Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Brown Vs. Quantrill: Is Violence Justified?
Kim Waltman
American History
Time Frame:
Two class periods
Civil War

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Group/partner lesson that will use Language Arts standards of how to use a graphic organizer to organize information on two important figures in the Bleeding Kansas and border war time period. This activity will encompass researching the two figures using primary and secondary resources off of websites and books.

  • To show the difference in two controversial figures of the border war period of history in both Missouri and Kansas. To show that different sides can view people/ideas differently depending on your Historical Memory.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

Benchmark 2: The student understands individuals, groups, ideas, events, and developments during Kansas territory and the Civil War (1854-1865)

1.(A) describes the concept of popular sovereignty under the Kansas- Nebraska Act and its impact on developing a state constitution.

2 describes how the dispute over slavery shaped life in Kansas Territory (e.g., border ruffians, bushwhackers, jayhawkers, the Underground Railroad, free-staters, abolitionists).

3.  (A) analyzes the importance of Bleeding Kansas to the rest of the United States in the years leading up to the Civil War (e.g., national media attention, caning of Senator Charles Sumner, Emigrant Aid Societies, Beecher Bible and Rifle Colony, poems of John Greenleaf Whittier, John Brown).

4.(K) describes the role of important individuals during the territorial period (e.g., Charles Robinson, James Lane, John Brown, Clarina Nichols, Samuel Jones, David Atchison, Andrew H. Reeder)


Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed cite title and other detailed information:

  • Chin, Jennie; Kansas Journey Publishing,Topeka; 2003.
  • Monaghan, Jay. Civil War on the Western Border. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London; 1955.
  • Using approved websites that give factual information on the lives of these two men. Info can come from primary resources with in the web sites, as well as secondary, but cited, information. (List of approved websites attached.)

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Brown, John Photograph of 1855 Woodman Painted Portrait General Collection (P1), Brown, John, Number 1 found at www.kchistory.org Missouri Valley Special Collections
  • Quantrill, William Clarke; Creator Dillenbeck, A. L. Circa 1890s. Charcoal Drawing found on www.kchistory.org in the Missouri Valley Special Collections location MVO-72F Q
  • Newspaper Article, found in Missouri Valley Special Collections at www.kchistory.org Title: Quantrells Raid: hon. Sidney F. Clarke Tells of Lawrence Massacre. CONTENTdm 28894
  • Sheridan, Richard. William Quantrill and the Lawrence Massacre. 1905. Found at www.kchistory.org Missouri Valley Special Collections CONTENTdm 10456

Full description of activity or assignment.
  • Students will be presented a unit describing Bleeding Kansas and the Border War. After the presentation of this unit, students will have been introduced to the important historical figures. The two figures that stand out the most during this time period to seventh graders are John Brown and William Clarke Quantrill. (My students also complete a novel study of The Jayhawkerby Patricia Beatty during this unit, which allows for a lot of emphasis on these figures.)
  • Students will be shown images of both Quantrill and Brown and then as a class we will discuss the physical features in which both are alike, and where they differ physically.
  • After discussing the physical attributes students will be presented with a Venn diagram. Their assignment will be to complete a graphic organizer of how Quantrill and Brown were alike and/or different in their personalities, beliefs, events/attacks, reasons for the events/attacks, and deaths. Students will have to cite the particular sources where they find their information.
  • After finding and citing the information, students will then have to answer four short-answer questions on what they have discovered.
  • The questions are:
  1. During their lives, who was responsible for more violence and/or deaths?
  2. Looking at the Venn Diagram, which one do you feel was more justified in their violence (Brown, Quantrill, both or neither)? Why do you feel this way?
  3. If you lived in Missouri during the Border War and Civil War periods, which of these two figures would you be more afraid of? Why?
  4. In your own words, describe the way that Brown and Quantrill are most alike? In what ways are they most different?

List of approved websites that may be used. (Additional websites may be used, but must be approved by the teacher. You man NOT use Wikipedia)

Kansas State Historical Society: www.kshs.org

Kansas City Public Library (Missouri Valley Special Collections): www.kchistory.org

National Archives at Kansas City: www.archives.gov




Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • During the three class periods that they students are working together, the teacher will use observation of the groups to see how well they work together.
  • Students will also do a peer evaluation based on the work ethic of their partner. (I have students give their partner/group a letter grade, but they must explain exactly why they gave their group/partner the grade. It is a piece to the group work grade, but the instructor makes the final grade decision.)
  • While grading the Venn diagram and questions, the diagram will be graded using the Venn diagram rubric, which is attached to the lesson plan.


Venn Diagram Rubric








Concept Arrangement

Each section of the diagram contains four facts easily identified. (5points)

Each section of the diagram contains three facts easily identified. (4 points)

Each section of the diagram contains two facts that are somewhat identified. (3 points)

Each section of the diagram contains very few facts that are not easily identified. (0 point)



Reflects factual information that corresponds with appropriate section of diagram. (5 points)

Most of the information is factual and seemingly corresponds with appropriate section of diagram. (4 points)

Reflects some factual information and attempts to put it in corresponding section of diagram. (3 points)

Contains non factual information that does not correspond to the appropriate section of diagram. (0 point)



Easy to read, legible. No mis-spellings. (5 points)

Most text is easy to read. Fewer than four mis-spellings. (4points)

Text is not easy to read. Excessive mis-spelling more than five errors. (3 points)

Not legible. Excessive errors. (o point


Presentation of Product

Clean, neat and well organized. (5points)

Fairly neat and clean. Some organization. (4 points)

Not well organized. A little cluttered. (3 points)

Messy and unorganized. Not well put together. (0 point)


Work Ethic

Both partners shared the work equally

Both partners worked but one rarely needed to be reminded

One partner rarely did the work and needed to be reminded often

One partner always relied on partner to do the work