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The Sectionalism of the American North, South, and West (1800-1850)


Students analyze the paths of the American people in the three regions of the United States from 1800 to the mid-1800s and the challenges they faced as they became increasingly sectionalized.

Oregon Territory
Oregon Territory

An historic map of the Oregon Territory / by the U.S. Ex. Ex., Charles Wilkes, Esqr., Commander, 1841. It was taken in 1844. United States Exploring Expedition. Some acid offset on map. Inset: Columbia River, reduced from a survey / made by the U.S. Ex. Ex., 1841. Scale ca. 1:700,000.

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Indian Tribes in Arkansas & Missouri
Indian Tribes in Arkansas & Missouri

An impressive image of the lands assigned to emigrant Indians west of Arkansas and Missouri. It was created in 1836. Scale 1:2,625,000.

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Oregon Territory
Oregon Territory

An historic map of the Oregon Territory / by the U.S. Ex. Ex., Charles Wilkes, Esqr., Commander, 1841. It was taken in 1844. United States Exploring Expedition. Some acid offset on map. Inset: Columbia River, reduced from a survey / made by the U.S. Ex. Ex., 1841. Scale ca. 1:700,000.

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  • Does an increase in the number of voters make a country more democratic?

  • Should the United States have allowed American Indians to retain their tribal identities?

  • Does a geographic minority have the right to ignore the laws of a national majority?

  • Did Andrew Jackson advance or retard the cause of democracy? (autocrat v. democrat)

  • Was the age of Jackson an age of democracy?

  • Should the states have the right to ignore the laws of the national government?




  • capitalism

  • cede

  • self-government

  • suffrage

  • caucus

  • nominating convention





  • "Books can only reveal us to ourselves, and as often as they do us this service we lay them aside." [Thoreau to B.B. Wiley, 26 April 1857]

  • "Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations."[Walden]

  • "How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book." [Walden]

  • "Americans are not a perfect people, but we are called to a perfect mission." -Andrew Jackson



  • Social and technological advancements change and challenge the face of the nation.

  • American nationalism led to Manifest Destiny and expansion across the continent.

  • Students will understand the sources, characteristics, and effects of cultural, religious, and social reform movements – including the abolition, temperance, and women’s rights movements. 

  • Students will be able to understand the political impacts of the growing sectional polarization evidenced in key events including the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, The Fugitive Slave Law, the rise of the Republican Party, and secession. 





By the mid-1800s, people were seeking reform in many areas of American life, including education, ending slavery, female and suffrage. Abolitionists sought to end slavery in the United States. Other reformers worked toward winning political and economic rights for women. At the same time, American artists, writers, and musicians developed a distinct style that set them apart from the European style.

By the mid-1800s, many Americans wanted the nation to extend westward to the Pacific Ocean. To journey westward, traders and settlers had to travel along difficult and dangerous trails. While the Mormons migrated to Utah, other settlers flocked to California in search of gold. Farther south, the Texas War for Independence led to conflict and war between the United States and Mexico.  Read more...

Henry Clay and the American System...
8.46 Analyze the physical obstacles to and the economic and political factors involved in building a network of roads, canals and railroads, including Henry Clay’s American System,.



The Second Great Awakening - A Documentary...
8.48 Analyze the 19th century reforms influenced by the 2nd Great Awakening such as the Temperance Movement, Prison Reform, Mental Health Reform, and education, including tent meetings, establishment of new churches, Horace Mann, Dorothea Dix, and temperance societies.


Transcendentalism in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott...
8.50 Identify common themes in American art and literature, including transcendentalism and individualism by analyzing essays and stories by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.




Flight From Famine...
Growth, Cities, and Immigration: Crash Course...

In which John Green teaches you about the massive immigration to the United States during the late 19th and early 20th century. Immigrants flocked to the US from all over the world in this time period. Millions of Europeans moved to the US where they drove the growth of cities and manned the rapid industrialization that was taking place. In the western US many, many Chinese immigrants arrived to work on the railroad and in mines. As is often the case in the United States, the people who already lived in the US reacted kind of badly to this flood of immigrants. Some legislators tried to stem the flow of new arrivals, with mixed success.


Grover Cleveland vetoed a general ban on immigration, but the leadership at the time did manage to get together to pass and anti-Chinese immigration law. Immigrants did win some important Supreme Court decisions upholding their rights, but in many ways, immigrants were treated as second class citizens. At the same time, the country was rapidly urbanizing. Cities were growing rapidly and industrial technology was developing new wonders all the time. John will cover all this upheaval and change, and hearken back to a time when racial profiling did in fact boil down to analyzing the side of someone's face. 

8.47 Explain the causes and effects of the wave of immigration from Northern Europe to the United States, and describe the growth in the number, size, and spatial arrangements of cities as a result of events such as the Great Potato Famine.



Crash Course:  Women in the 19th Century

In which John Green finally gets around to talking about some women's history. In the 19th Century, the United States was changing rapidly, as we noted in the recent Market Revolution and Reform Movements episodes. Things were also in a state of flux for women.


The reform movements, which were in large part driven by women, gave these self-same women the idea that they could work on their own behalf, and radically improve the state of their own lives. So, while these women were working on prison reform, education reform, and abolition, they also started talking about equal rights, universal suffrage, temperance, and fair pay. Women like Susan B. Anthony, Carry Nation, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Grimkés, and Lucretia Mott strove tirelessly to improve the lot of American women, and it worked, eventually. John will teach you about the Christian Temperance Union, the Seneca Falls Convention, the Declaration of Sentiments, and a whole bunch of other stuff that made life better for women.

8.49 Analyze the women’s suffrage movement and its major proponents, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony and examine excerpts from the writings of Stanton, Anthony and Sojourner Truth.




Southern White Society...
8.52 Analyze the characteristics of white Southern society and how the physical environment influenced events and conditions prior to the Civil War.


Andrew Jackson Rails Against Nullification and Secession...
8.54 Identify the constitutional issues posed by the doctrine of nullification and secession and analyze the earliest origins of that doctrine.




Singing History:  Jackson...

Composed and Sung by:  Thomas Wolff

Video by: Juhitha Porika

History vs. Andrew Jackson...

Andrew Jackson was both beloved and loathed during his presidency. In this imaginary courtroom, you get to be the jury, considering and weighing Jackson's part in the spoils system, economic depression, and the Indian Removal Act, as well as his patriotism and the pressures of the presidency. James Fester explores how time shapes our relationship to controversial historical figures.  Lesson ideas...

PBS The African Americans:  Many Rivers to Cross; The cotton Economy and Slavery...
8.51 Trace the development of the agrarian economy in the South, the locations of the cotton- producing states, and the significance of cotton, the cotton gin and the role of Memphis as the Cotton Capital of the South.


  • The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture:  Cotton


New Madrid:  The Earthquakes of 1811-1812...
8.53 Write a narrative with supporting text describing the effects of the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-12 on the land and people of Tennessee.








In 1831 an ambitious and unusually perceptive twenty-five-year-old French aristocrat visited the United States. Alexis de Tocqueville’s official purpose was to study the American penal system, but his real interest was America herself. He spent nine months criss-crossing the young country, traveling mostly by steamboat, but also sometimes on horseback and by foot.  Read more of his travels.



Thoreau is much better known as the author of Walden and other nature writings than as a political writer. In fact as this this passage from his essay “Walking” (1862) shows,  his attitude toward  politics was very different from his appreciation of the natural world.




10 engaging activities with step-by-step instructions and inspirational Thoreau readings for your class or club.

8.55 Explain the events and impact of the presidency of Andrew Jackson, including the “corrupt bargain,” the advent of Jacksonian Democracy, his use of the spoils system and the veto, his battle with the Bank of the United States, the Nullification Crisis and the Indian removal.



Short film about Sequoyah, the creator of the Cherokee alphabet or Syllabary.

8.56 Analyze the contributions of Sequoyah to the Cherokee.


Singing History:  Forced Removal of American Indians to the trans-Mississippi West...



The Smithsonian National Museum of American History presents The Gold Rush.  Investigate the authentic journal of Alex Van Valen, a man who set sail in 1849 to stake his claim in the California gold fields, to discover what life was like during the gold rush. The Web site provides a rich set of primary sources to explore and analyze, as well as an interactive PDF guide where students can record, save, and print their findings. 



Mission US is a multimedia project that immerses players in U.S. history content through free interactive games. 


In Mission 3: “A Cheyenne Odyssey,” players become Little Fox, a Northern Cheyenne boy whose life is changed by the encroachment of white settlers, railroads, and U.S. military expeditions.  As buffalo diminish and the U.S. expands westward, players experience the Cheyenne's persistence through conflict and national transformation.

Thomas Wolff's lyrics turned rap song by Alex Chau and Griffin Booth

Trail of Tears National Historic Trial...

The forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from the SE United States reveals one of the darkest chapters in American history. Stories of hardship, endurance, love, and loss come alive as a grandfather experiences removal with his granddaughter.

8.57 Write a narrative piece that describes the impact of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the struggle between the Cherokee Nation and the United States government and cites evidence from primary source accounts of the Trail of Tears.
Manifest Destiny...

Before you dive into the specifics get a handle on the major historical ideas related to Manifest Destiny in 5 Minutes. Be sure to subscribe for fun, free and focused history lessons


8.58 Describe the concept of Manifest Destiny and its impact on the developing character of the American nation, including the purpose, challenges and economic incentives for westward expansion.
Singing History - Texas Revolution...

Song by Thomas Wolff 
Video by Olivia Curry

Texas Rovolution - Manifest Destiny Choose Your Own Adventure...

A brief explanation of the Texas Revolution and the formation of the Lone Star Republic, and how it relates to the idea of Manifest Destiny.

Oregon Trail - Story of Us...

American settlers moving west along the Oregon Trail from the History Channel video series "America Story of Us"

Wagon Trails to the West, Sallie Hester, 1849...
8.60 Analyze the reasons, outcome and legacy of groups moving west including the mountain men/trail blazers, Mormons, missionaries, settlers, and the impact of the Oregon Trail and John C. Frémont.
Review:  The Presidency of James K. Polk...
James K. Polk - Music Video...

Music Video created to They Might Be Giants - "James K. Polk"

8.61 Describe the major events and impact of the presidency of James K. Polk, including his “Dark Horse” nomination, the settlements of the Oregon boundary, the annexation of Texas, and the acquisition of California through the Mexican War.
PBS The Gold Rush...

On January 24, 1848, while examining the tailrace draining water from his sawmill by the American River, James Marshall spotted some gleaming yellow lumps in the bottom of the channel. This documentary tells the story of what happened next.


8.63 Trace the major figures and events in the discovery of gold in California and its impact on the economy of the United States, including John Sutter, and 49’ers.
"Walden's Pond" by Henry D. Thoreau...
8.59 Describe American settlements in Texas after 1821 and the causes for the Texas War of Independence, including the roles of David Crockett and Sam Houston in the war and the legacy of the Alamo.
History Channel:  The Alamo Deconstructed

Here is a piece I [John Powell] did with the folks at CCFV for History Using sources from all over the History Channels' library of footage, the job was to integrate graphics into this piece and make it all work together as seamlessly as possible. Basically this short piece will tell you all the basic facts about the Battle of the Alamo in one short go.

Fess Parker - Ballad of Davy Crockett [1955]...

Theme Song. Fess Elisha Parker, Jr. (August 16, 1924 -- March 18, 2010) was an 6'6" American film and television actor best known for his portrayals of Davy Crockett in Walt Disney 1955-56 TV mini-series and as TV's Daniel Boone from 1964-70. He was also known as a wine maker and resort owner-operator.  Consider what is factual in this ballad and what is the stuff of legends...

Crash Course:  War & Expansion

In which John Green teaches you about the Mexican-American War in the late 1840s, and the expansion of the United States into the western end of North America. In this episode of Crash Course, US territory finally reaches from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific Ocean. After Oregon was secured from the UK and the southwest was ceded by Mexico, that is.


Famous Americans abound in this episode, including James K Polk (Young Hickory, Napoleon of the Stump), Martin Van Buren, Zachary Taylor, and Winfield Scott. You'll also learn about the California Gold Rush of 1848, and California's admission as a state, which necessitated the Compromise of 1850.

History Channel:  The Mexican American War...

One of the most controversial conflicts in U.S. history, the Mexican-American War erupted as President James K. Polk sought to extend the borders of the nation to the Pacific, taking by force whatever territory stood in the way. This History Channel special, hosted by Oscar de la Hoya, looks at the war from the perspective of both countries, and chronicles the fighting from its inception to its conclusion with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

8.62 Describe the causes, course, and consequences of the Mexican War, including the controversy over the Rio Grande boundary, the roles played by Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, the Mexican Cession and the Wilmot Proviso.
The Mexican American War - Manifest Destiny Choose your Own Adventure...


Thoreau's reflections on Walden Pond

Primary Documents and Supporting Texts to Read: excerpts from “The Declaration of Sentiments,” Seneca Falls Convention; excerpts from “Nature” and “Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson; excerpts from “Walden” and “Civil Disobedience,” Henry David Thoreau; “Ain’t I A Woman,” Sojourner Truth; excerpts from Eliza Bryan of the New Madrid Earthquakes
Primary Document and Supporting Texts to Consider: excerpts from Roughing It, Mark Twain; A Narrative in the Life of David Crockett of the state of Tennessee, David Crockett
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