Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
America Will Be

Understanding Primary Sources:
Examining the Emancipation Proclamation

Objective: Students analyze the text of the Emancipation Proclamation and other writings to understand the authors' intents and the contexts in which they were written.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
2 hours over a period of 2 or 3 days

Building Background:
Ask students what they know about the Emancipation Proclamation. List their responses on the board. Tell students that they will analyze the document and go on a fact-finding mission to understand the context in which it was written.

What To Do:

1. Pass out copies of the Look at the Evidence worksheet. Have students read the brief background information on the Emancipation Proclamation and finding historical documents.

2. Have students use the library and the worksheet to locate the text of the Emancipation Proclamation.

3. Once they have located the Emancipation Proclamation, encourage each student to read the entire document. When students are finished reading, have them write a few sentences on what they think the document is about. Then have students complete the worksheet.

4. Discuss with students whether their ideas about the Emancipation Proclamation changed after they completed the worksheet. Some students may have initially thought that the Emancipation Proclamation freed all the enslaved people in the North and South. Encourage volunteers to find phrases or passages that specify which enslaved people were freed. Ask students why they think Lincoln did not free all enslaved people. Students should consider why enslaved people in the Union's border states — Kansas, Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware — were not freed under the order.

5. Ask volunteers to tell why they think President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Then have students use the Internet and other resources, including encyclopedias and books and videos on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, to explore what was happening in the war in late 1862 and in the Union and Confederacy that might have prompted Lincoln to issue the document. Encourage students to look for information on recent battles, the morale of soldiers and citizens in both the Union and the Confederacy, and Lincoln's opinion on slavery. One place to look is a collection of Lincoln's writings. Students should take notes on their findings.

Have students gather in small groups with the evidence they've uncovered. Students should discuss the significance of the Emancipation Proclamation, why it was issued, and what impact it had on the course of the war and the future of the United States. Encourage volunteers from each group to present their findings to the class.


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