Curriculum

Two years before the start of the Civil War, John Brown led an unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry in hopes of sparking a general slave revolt. Some abolitionists saw him as a heroic, moral crusader, while others questioned his methods as extreme and fanatical.  To determine whether Brown was a "misguided fanatic," students examine a speech by Brown, Frederick Douglass’s account of his efforts to dissuade Brown from the raid, and a letter from an admirer to Brown.




Image: Photograph of John Brown from the 1850s. From the Library of Congress.

Comments:

I was able to include this in a unit on terrorism. I reshaped the question to ask if "John Brown was a terrorist" after coming up with a class definition of what terrorism was.
Using this lesson as outlined works fantastically in an hour-long period. I did eliminate the timeline from the lesson but provided it to students. Showing the Ken Burns portion the 2nd day, going over Doc C, and then having the kids do independent write-ups on their thoughts of John Brown went very well. Many tied it to the Nat Turner lesson and they really grasped both of them shockingly well. Thanks so much!!
That is a wonderful tip! Thank you! I was struggling to come up with a way to simply have students gain knowledge of the raid. I love it!
Also helpful is a clip from "America: Story of Us, Episode 4: Division," in which the whole Harpers Ferry Raid is dramatized with actors.
These materials are excellent and have made it possible to improve my students' understanding of history.
Hi mbg83 - Thank you for pointing this out to us. We hope to add guiding questions for document C sometime soon. We appreciate the feedback.
Obviously great source material, and solid lesson flow as well. But, should there be assessment questions that go along with the Child source?
That is an amazing clip-it's so thorough and insightful!
Some helpful video materials about John Brown to complement this lesson: Performance of Brown's speech: http://www.history.com/topics/john-brown/videos/john-browns-last-speech Ken Burns' Civil War Documentary (available on Netflix Instant), Episode 1, around minute 28.
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