This lesson traces the rise of Abraham Lincoln from his humble beginnings to the presidency. It examines Lincoln’s ideas and decisions regarding slavery and the use of presidential power to preserve the Union during the Civil War. After the lesson, students should be able to explain how Lincoln overcame daunting disadvantages to become a great president, analyze and evaluate his decisions in response the critical constitutional issues of the Civil War, and understand and appreciate his legacy to American constitutionalism and citizenship.
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates
In the years leading up to the Civil War, the issue of slavery divided the Democratic Party and newly formed Republican Party. One of the most prominent Democrats was the U.S. Senator from Illinois Stephen Douglas. When he ran for re-election in 1858 against Republican Abraham Lincoln, the two men held a series of debates. In the activity, students read statements made by Douglas in the debates, discuss how Lincoln would respond, and create responses to each statement.
Executive Power in Times of Crisis
This lesson explores the use of executive power in times of crisis in relation to both the Constitution and the legislation of the time. Using exclusive primary source material from the National Archives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, students will explore how President Lincoln, President Reagan, and President Obama utilized their executive power against the respective threats of their time.
District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862
The 150th anniversary of the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862
occurred in 2012. This bill was introduced to Congress to end slavery in the District of
Columbia. Many citizens and members of Congress alike noted that the legality of slavery in
the District of Columbia was inconsistent with the ideals and aspirations of the nation. Congress
approved the bill, and President Abraham Lincoln signed the act.
This activity features the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 and
other primary and secondary sources that tell the story of Congress’s role in this first major step
toward the freeing of enslaved African Americans. While intended for 8th grade students, the
lesson can be adapted for other grade levels.
African American History Month Resources
African American History Month evolved from the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass in the second week of February. Historian and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson framed the concept that became the first Negro History Week in February 1926. It developed into a monthlong commemoration of the struggles and triumphs of the African American community. On this page, learn the stories of Autherine Lucy Foster, the first African American student to attempt to integrate the University of Alabama; Frank M. Johnson, Jr., the federal judge who ruled in the Rosa Parks case; and Linda Brown, the 9-year-old who became the face of children caught in the crossfire of the fight for social change. The Pathways to the Bench video series features profiles of African American federal judges who offer perspectives on their experiences during the Civil Rights era.
Competing Voices of the Civil Rights Movement
When most people think of the Civil Rights Movement in America, they think of Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize the following year. But “the Movement” achieved its greatest results — the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act — due to the competing strategies and agendas of diverse individuals. Even black Americans, the primary beneficiaries of this landmark legislation, did not agree on the tactics that should be used to secure the equal protection of their rights. This unit presents the views of several important black leaders who shaped the debate over how to achieve freedom and equality in a nation that had long denied a portion of the American citizenry the full protection of their rights.
Abraham Lincoln’s Fragment of the Constitution & the Union (1861): The Purpose of the Union
March on Washington: Lesson Plans & Resources
On August 28, 1963, approximately 250,000 people participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which is considered to be one of the largest peaceful political rallies for human rights in history. Among other events, the march participants gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. Many consider The Great March on Washington to be the event that encouraged the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Share My Lesson team has created this collection of free lessons and classroom materials to help middle and high school educators teach their students about this historic event.
Natural Rights, Citizenship Rights, State Rights, and Black Rights: Another Look at Lincoln and Race
In the real world, the ability of free blacks to enjoy their natural rights and exercise the privileges and immunities of citizenship depended on the states where they actually lived. When those states imposed a raft of legal discriminations on free blacks they cheapened the meaning of freedom and discounted the value of citizenship. I suspect this bothered Lincoln, but it wasn’t his issue. It would take other men and women, and another century of struggle, before “states rights” was abolished. Free registration for students and teachers required to access resource.
Commemorating Presidents’ Day Resources
Teach your high school students about the constitutional legacy of George Washington, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan this Presidents’ Day. These free, ready-to-use lessons will engage your students in learning about these important presidents and how they shaped the history and Constitution of our nation. Each lesson was written and reviewed by scholars and contains questions to test student knowledge.