Indian Boarding Schools: Civilizing the Native Spirit

WEB LESSON Through photographs, letters, reports, interviews, and other primary documents, students explore the forced acculturation of American Indians through government-run boarding schools. MS-HS

Manifest Destiny and the U.S.-Mexican War: Then and Now

WEB LESSON This lesson asks students to take a position in a debate about the Mexican-American War based on primary sources and an interpretive article by historian David Pletcher"entitled "An Ideal or a Justification?" Video clips from the PBS documentary support the lesson. MS-HS

Conflict Over Western Land

WEB LESSON This Teachers' Domain media-rich activity is designed to enhance literacy skills and guide students to explore the differing worldviews of white settlers and Native Americans. Students then analyze how this difference impacted Native-settler interactions and led to conflicts when Euro-Americans surged further and further westward. Requires free registration. MS-HS

Manifest Destiny and Westward Expansion

WEB LESSON In the 1840s the territory of the United States increased by nearly eight hundred million acres through the annexation of Texas, the acquisition of Oregon south of the forty-ninth parallel, the military conquest of California and New Mexico, and the assumption of Native American lands in the Great Lakes region as those tribes were forced to resettle on the Great Plains. Americans justified the expansion with the ideology of "Manifest Destiny," invoking divine providence, national superiority, and American exceptionalism. This lesson looks at ways that the ideology of Manifest Destiny expressed both national political objectives and the goals of ordinary men and women who settled the west. MS-HS

Roman Catholics and Immigration in Nineteenth-Century America

DISCUSSION GUIDE This National Humanities Center Divining America Project article and discussion guide for teachers looks at the Catholic experience in 19th century America from both the immigrant and the Nativist perspectives. It describes both the reasoning and the fears of people that resulted in significant conflict between Protestants and Catholics and within the Catholic community itself throughout the first part of the 19th c. MS-HS

Age of Reform

WEB LESSON The reform movements that swept through American society after 1820 were reactions to a range of factors: the Second Great Awakening, the transformation of the American economy, industrialization, urbanization, and lingering agendas of the revolutionary period. As a way of introducing students to the variety of reform movements, this Ohio State University lesson looks at two reform movements; anti-slavery and women's rights. In addition to learning about the beliefs and motivations of each group, students seek the cultural/religious connections among the various reform impulses. MS-HS

John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry and John Brown's Body (Song)

WEB LESSON In this Foundations of U.S. History: Virginia History as American History lesson, students read and analyze three letters or newspaper articles in groups of 4-5, looking for meaning, opinions, and how the letters/speeches affected Americans in 1859. After presenting their findings, students examine three different portraits of John Brown, and choose one of the portraits that they view was the best representation of him in 1859, and will write a letter to an 1859 newspaper encouraging them to print that particular photo to go along with John Brown's obituary. Elem-MS

Matters of the Latter Day: Ideas for Addressing Mormonism in the Classroom

WEB LESSON/RESOURCE This Learning Network New York Times Education Network page discusses and provides resources for teaching about Mormonism in a public school classroom. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the second fastest growing religion in the United States and expanding rapidly worldwide. Yet, despite the recent surge in media interest, Mormonism remains one of the least understood and most debated religions in the United States. Because issues of personal faith and religious identity may be too sensitive to address in the classroom, this page offers five ways to examine Mormonism in broader cultural, historical and political contexts.

Religion and Social Reform

PRIMARY SOURCE WEB ACTIVITY This primary source activity asks students to address the question of the relative role of religion and secular thinking in the 19th century wave of social reform in the US. More than a dozen primary source excerpts are provided along with writing/discussion prompts.

Spirituals and the Power of Music in Slave Narratives

WEB LESSON In this lesson, students will read short excerpts from slave narratives describing the importance of music and religion in the lives of slaves. Students will then learn about spirituals through listening to songs and discussing the value of music. This Learn North Carolina lesson could also work well as a collaborative unit with the music teacher.

Exploring the Church in the Southern Black Community

WEB Lesson Students explore the Documenting the American South Collection titled, the "Church in the Southern Black Community." Beginning with a historian's interpretation of the primary sources that make up the collection, students search the collection for evidence to describe the experiences of African Americans living in the south during the Antebellum through the Reconstruction Period centering on their community churches. This Learn North Carolina activity culminates in student presentations of a digital scrap book.

Elizabeth, A Colored Minister of the Gospel, Born in Slavery

WEB ACTIVITY This memoir, or autobiography, tells the story of Elizabeth, who was born a slave and became a Christian minister. Students read an excerpt from the memoir and then answer questions that require them to interpret the primary source.

Second Great Awakening and the Age of Reform

WEB LESSON This National Endowment for the Humanities lesson builds the connection between religion and social reform in the 19 & 20th centuries. A religious revival called the Second Great Awakening resulted in thousands of conversions to evangelical religions. In addition to a religious movement, other reform movements such as temperance, abolition, and women's rights also grew in antebellum America. The temperance movement encouraged people to abstain from consuming alcoholic drinks in order to preserve family order. The abolition movement fought to abolish slavery in the U.S. The women's rights movement grew from female abolitionists who realized that they too could fight for their own political rights. In addition to these causes, reforms touched nearly every aspect of daily life, such as restricting the use of tobacco and dietary and dress reforms.

The Importance of Religion in Political Life in the 19th Century: Abraham Lincoln's Experience

WEB LESSON This lesson by Tara L. Dirst for Northern Illinois University examines the role of religion in community building and political life in the 19th c. Using video clips of a scholar interview and Abraham Lincoln's letter to Martin M. Morris, students focus on the political career of Lincoln and how his beliefs were similar and different from the electorate in Illinois. MS-HS

Family Values, Beliefs, Stories, and Traditions

WEB LESSON & ACTIVITY This Old Sturbridge Village (Massachusetts) lesson examines how a cultures passes down values, beliefs, and traditions. Students use primary sources such as school materials, poems, songs, and children's books to assess and analyze some of the values and beliefs that were common in New England in the early nineteenth century. ELEM. - MS

The Second Great Awakening and Reform in the 19th Century

WEB RESOURCE & LESSON Scroll to the second article. This Bill of Rights in Action article and lesson by CRF explores the Protestant revival in America during the first half of the 19th c. called the Second Great Awakening. It emphasizes its impact on social reform. After reading the article, students use the information to address problems in society and how to solve them. 8-12

Faith and Imperialism: Josiah Strong and the Missionary Impulse for Expansion

WEB LESSON This Sonoma State University Teaching American History lesson focuses on the role of religion in determining U.S. foreign policy in the 19th century.

The Mormons - Teachers Guide

CLASSROOM RESOURCES The Mormons videos relate to history, religion, civic ideas and geography of the US. These materials support each of these areas and relate to the The Mormons American Experience videos that are on YouTube. The Mormons - Part I video can be accessed at The Mormons - Part II video is at

Religious Roots of Abolition

WEB LESSON How did American Christians in the nineteenth century come to see slavery as something that needed to be abolished? Christianity was a central feature of nineteenth century American life for both slaveholders and anti-slavery activists. To argue persuasively against slavery, abolitionists had to find ways to use the Bible and Christian tradition, along with American patriotic and domestic ideals, to make their case. Using close reading students examine short passages from Angelina Grimke's arguments that ultimately brought most northerners to the opinion that slavery had to be ended. They focus on her rhetorical strategies and how she used them to persuade people of the rightness of her position. What feelings does she appeal to? What ideas and passages of the Bible or other documents does she think will make her case? MS HS