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Creative Collaborators and Communicators: Abolitionists and their Propaganda

Developed by Elizabeth Lambert, Mischoe Hill Middle School, Mendon, Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Historical Society holds many important manuscripts, photographs, and artifacts that relate to the abolitionist movement in the Commonwealth and beyond. Massachusetts (and Boston in particular), the home of antislavery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and The Liberator, became known world-wide as the nexus for the American antislavery movement. Images of the key players; broadsides and banners announcing antislavery meetings and fairs; and visual imagery of the movement as seen through patriotic covers, political cartoons, and artifacts showing the horrors of slavery are key to understanding how the movement was communicated and followed.

In these two lessons, students will evaluate various types of antislavery propaganda -- including images, artifacts, letters, speeches, poems, and other published works -- in order to become familiar with the techniques that abolitionists used to share their messages. Students can then create their own propaganda, using the methods, vocabulary, and visual imagery discussed in these activities. These lesson plans were developed as part of a presentation for the 2014 National Council for the Social Studies conference.

Common Core Connections:
These lesson plans address the following standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.6 Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose (e.g., loaded language, inclusion or avoidance of particular facts).
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.


View/Download Individual Lessons:

These lessons were adapted from materials created by the National World War II Museum.

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