? Download Lesson: Founding of the US

This lesson is designed to support student comprehension of an excerpt from Common Sense written by Thomas Paine. This passage is included in Appendix B of the Common Core State Standards.