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Slavery in America (1800-1850)


Students analyze the growth of slavery and the resulting controversies.


Free & Slave Holding Map
Free & Slave Holding Map

Here we present a General map of the United States, showing the area and extent of the free & slave-holding states, and the territories of the Union / engraved by W. & A.K. Johnston, Edinburgh. It was made in 1857. "Entered in Sta. Hall, London - & according to act of Congress in the year 1857 by H.D. Rogers, in the Clerks Office of the District Court of Massachusetts."

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Old Map of the West Indies
Old Map of the West Indies

An Old Map of West Indies. Historic map is labeled "Nouvelle carte physique, politique, industrielle & commericale de l'Amerique Centrale et des Antilles : avec un plan special des possessions de la Compagnie belge de colonisation dans l'Amerique Centrale, etat de Guatemala / dressee d'apres les documents officiels, par N. Dally. It was created in 1845.

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Population Slave Map
Population Slave Map

an impressive map of the distribution of the slave population of the southern states of the United States. Compiled from the census of 1860 Drawn by E. Hergesheimer. Engr. by Th. Leonhardt. It was taken in 1861. "Entered according to Act of Congress, A.D. 1861 by Henry S. Graham." "Sold for the benefit of the sick and wounded soldiers of the U.S. Army." "Census Office, Department of the Interior, Washington, Sept. 9th, 1861.

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Free & Slave Holding Map
Free & Slave Holding Map

Here we present a General map of the United States, showing the area and extent of the free & slave-holding states, and the territories of the Union / engraved by W. & A.K. Johnston, Edinburgh. It was made in 1857. "Entered in Sta. Hall, London - & according to act of Congress in the year 1857 by H.D. Rogers, in the Clerks Office of the District Court of Massachusetts."

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  • Have reformers had a significant impact on the problems of American society?

  • Does militancy advance or retard the goals of a protest movement? (abolitionists) Or: Were the abolitionists responsible reformers or irresponsible agitators?

  • Was slavery a benign or evil institution?

  • Can legislative compromises solve moral issues?

  • Can the Supreme Court settle moral issues? (Dred Scott decision)

  • Was slavery the primary cause of the Civil War?

  • Was the Civil War inevitable? 

  • Does Abraham Lincoln deserve to be called the “Great Emancipator”?

  • How did cotton affect the social and economic life of the South?

  • How did Americans move west, and how did they intensify the debate over slavery?

  • What keeps nations united?

  • How did the controversy over slavery break up and create new political parties?

  •  Was the Civil War inevitable?

  • How do nations recover from war? 



  • slave

  • Civil War

  • master

  • indigo

  • fugitive

  • compromise

  • ruffian








ʺ...but at this moment‐‐from whence came the spirit I donʹt know‐‐I resolved to fight...My long‐crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.” Frederick Douglass. 



  • In the 1850’s, as the nation expanded, controversy over slavery in the new territories intensified.

  • The Emancipation Proclamation gave the Union effort a new moral dimension.

  • While Reconstruction resulted in a rise of African American politicians, it also bred political

    scandals and corruption.


Slavery in America began in the early 17th Century and continued to be practiced for the next 250 years by the colonies and states. Slaves, mostly from Africa, worked in the production of tobacco crops and later, cotton. With the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 along with the growing demand for the product in Europe, the use of slaves in the South became a foundation of their economy.


In the late 18th century, the abolitionist movement began in the north and the country began to divide over the issue between North and South. In 1820, the Missouri Compromise banned slavery in all new western territories, which Southern states saw as a threat to the institution of slavery itself. In 1857, the Supreme Court decision known as the Dred Scott Decision said that Negroes (the term then used to describe the African race) were not citizens and had no rights of citizenship; therefore, slaves that escaped to free states where not free but remained the property of their owners and must be returned to them. The decision antagonized many Northerners and breathed new life into the floundering Abolition Movement.


The election of Abraham Lincoln, a member of the anti-slavery Republican Party, to the presidency in 1860 convinced many Southerners that slavery would never be permitted to expand into new territories acquired by the US and might ultimately be abolished. Eleven Southern states attempted to secede from the Union, precipitating the Civil War.


During the war, Abraham Lincoln issued his famous Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in all areas of the country that were at that time in rebellion. This measure helped prevent European intervention on the side of the South and freed Union army and navy officers from returning escaped slaves to their owners, but not until after the Union had won the war and the subsequent passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution were the American slaves officially freed.  Read more...

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 Explained in 3 Minutes...
8.64 Describe the significance of the Northwest Ordinance and the banning of slavery in new states north of the Ohio River.


American Experience:  The Abolitionists - Frederick Douglass...

After hearing Frederick Douglass speak at an anti-slavery convention in Nantucket, an inspired William Lloyd encourages Douglass to join the abolitionist movement.

8.66 Analyze the impact of the various leaders of the abolitionist movement, including John Brown and armed resistance; Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad; William Lloyd Garrison and The Liberator; Frederick Douglass and the Slave Narratives; and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Virginia Hill and Free Hill, Tennessee; Francis Wright and Nashoba Commune; and Elihu Embree’ s The Emancipator.


Lesson Plan:  From Courage to Freedom:  Frederick Douglass's 1845 Autobiography


In this curriculum unit, students will read Douglass's narrative with particular attention devoted to chapters 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, and 10. They will analyze Douglass's vivid first-hand accounts of the lives of slaves and the behavior of slave owners to see how he successfully contrasts reality with romanticism and powerfully uses imagery, irony, connotative and denotative language, strong active verbs, repetition, and rhetorical appeals to persuade the reader of slavery's evil. Students will also identify and discuss Douglass's acts of physical and intellectual courage on his journey towards freedom.


The Missouri Compromise 1820...
8.65 Describe the reasons for and the impact of the Missouri Compromise of 1820.


8.67 Explain the reasons for and the impact of the Compromise of 1850, including the roles played Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun and the Fugitive Slave Law.



The Dred Scott Decision Explained:  US History Review...

A focused video lecture explaining the Supreme Court case, Scott vs Sandford (1857), better known as the Dred Scott Decision. In this 12 minute video we look at the facts of the case, the court's rational and decision and most importantly the immediate and important effect this court case had on the nation as it slid towards Civil War. Topics also include the Missouri Compromise, John Brown, The NW Ordinance, The Compromise of 1850 and the election of Abraham Lincoln. HipHughes History videos are meant to be focused and easy for students of history of all ages to understand as well as engaging and fun.

8.69 Analyze the reasons for and applied by the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case and the resulting divisiveness between the North and South.


History of Free Hill, Tennessee...

A brief movie of the lives of people in Free Hill Tennessee. Everyone needs to come and visit this magical place.  "In Color" by Jamey Johnson

Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854...

You may think that things are heated in Washington today, but the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 had members of Congress so angry they pulled out their weapons -- and formed the Republican Party. The issues? Slavery and states' rights, which led the divided nation straight into the Civil War. Ben Labaree, Jr. explains how Abraham Lincoln's party emerged amidst the madness.

 8.68 Explain the motivations behind passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, including the rise of the Republican Party, “Bleeding Kansas,” the Sumner Brooks incident, and the John Brown raid on Harper’s Ferry.




8.70 Examine the arguments presented by Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln in the Illinois Senate race debate of 1858.




The moral inconsistency of slavery existing within a nation founded upon the sanctity of individual freedom was well recognized in the early days of America's history. All 13 colonies legalized slavery at the beginning of America's War of Independence in 1775. By the time the nation's Constitution was ratified 13 years later; five states had abolished the practice.




Elizabeth Keckley lived a remarkable life. She was born a slave; however, through her talent and persistence, she was able to buy her freedom and eventually became the seamstress and confidant of Mary Lincoln when she was First Lady.



Frederick Douglass lived a remarkable life. Born in 1818 on Maryland's Eastern Shore, his mother was a slave, his father an unknown white man. Eventually he was sent to Baltimore where he worked as a ship's caulker in the thriving seaport. He made his dash to freedom from there in 1838. His ability to eloquently articulate the plight of the slave through his various publications and public speeches brought him international renown.




Become a Historical Scene Investigator on this case...



Become a Historical Scene Investigator on this case...




We expect people to look different. And why not? Like a fingerprint, each person is unique. Every person represents a one-of-a-kind, combination of their parents’, grandparents’ and family’s ancestry. And every person experiences life somewhat differently than others.

Differences… they’re a cause for joy and sorrow. We celebrate differences in personal identity, family background, country and language. At the same time, differences among people have been the basis for discrimination and oppression.



You are a slave. You belong to a farmer who owns a tobacco plantation on the eastern shore of Maryland. Six long days a week you tend his field. But not for much longer . . .


What will you do? Make your choices well as you embark on your journey to freedom.

The Atlantic Slave Trade...



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


In Mission 2: “Flight to Freedom,” players take on the role of Lucy, a 14-year-old slave in Kentucky.  As they navigate her escape and journey  to Ohio, they discover that life in the “free” North is dangerous and difficult. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act brings disaster. Will Lucy ever truly be free? 

8.71 Identify the conditions of enslavement, and explain how slaves adapted and resisted in their daily lives.


In which John Green teaches you about one of the least funny subjects in history: slavery. John investigates when and where slavery originated, how it changed over the centuries, and how Europeans and colonists in the Americas arrived at the idea that people could own other people based on skin color. Slavery has existed as long as humans have had civilization, but the Atlantic Slave Trade was the height, or depth, of dehumanizing, brutal, chattel slavery. American slavery ended less than 150 years ago. In some parts of the world, it is still going on. So how do we reconcile that with modern life?





Found Voices:  Slave Narratives, Part 1...
Harriet Tubman: "Spying on the Man" | SUNG HISTORY

You think you know this American hero, but trust me, you have no idea.

Grandma Moses freed over 700 slaves.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - AudioBook...
Primary Documents and Supporting Texts to Read: excerpts from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe; excerpts from the Lincoln-Douglas Debates; excerpts from Roger Taney’s decision in the Dred Scott case; excerpts from The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass.
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