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Herb - social history for every classroom

menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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Slaves Petition the Massachusetts Legislature

Throughout the revolutionary era, scores of slaves signed petitions that linked their demands for freedom with the cause of American independence. Below is the text of one such petition presented to the Massachusetts legislature.

Chief Justice Taney's Majority Opinion in Dred Scott v. Sanford

In Dred Scott v. Sanford, Supreme Court judges considered two key questions: did the citizenship rights guaranteed by the Constitution apply to African-Americans, and could Congress prohibit slavery in new states? The first excerpt below addresses [...]

An Ex-Slave Petitions the Pennsylvania Legislature to Remain Free

Cato, a slave newly freed with his children, wrote this letter to Freeman's Journal, an African-American newspaper, when the Pennsylvania legislature was debating whether to repeal a recently passed law that gradually emancipated all slaves in the [...]

Slaves Petition the Massachusetts Legislature (short version)

Throughout the revolutionary era, scores of slaves signed petitions that linked their demands for freedom with the cause of American independence. Below is the text of one such petition presented to the Massachusetts legislature.

"In Defense of My Race and Country": African-American Soldiers on Why They Are Fighting

In this activity students read three letters written by African-American soldiers during the Civil War to determine why black soldiers felt compelled to join the Union Army.

Create a Magic Lantern Show: Freedpeople in the Reconstruction South

In this activity students create a "magic lantern show," or presentation that illustrates how African American defined freedom for themselves after emancipation and the challenges and threats they faced. Students use primary sources from the [...]

A Committee of Freedmen on Edisto Island Reveal Their Expectations

This letter was written by a group of freedmen to the Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Land (known as the Freedmen’s Bureau). The freedmen were from Edisto Island, South Carolina, an area that came under Union [...]