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The Emancipation Proclamation: What Does it Mean?

Lesson Overview

Overview: Students will use primary sources in the form of prints and documents to analyze and discuss the meaning of the Emancipation Proclamation. Through small group and class discussions, students interpret the meaning of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Grade Range: 6-8
Objective: After completing the activity, students will be able to:
  • Analyze a document as a primary source.
  • Interpret the meaning of the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • Explain the goals of the Emancipation Proclamation. 
Time Required: Three class periods of 50 minutes
Discipline/Subject: History
Topic/Subject: African=-American History
Era: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877

 


Standards

Illinois Learning Standards: Social Studies:

16.A-Apply the skills of historical analysis and interpretation.
16.B-Understand the development of significant political events. 

Language Arts:  
1.A-Apply word analysis and vocabulary skills to comprehend selections.
1.B-Apply reading strategies to improve understanding and fluency. 

 


Materials

Handouts: Copies of Primary Sources
Emancipation Proclamation Vocabulary (available on page 6 of PDF) 
Analysis Tools: Written Document Analysis
Poster Analysis 
Library of Congress Items: Title of Source: Abraham Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation. C. 1888
  Title of Source: Emancipation Proclamation
  Title of Source: Emancipation Proclamation
  Title of Source: Proclamation of Emancipation by the President of the United States of America
  Title of Source: Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. General Orders No. 139

 


Procedures

  Day One:
1. As an anticipatory set, begin with a K-W-L covering the topics of slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation. This topic will have been studies the previous year, so this will just be a refresher and will get students in the mindset of digging up prior knowledge, as well as informing the teacher of students' knowledge base.
2. Let students know that they will be using their knowledge to analyze and interpret the goals of the Emancipation Proclamation. Explain that they will be using different primary sources of the Emancipation Proclamation to analyze not only the text of the document, but the illustrations used as well.
3. Distribute analysis tools for both the text of the document and the illustrations of the document. Explain the use of these tools.
4. Pass out a vocabulary sheet (available in PDF) to assist students in interpreting the text of the Emancipation Proclamation.
5. Divide students into small groups(3-4 students per group) and distribute a manila envelope containing copies of the five documents to be analyzed. Documents will be numbered 1-5. Students should use the remainder of this class to work on the analysis of their document.
  Day Two:
1. Students should use the entire class period to work in groups, using critical thinking skills and analysis tools to interpret the meaning of the Emancipation Proclamation. Groups will be given 10-15 minutes for each document and will then be encouraged to shift focus to the next document. Groups should start with document #2 and work consecutively through the numbers.
  Day Three:
1. Students should finish their analysis of each of the five primary sources provided.
2. When groups have finished their work, begin class discussion of how they interpreted the Emancipation Proclamation. Use overhead transparencies for each document and begin with discussion of the text of the document.
  • What was the purpose/goal of the Emancipation Proclamation?
  • Was there only one purpose/goal, or were there multiple purposes/goals? If so, what were these purposes/goals? 
  Day Four:
1. Finish any class discussion of the text of the Emancipation Proclamation.
2. Using the overhead transparencies and the evaluation tools, discuss the illustrations on the different versions of the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • Do these illustrations represent the purpose/goal of the Emancipation Proclamation?
  • Why are there different illustrations to go along with the same text? Does this help achieve the purpose/goal of the Emancipation Proclamation? How? 
3. Wrap up discussion with students summarizing the overall purpose(s) /goal(s) of the Emancipation Proclamation.

 


Evaluation

Are students included and participating in group and class discussions? Did the students provide thoughtful and relevant feedback during group and class discussions? Are student answers based on prior knowledge and the information gathered form the clues provided in the primary source documents.

 


Extension

This activity may be used as an introductory lesson before covering Civil Rights for African Americans in the United States during the 1950s-60s. A critical analysis of the meaning of the Emancipation Proclamation would help students focus on whether or not the purpose(s)/goal(s) of the document had been achieved for the long term. 

  • After completion of a unit covering Civil Rights for African Americans in the United States during the 1950s-60s, students could re-visit the ideas of the Emancipation Proclamation. Through the use of a Venn diagram, students could illustrate the similarities and differences for African Americans during the times of the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-60s. Through this chart, students will use critical thinking skills to determine if the purpose(s)/goal(s) of the Emancipation proclamation have been met.

  • For further extension, students will research current primary sources such as newspapers, magazines, political cartoons, etc. to find examples of Civil Rights for African Americans. They will use this primary source to write a position paper explaining whether they believe the purpose(s)/goal(s) of the Emancipation Proclamation have been achieved. They must use details from the current primary source, as well as examples from the Emancipation Proclamation to support their ideas.


    Author Credits:
    K. Day
    East Prairie Jr. High