Academic Controversy in the History Classroom This workshop is sponsored in part by the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Eastern Region Program, coordinated by Waynesburg University. Historical Question: Was John Brown justified in his actions leading to the Civil War?Author: Veronica FioreClass/Grade Level: Grade 5CT Standards:Grade 52.2.5 Compare and contrast information provided by primary and secondary sources.3.2.4. Describe views and feelings of people in the past using personal experience and/or outsidereadingsOverview: John Brown was born into a family that revered the Bible and was against slavery. John grew upbuilding and selling tanneries, among other things. However, as hard as he tried many of hisbusiness ventures failed. Brown later became a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. In 1855,Brown and five of his sons went down to Kansas to help make the state a safe place for settlers whowere anti-slavery. Battles soon began between people who were anti-slavery and people who werenot. Brown led many missions during this time that often involved violence. John Brown was anAmerican Revolutionary abolitionist. The question that entails was whether John Brown was justifiedin his actions during this time period or not. To many in the North he was a martyr, while others arequoted as calling him “the father of American terrorism.” It is now time for you to decide.Document Summary:Document 1 shows an address by Frederick Douglass on John Brown. In his speech he discusseshow brave Brown was and how many sympathized and appreciated his actions. He refers to howmany lives he saved with just eighteen men. He explains that John Brown shook the world into a“moral earthquake.”Document 2 is an account of a Virginian woman describing one of John Brown’s raids. Studentsshould see that Brown’s was described as a very harsh man who proclaims that he will free theslaves in Virginia even if it means taking blood.Document 3 is a song that was sung by the Union during the Civil War entitled, “John Brown’s Body.”After students analyze the song they should see that John Brown was an inspiration to many in the
North for their cause. His actions helped inspire the Union to keep fighting against the south. Thissong was often sung by troops as they were marching.Document 4 is a picture that depicts John Brown inside the engine house of Harpers Ferry Armory.This can be used by students who are trying to prove that he was not justified in his actions. He isportrayed as a brutal man holding rifles and pikes. There are also hostages with them. Studentsshould notice that in the picture there are men shot and bleeding on the floorDocument 5: This is a response of a letter written by a woman named Child from Governor Wise ofVirginia. In her letter, Child had criticized Virginia’s laws on race, and this is his response. Studentsshould see that many were upset with Brown’s use of violence in his stance to fight slavery.Document 6: This is John Brown’s response to the Virginia Courts. Students should see that he istelling the court that his intention was to never use violence, and that he had helped to free slaves inthe past without it. He also accuses the courts of only charging him because what he had done wasfor slaves and not for their financial benefit.Procedure (80 minutes): 1. Introduction of lesson, objectives, overview of SAC procedure (15 minutes) 2. SAC group assignments (30 minutes) a. Assign groups of four and assign arguments to each team of two. b. In each group, teams read and examine the Document Packet c. Each student completes the Preparation part of the Capture Sheet (#2), and works with their partner to prepare their argument using supporting evidence. d. Students should summarize your argument in #3. 3. Position Presentation (10 minutes) a. Team 1 presents their position using supporting evidence recorded and summarized on the Preparation part of the Capture Sheet (#2 & #3) on the Preparation matrix. Team 2 records Team 1’s argument in #4. b. Team 2 restates Team 1’s position to their satisfaction. c. Team 2 asks clarifying questions and records Team 1’s answers. d. Team 2 presents their position using supporting evidence recorded and summarized on the Preparation part of the Capture Sheet (#2 & #3) on the Preparation matrix. Team 1 records Team 2’s argument in #4. e. Team 1 restates Team 2’s position to their satisfaction. f. Team 1 asks clarifying questions and records Team 2’s answers. 4. Consensus Building (10 minutes) a. Team 1 and 2 put their roles aside. b. Teams discuss ideas that have been presented, and figure out where they can agree or where they have differences about the historical questionClosure:Together we will discuss the documents and what they led us to learn about John Brown and hisactions during the time period. Students will have to write a letter to an editor of a newspaper,persuading the editor of their view point. Using their evidence from their primary sources they willhave to prove why they feel John Brown was or was not justified in his actions.
Assessment:The teacher will collect the graphic organizer as well as the editorial letter to grade. He/She will alsobe walking around during the discussions and recording observations. The teacher may also act as a“ghost partner,” and sit in on conversations, to evaluate students’ understanding of the texts as wellas their participation.Differentiation:To further this lesson for enrichment students can expand their analysis of John Brown and explorewhether they believe him to be a freedom fighter or terrorist.The teacher can differentiate this lesson for ELL learners or Special Education students by cuttingdown on the text and providing more vocabulary.Students can also further this activity by creating a character report card on John Brown. They wouldhave to identify different traits they feel he has and give him grades accordingly. They will also needto give an explanation and reasons for each of their grades.
DOCUMENT PACKET Document 1John Brown. : An address by Frederick Douglass, at the fourteenth anniversary of StorerCollege, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, May 30, 1881.There is, however, one aspect of the present subject quite worthy of notice,for it makes the hero of Harpers Ferry in some degree an exception to thegeneral rules to which I have just now adverted. Despite the hold whichslavery had at time on the country, despite the popular prejudice against theNegro, despite the shock which the first alarm occasioned, almost from thefirst John Brown received a large measure of sympathy and appreciation.New England recognized in him the spirit which brought the pilgrims toPlymouth rock and hailed him as a martyr and saint. True he had broken thelaw, true he had struck for a despised people, true he had crept upon his foestealthily, like a wolf upon the fold, and had dealt his blow in the dark whilsthis enemy slept, but with all this and more to disturb the moral sense, mendiscerned in him the greatest and best qualities known to human nature,and pronounced him "good." Many consented to his death, and then wenthome and taught their children to sing his praise as one whose "soul ismarching on" through the realms of endless bliss. One element inexplanation of this somewhat anomalous circumstance will probably befound in the troubled times which immediately succeeded, for "whenjudgments are abroad in the world, men learn righteousness."VocabularyStealthily-secretlyDiscerned-to distinguish mentallySource: Excerpt from Dover, N.H., Morning star job printing house,1881. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/murray:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28lcrbmrpt2309div0%29%29
Document 2Below you will find an account of a Virginian woman describing one of JohnBrown’s raids.Leaving Watson Brown and StewartTaylor as a guard at the Virginia end of thebridge, and taking old Williams, the watch-man, with them, the rest of the companyproceeded with Brown and his one - horsewagon to the gate of the United Statesarmory, which was not more than sixty yardsdistant from the bridge. Finding it locked,they peremptorily ordered the armory watch-man, Daniel Whelan, who was on the innerside of the gate, to open it, which he asperemptorily refused to do. In his testimonybefore the U. S. Senate committee, of whichMr. Mason of Virginia was chairman, Whelandescribed this scene so graphically that I herequote a part of it, as follows:Open the gate! said they. I said I could not ifI was stuck, and one of them jumped up on the pierof the gate over my head, and another fellow ran andput his hand on me and caught me by the coat andheld me. I was inside and they were outside, and thefellow standing over my head upon the pier. Andthen, when I would not open the gate for them, fiveor six ran from the wagon, clapped their guns againstmy breast, and told me I should deliver up the key.I told them I could not, and another fellow said theyhad not time now to be waiting for a key, but to go tothe wagon and bring out a crowbar and a large hammer and they would soon get in…They told me to be very still and make no noise,or else they would put me to eternity. ~ Afterthat, the head man of them, Brown, said to me: Icame here from Kansas, and this is a slave State. Iwant to free all the negroes in this State; I have pos-session now of the United States armory, and if thecitizens interfere with me I must only burn the townand have blood.Source: “The John Brown Raid. I. Recollections by a Virginian who witnessed the Fight” byAlexander R. Boteler [The Century; a popular quarterly. / Volume 26, Issue 3, July 1883]http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/ncpsbib:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28ABP2287-0026-91_bib%29%29
Document 3Song used by the Union during the Civil War. It is about the abolitionistJohn Brown.VocabularyMouldering-to crumble or cause tocrumble, as through decaySource: By J.H Johnson, John Browns original marching song. Tune--Brothers, will you meet me. Johnson, Song Publisher, &c., Phila. [n. d.].Library of Congress Collection.
Document 4Harpers Ferry insurrection - Interior of the Engine-House, just before thegate is broken down by the storming party - Col. Washington and hisassociates as captives, held by Brown as hostagesSource: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c32541, Library of Congress Collection
Document 5Correspondence between Lydia Maria Child and Gov. WiseREPLY OF GOV. WISE. Richmond, Va., Oct. 29th, 1859.Madam: Yours of the 26th was received by me yesterday, and at my earliestleisure I respectfully reply to it, that I will forward the letter for John Brown, aprisoner under our laws, arraigned at the bar of the Circuit Court for thecountry of Jefferson, at Charlestown, Va., for the crimes of murder, robberyand treason, which you ask me to transmit to him. I will comply with yourrequest in the only way which seems to me proper, by enclosing it to theCommonwealths attorney, with the request that he will ask the permissionof the Court to hand it to the prisoner. Brown, the prisoner, is now in thehands of the judiciary, not of the executive, of this Commonwealth….I could not permit an insult even to woman in her walk of charity among us,though it to be to one who whetted knives of butchery for our mothers,sisters, daughters and babes. We have no sympathy with your sentimentsof sympathy with Brown, and are surprised that you were "taken by surprisewhen news came of Capt. Brown recent attempt." His attempt was a naturalconsequence of your sympathy, and the errors of that sympathy ought tomake you doubt its virtue from the effect on his conduct. But it is not of this Ishould speak. When you arrive at Charlestown, if you go there, it will be forthe Court and its officers, the Commonwealths attorney, sheriff and jailer, tosay whether you may see and wait. On the prisoner. But whether you arethus permitted or not, (and you will be, if my advice can prevail) you mayrest assured that he will be humanely, lawfully and mercifully dealt by inprison and on trial.Respectfully, HENRY A. WISE.Source: Boston, The American anti-slavery society, 1860. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.rbc/lcrbmrp.t1701,
Document 6John Brown’s response to the Virginia Court after being asked if he hadanything to say before his sentence of death.I have, may it please the Court, a few words to say.In the first place, I deny every thing but what I have already admitted, of adesign on my part to free Slaves. I intended, certainly, to have made aclean thing of that matter, as I did last winter, when I went to Missouri, andthere took Slaves, without the snapping of a gun on either side, movingthem through the country, and finally leaving them in Canada. I desired tohave done the same thing again, on a much larger scale. That was all Iintended. I never did intend murder, or treason, or the destruction ofproperty, or to excite or incite the Slaves to rebellion, or to makeinsurrection.I have another objection, and that is that it is unjust that I should suffer sucha penalty. Had I interfered in the manner, and which I admit has been fairlyproved, -for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of thewitnesses who have testified in this case,- had I so interfered in behalf of theRich, the Powerful, the Intelligent, the so-called Great, or in behalf of any oftheir friends- either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any ofthat class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, itwould have been alright. Every man in this court would have deemed it andact worthy a reward, rather than a punishment…Source: Boston, 1859http://memory.loc.gov/rbc/rbpe/rbpe06/rbpe065/06500500/001dr.jpg Some of the language and phrasing in these documents have been modified from the originals.
CAPTURE SHEET Don’t forget the rules of a successful academic controversy! 1. Practice active listening. 2. Challenge ideas, not each otherWas John Brown justified in his actions leading to the 3. Try your best to understand the otherCivil War? positions 4. Share the floor: each person in a pair MUST have an opportunity to speakPreparation: 5. No disagreeing until consensus- 1. Highlight your assigned position. building as a group of four Yes: John Brown was justified in his actions leading to the Civil War No: John Brown was not justified in his actions leading to the Civil War 2. Read through each document searching for support for your side’s argument. Use the documents to fill in the chart (Hint: Not all documents support your side, find those that do):Document What is the main idea of this document? What details support your position? # 3. Work with your partner to summarize your arguments for your position using the supporting documents you found above:
Position Presentation: 4. You and your partner will present your position to your opposing group members. When you are done, you will then listen to your opponents’ position. While you are listening to your opponents’ presentation, write down the main details that they present here: Clarifying questions I have for the opposing partners: How they answered the questions:Consensus Building: 5. Put your assigned roles aside. Where does your group stand on the question? Where does your group agree? Where does your group disagree? Your consensus answer does not have to be strictly yes, or no. We agree: We disagree: Our final consensus: