Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

To Free the Slaves
Keith Rains
US History
Time Frame:
1 class period
Civil War

Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:


Decision to Emancipate the Slaves





Students need to consider all points of view when making massive decisions.



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


Local Standard 2B adopted from common core standards:

  • Creating active and responsible citizens that identify and analyze public problems; deliberate with other people about how to define and address issues; take constructive, collaborative action; reflect on their actions; create and sustain groups; and influence institutions both large and small.


Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:


Students will use websites to find information about each of the following cabinet members in the Lincoln Administration:


William Seward

Edwin Stanton

Salmon P. Chase

Edward Bates

Gideon Welles

Caleb Blood Smith








Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Technology Required:

Web browsing device

Full description of activity or assignment.


  • Students will be shown the painting of the “Reading of the Emancipation”

  • Student groups will be assigned one cabinet member

  • Students will identify their role by pointing to their character on the projected image

  • Students will be given 12-15 minutes to do research on their character

  • Students will be directed to view the secondary source pictures from the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

  • Students will explain to the rest of the class if the picture adequately portrays their character and give a brief description of the character’s view of emancipation.

  • Other students will take a few notes over the short presentations

  • Each team will secretly go write a tweet of their recommendation to the president (I am going to allow the students to tweet like a 21st century teenager).

  • Students will email me their tweet (I will compile them and place them on a document.  On the following day, I will project their tweets).

  • On day two, each team can use their notes and try to match the tweets with the cabinet member who wrote them. It will be a fun quiz for a little extra credit.

  • After this I will project the picture again and tell the students how the painter placed the cabinet members and Lincoln in their places according to their beliefs about emancipation

  • A short discussion will follow.

  • Students will now give me (President Lincoln) their political advice on whether or not I should go forward with Emancipation.


Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:


  • I will place the following 10-point essay on their next test:  Was the Emancipation Proclamation a genius political move or an unconstitutional and desperate attempt to save the Union? Explain your answer.