Grade Range: 9-12
Resource Type(s): Reviewed Websites, Primary Sources, Lessons & Activities
Duration: 90 minutes
Date Posted: 10/11/2016

This historical investigation is aligned with the C3 Framework and is from C3teachers.org.

The goal of this inquiry is to introduce students to historiography as they wrestle with historical significance within the context of a historical controversy. The common narrative about the end of slavery has given credit to President Abraham Lincoln, who earned the nickname “The Great Emancipator.” However, over the past 30 years, many scholars have sought to revise this narrative, with a critical mass now arguing that the slaves freed themselves. Students look at the laws that emancipated certain slaves over time and then examine the arguments contemporary historians have made about who was responsible for freeing the slaves. This inquiry invites students to engage with the actual historical debate, but rather than focusing on the veracity of claims, students concentrate on the significance of the issues behind the claims. By looking at the controversy about who freed the slaves, students should understand why this issue matters 150 years later. It is important to note that, in their contrasting interpretations, scholars do not really disagree on the facts of emancipation, but rather on the interpretation of those facts. This crucial difference is key to helping students engage in what it means to think and act like historians.

National Standards

United States History Standards (Grades 5-12)

Historical Thinking Standards (Grades 5-12)

Common Core State Standards (Grades 9-10)

Common Core State Standards (Grades 11-12)

College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards (Grades 9-12)