Adult Ed
Freedom Voices: Abolition and Suffrage in the United States


Introductory Activities
Learning Activities
Culminating Activity
Cross-curricular Extensions
Community Connections

Introductory Activities

Step 1 LOG onto the Who What When website to compile a timeline of historical people and events that have lived in the time span of two generations—that of the students and their parents. In the year field, align the digits to coordinate with the birth year of a parent and click on "Go". A list of people born in the same year will be generated. Click the icon adjacent to the name of a political leader born in the same year. A list of political contemporaries will be generated. Use the drop down menu at the top of the screen to change the parameters of the comparison. The categories that can be queried are listed below.

Timeline query categories
  • Music
  • Popular culture
  • Arts
  • Literature
  • Science, Exploration
  • Politics
  • Sports
  • Business & Industry
  • War
  • Miscellaneous
  • Royalty
  • Religion, Learning
  • Crime
  • Disaster

By changing the parameters of the "search", students will gain valuable insight concerning the world of our generation.

Learning Activities

Step 1 Identify the leaders of the movements. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking students to record three facts about Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth. Log onto the American Experience: The time of the Lincolns—A Woman's World site to gather information. (Answers will vary. Anthony and Stanton formed strong alliances to establish rights for women. Anthony and Truth were leaders for the cause of abolition. Descriptions of the men of the movement (to abolish slavery) are available at the Battle for abolition link on the American Experience: The time of the Lincolns site.)

Step 2 "Connect the dots" between men and women, Blacks and Whites, abolitionists and suffragists of the late 1800's and early 1900's. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to identify who Lucretia Mott, the Grimkes and Maria Stewart were. PLAY the Quicktime/Real video exposition of historian Margaret Washington. Check for student understanding by asking students to identify points in the transcript available on screen where the women are discussed. (These women were staunch abolitionists whose major motivations were steeped in religious conviction and traditions. While they were renowned for their leadership as women, they likely did not consider themselves feminists because of their religious practices.)

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to identify three men, two African-Americans and at least one religious figure who was likely to have crossed paths with any of the women discussed in the documentary (Anthony, Stanton, Truth, Grimkes, Mott, Stewart ). LOG onto the Who What When website and type at least two of the names listed in the “Name” field. When the lists are generated, scroll over their life span bar to access life span data and a description of their life work. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to identify the interrelation between science, policy and philosophy that likely developed during this time frame. Record student responses on the large instructional writing space for quick reference. (Charles Darwin was a scientist who lived between 1809 and 1882. Social Darwinism and Marxist communism were born at the same time. If Charles Darwin is used to construct the timeline, links to several abolitionists and anti-slavery politicians will be provided.)

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to record at least two reference websites where information can be retrieved about the contemporaries of these important leaders. (Clicking on the names of the people in the life span bar will automatically initiate a search on

Culminating Activity

Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to explain the significance of the American Anti-Slavery Society. (The American Anti-Slavery Society brought all demographic groups together having Blacks in significant roles of leadership. Established in 1833, the AASS is associated with Frederick Douglass, Lucretia Mott and other prominent abolitionists.)

Use the references gathered during this lesson to write a petition and proposal for a specific human rights issue that may have precipitated the larger suffragist and/or abolitionist movements. As part of the petition, generate a "mock" committee of at least ten contemporaries who likely supported the cause being addressed. As part of the proposal, provide at least one narrative statement of influence and one factual statement. The narrative may be expressed as an editorial to one of the periodicals of the time, a letter, a poem, a speech or a political cartoon. The factual statement must be a verified primary source document that chronicles the cause for which the petition is being drafted.


Cross-Curricular Extensions

Artists commonly document the social and political climate of their generation, providing an historical context for understanding artistic composition. Explore the history of African-Americans as composed by legendary musicians Duke Ellington ("Black Brown Beige") and Quincy Jones ("Overture: A Partial History of Black Music" from Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration). If CDs are not available, compare the two musical accounts of the history of Africans in America using music samples provided at the sites listed below.
Black Brown Beige music samples; Soulful Celebration music samples

Study the language of Truth as expressed in "Ain't I A Woman". This speech-essay is now considered one of the banner thoughts of the feminist movement. Research other political speeches that have rallied the masses to embrace a movement.

Slavery was an economic enterprise disguised as religious mission for some. Professor Eric Foner exposes a "Harsher Reality of Plantation Values" in this audio slideshow with primary source material. Summarize the economic value system used to quantify each member of the "family". Explain the difference in value associated with gender, age and vocation.

Film and History
The Second Great Awakening occurred during a 50+ year span in the United States between the 1790s and the 1840s. This period saw the rise of evangelism in the U.S. View the 1998 film "The Apostle", starring Robert Duvall, to gain insight into the influence of evangelism in the South.

Community Connections

Research contemporary human rights issues. Create a timeline to document the movement. Identify the key leaders of the movement and identify whether the movement coincides with another social, political or economic revolution.

Take a field trip to a slave haven, slave quarters, plantation, Civil War battle site, slave market or underground railroad stop to gather additional information about the conditions Africans faced in trying to secure their rights in the United States.

Interview a member of a traditionally African-American sorority (Example: Delta Sigma Theta). Ask her to explain the history of her organization and its legacy in the causes of woman's rights, rights for ethnic minorities and human rights.

Visit the library or archives of an Historically Black College or University (Example: Johnson C. Smith University) to explore the founding of these institutions. Most HBCU's are affiliated with a religious group and often their founding was driven by the work of a female philanthropist.