This short video examines the gradual but limited emancipation that occurred before the Constitutional Convention. In Northern states, fewer slaves and less racist sentiment enabled states such as Pennsylvania to pass gradual emancipation laws while even some Southern states, where racism was more entrenched, made it easier for slaves to be freed. However, as Professor John Kaminiski notes, the great political leaders of the South took no bold actions to free their slaves.
Juneteenth General Order
In this activity, students will carefully analyze General Order 3 from Major General Gordon Granger which informed the people of Texas that “all slaves are free.” This activity is appropriate as a conclusion to the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction.
Harriet Tubman and the End of Slavery
Nicknamed the “Moses of the Her People” for leading runaway slaves to freedom in the North, Harriet Tubman was the most famous member of the Underground Railroad. She became a celebrity in her lifetime and a hero of the Civil War. This lesson provides writing prompts and an activity on leadership.
Women’s Contributions in the Civil War
In this lesson, students will view videos to visit Civil War-related sites in Alexandria, Va., where women worked as nurses, sold goods to soldiers and aided communities of newly-freed slaves.
Slavery and The Constitution
Explore the text and history of the Three-Fifths Clause, the Migration and Importation of Slaves or Slave Trade Clause, and the Fugitive Slave Clause.
Emancipation of Slaves Under the Constitution
This short video illustrates the approaches taken by the various states towards freeing their slaves. Pennsylvania and New York were among the first to provide a path to gradual emancipation, due in large part to the influence of Quakers and Methodists. Professor John Kaminiski discusses the various criteria for manumission: the age of the individual; what percentage of the individual’s racial background was African-American; and how well prepared the individual was for life as a freeman.
The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850
In 1850, Southerners succeeded in getting a new federal law passed to return fugitive slaves who had escaped to the North. The U.S. government enforced this law, but some Northern states passed laws to resist it. Sometimes, free blacks and sympathetic whites joined to rescue captured fugitive slaves.
Thomas Jefferson and Slavery
Thomas Jefferson, the man who wrote the famous line “all men are created equal,” was a life-long slave-owner. Over the course of his life, he would own 600 human beings, and at any given time there would be roughly 100 slaves living and working on and around Jefferson’s plantation and farms. This handout describes Thomas Jefferson’s views on slavery.
Dolley Madison and Slavery
This short video presents Dolley Madison as a typical member of the antebellum slaveholding gentry. Dolley, like her southern contemporaries, saw slaves as property. Professor Catherine Allgor notes that when Dolley Madison began selling her slaves in the 1840’s, she was strongly criticized by the abolitionist press.
George Washington and Slavery
This short video analyzes Washington’s experiences as a “queasy slaveowner.” Having inherited and traded slaves as a younger man, Washington in later life gradually moved from being doubtful about the morality of the institution to being certain that the institution was “against the law of nature.” Professor W. B. Allen contends that Washington’s decision to free his slaves upon his wife’s death ensured that Mount Vernon’s enslaved families would remain intact and would be provided for.