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The Emancipation Proclamation: A Primary Source Analysis

Teacher Guide By Richard Cleggett

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our U.S History Category!

Student Activities for Emancipation Proclamation Include:

The Emancipation Proclamation is a seminal document for study and analysis in American History. The Proclamation itself serves as a window to the language and ideas of its time and how President Abraham Lincoln aimed to end the raging Civil War.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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Preface

The institution of slavery was one reason the country was engulfed in civil war. States wanted to be able to have more control over whether or not a state, both existing and future, would have legal slavery. Slave labor was extremely profitable for many plantation owners, so many people did not want to give up their wealth or dependence on a free labor force. Civil War began in April of 1861 when South Carolina seceded from the Union.

Created in 1862, the Proclamation was enacted January 1st, 1863. In it, Abraham Lincoln carefully words the provisions and actions that will not only secure a Union victory, but also free those presently enslaved. Lincoln first declares all slaves to be freed in rebellious states, leaving slavery to still exist in the border states to ensure their loyalty. Lincoln also declares that all slaves who choose to fight for the Union will be granted freedom. Over 180,000 African American soldiers joined the Union ranks, proving instrumental in the Union’s victory. The Emancipation Proclamation itself was key to ending both the Civil War, and slavery in the United States.

By analyzing this document, students will be able to connect and explain the motives behind it and its implications for the presidency and the nation. Students will also be able to interpret the complex language of the time, to better understand and connect it to today’s political and social world. Using Storyboard That, students can gain a holistic perspective on one of the defining documents of human rights.


Essential Questions for The Emancipation Proclamation

  1. What was the Emancipation Proclamation’s purpose?
  2. How did the Emancipation Proclamation influence the outcome of the Civil War? Slaves’ status?
  3. How can we interpret the Proclamation as a military tactic? A moral document?
  4. How did different segments of Americans view and interpret the document? What did it mean to them and why?
  5. Why is the Proclamation a defining document of American History?
  6. Why/how did the Emancipation Proclamation set a precedent of human freedom for future generations?

Emancipation Proclamation Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

5 Ws of the Emancipation Proclamation Graphic Organizer

In this activity, students will use a spider map to detail the major components of the Emancipation Proclamation. By defining who wrote it, why it was written, where, when and what the document did, students will be able to explain and analyze the Proclamation as a whole, in a simple format. The crucial details about the document can then be easily located and organized to expand on and discuss in groups, or as a class.


Example Emancipation Proclamation 5 Ws

WHAT is the Emancipation Proclamation?


The Emancipation Proclamation is a document that called for the freeing of slaves in rebellious states, during the American Civil War. It can be seen as both a war measure as well as a moral measure.

WHO wrote the Emancipation Proclamation?


The Emancipation Proclamation was written by Abraham Lincoln along with advisement from his cabinet.

WHERE did the Emancipation Proclamation apply?


The Emancipation Proclamation declared all slaves in rebellious states freed, as they were considered contraband. However, it did not apply to border states, or states that had not seceded from the Union.

WHY was the Emancipation Proclamation written?


The Emancipation Proclamation was written for several reasons. It aimed at weakening the Confederacy by eliminating its economic abilities. Furthermore, it turned the war into a crusade against the institution of slavery.

WHEN was the Emancipation Proclamation Issued?


A preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation was written and circulated in 1862. The document itself was officially issued on January 1st, 1863.


Extended Activity

Have students create a spider graph for Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream Speech”. The speech was given at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was written and passed. Have students connect the ideas of progress, human freedom, and equality between the two documents, and discuss why the Emancipation Proclamation did not necessarily constitute absolute freedom and equality for African Americans.


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Excerpt Analysis on the Emancipation Proclamation Text

In this activity, students will use a spider map to detail and explain four or more excerpts, directly from the Emancipation Proclamation. Through the expansive, detailed cell type within the storyboard, students will organize the excerpts and create a visual interpretation. Students will explain and analyze each excerpt from the document. This will force students to read the document verbatim and put the documents words into their own language.


Excerpt Analysis: The Emancipation Proclamation Text

Quote

"...all persons held as slaves within any State ...the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free."

Meaning


This quotes the section of the document proclaiming that all slaves that exist in rebellious parts of the nation shall, from this day forward, be considered free peoples.


"...and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three."

This quote signifies that Lincoln is also issuing the Emancipation Proclamation as a war measure, and therefore, we can consider it a war tactic.


"...and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places..."

This quote means that all freed persons who are able will be accepted into the Union military. They will man and operate any and every aspect of military duty.


"...and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons."

This quote means that the Union military will maintain and carry out the orders within the Emancipation Proclamation. Namely, the honoring the freeing of slaves in rebellious areas.



Extended Activity

Have students complete the same task for Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” speech. Ask students to make connections including comparisons of both similarities and differences. Students can connect and analyze excerpts from both documents on a T-Chart storyboard, allowing them to compare and analyze excerpts from two primary sources.

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Timeline Leading to the Emancipation Proclamation

Using a Storyboard That's timeline layout, students will be able to explain and understand the events of the Civil War that led to Lincoln issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Many events can be included and incorporated into this activity. From violent encounters throughout the war, or political steps taken by Lincoln and Congress, to other primary source documents, students will have perspective on the factors involved in the Emancipation Proclamation. This will also strengthen students’ grasp on the historical events that led to this pivotal moment in the American Civil War.


Events Leading to Emancipation Proclamation

September 17,1862

Battle of Fort Sumter

The Battle of Ft. Sumter marks the beginning of the American Civil War. Although there were no casualties, Fort Sumter, occupied by Union troops, was fired upon by Confederate forces. The Union troops eventually surrender.
September 17, 1862

Battle of Antietam

In what was the bloodiest single-day battle of the entire war, over 23,000 men lost their lives or went missing. The battle was a strong reminder that the war was deadlier than anyone could have imagined, and that it would not be over anytime soon.
December 13, 1862

Battle of Fredericksburg

In a major, decisive victory, Confederate General Robert E. Lee defeated Union General Ambrose Burnside. The battle again served as a reminder of loss and lack of progress on the Union's part to dispel the Confederate forces.
January 1, 1863

Battle of Galveston

On the same day as the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Battle of Galveston was yet another Confederate victory. Both a naval and land battle, Union General William Renshaw was defeated by Confederate General John Magruder.
January 1, 1863

Emancipation Proclamation is Issued

On January 1st, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, calling for the freeing of all slaves in rebellious states and counties. The aim: Weaken the Southern economy and add numbers to the Union Army's side. It worked, as over 180,000 African Americans joined the Union side, leading to eventual victory in 1865.


Extended Activity

Have students create a timeline post-Emancipation Proclamation. Students should research what happened in response to the Emancipation Proclamation, both the positive and negative results. This will help students gauge the historical effects and events that result from this seminal document.

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Text vs. Rationale using the Emancipation Proclamation

In this activity, students will analyze and synthesize excerpts from the Emancipation Proclamation using a triple T-Chart. To analyze the document as a whole, students will provide an excerpt, or direct quote in one column, what they believe the excerpt may mean in the second column, and a modern day interpretation of the excerpt in the last column. The organization of the chart will allow students to connect not only the meaning of the document, but also their own interpretation of the excerpt. This is critical in analyzing and synthesizing primary texts.


Analyzing the Emancipation Proclamation


”That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free."

Rationale
This quote can be found in the first few lines of the Emancipation Proclamation. It is stating that on the first of January, 1863, all persons held as slaves in rebellious states are free from this point on.


Modern Wording
On this day, January 1st, 1863, anyone and everyone held as a slave in the rebelling states of the Confederacy are now free. Not just today, not just throughout the war, but forever.



"...and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom."

Rationale
This quote is also found in the immediate beginning of the Emancipation Proclamation. It is saying that the government, military and navy will, and must, recognize freed slaves in rebellious states. More so, they will also respect their freedom and will not restrict them.


Modern Wording
The Executive Branch of our government must, and will, respect the newly appointed freedom of slaves. Not only that, but the military and navy must also respect this freedom as well. Oppression will be no more!



"And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service."

Rationale
This quote can be found towards the end of the Emancipation Proclamation. It states that any persons, including newly freed slaves, that are in suitable condition may enter the armed forces. Furthermore, they are to work and operate duties at forts, garrisons and other places.


Modern Wording
Any freedmen of the South may take up arms with the Union. They can fight and work any jobs necessary to help us win the war! We will accept you and help you with our cause!



Extended Activity

Have students write their own version of the Emancipation Proclamation from this activity, in their own words. Have them reiterate the rationale and meaning of the Emancipation Proclamation, but in contemporary language. This will allow students to connect and associate major concepts and themes within the document to their own learning styles.

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What Does the Emancipation Proclamation Mean to Me?

This activity can be used as either an introductory assignment or exit assignment. Students will interpret excerpts from the Emancipation Proclamation and articulate what each excerpt means to them. By allowing students to put the document into their own words, and formulate their opinion or stance on specific excerpts, class discussion and further analysis flows better.


Example Student Response


Excerpts What This Means to Me
"...all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." To me, this quote means that slavery, according to Lincoln, is forever ended in states in rebellion. States in rebellion would be the Confederate states at war with the Union.
"...I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion." To me, this quote means that Lincoln is using his justified presidential powers to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Because the country is in a state of rebellion, Lincoln must take whatever measures necessary to keep the Union intact.
"And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons." To me, this quote means that Lincoln will honor his word and issuance of emancipation of slaves in rebellious states through the government, military, and his position as president. This is important to solidify his very controversial, but monumental decision.
"And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God." To me, this quote means that Lincoln will uphold the Emancipation Proclamation through whatever means necessary, as well as under the guidance of God. Also, as warranted by the Constitution, he is in his right by the laws of America to do so.


Extended Activity

For an extended activity, have students take their personal interpretations and debate the success of the Emancipation Proclamation. Have students organize their ideas using a grid storyboard to better present their positions. They are to defend their position and interpretations with facts and logic.

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•   (English) The Emancipation Proclamation   •   (Español) La Proclamación de la Emancipación   •   (Français) Proclamation de L'émancipation   •   (Deutsch) Die Emanzipationsproklamation   •   (Italiana) La Proclamazione di Emancipazione   •   (Nederlands) The Emancipation Proclamation   •   (Português) A Proclamação da Emancipação   •   (עברית) ההכרזה על שחרור העבדים   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) إعلان تحرير العبيد   •   (हिन्दी) मुक्ति उद्घोषणा   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Прокламация об Освобождении   •   (Dansk) Den Emancipationserklæringen   •   (Svenska) Emancipationkungörelsen   •   (Suomi) Vapautuminen Julistus   •   (Norsk) The Emancipation Erklæring   •   (Türkçe) Kurtuluş Beyannamesi   •   (Polski) Proklamacja Emancypacji   •   (Româna) Proclamatia   •   (Ceština) Proklamace Emancipace   •   (Slovenský) Vyhlásenie o Emancipácii   •   (Magyar) Az Emancipáció Kiáltvány   •   (Hrvatski) Procjena Emancijacije   •   (български) Прокламацията за Еманципация   •   (Lietuvos) Emancipacijos Aktas   •   (Slovenščina) Emancipacija Razglasitev   •   (Latvijas) Emancipāciju Proklamēšana   •   (eesti) Emantsipatsiooni Väljakuulutamine