PrintOne to Two Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • list three personal characteristics of various contributors to the abolition and suffrage movements in America.
  • list one personal sacrifice made by various individuals in the struggle to eliminate slavery.
  • identify three essential characteristics of effective public speaking.
  • Video series: The Blue and The Grey
  • John Brown's Last Speech to the Court, 1859 (Handout One)
  • Frederick Douglass: Boston Anti-Slavery Meeting (Handout Two)
  • Sojourner Truth: "Ain't I A Woman?" (Handout Three)
  • Ellis, Susan, and Katherine Noyes. By the People: A History of Americans as Volunteers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990.
  • Fugate, Sandy. For the Benefit of All: A History of Philanthropy in Michigan. Battle Creek: W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 1997.


  1. abolitionism: the compulsory ending of slavery in the United States.

    • antebellum: the period of slavery in the United States, particularly in the years prior to the Civil War.
    • Ask students whether or not it would have been a big decision for someone to become an abolitionist. Explain to the class that history has always been made up of individuals who, because of their words and actions, shaped the history of America. Yet they were individuals who had to make a decision at some point to take the actions they did.
  2. Give each student a copy of John Brown's Last Speech to the Court, 1859 (Handout One). Start by reviewing the role that John Brown played in Kansas and in his raid on Harper's Ferry. John Brown fought to make Kansas a free state, then went on to raid the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. Commander Robert E. Lee led the group which captured John Brown. During the raid, Brown's son was among several individuals who were killed. Refusing to plead insanity, John Brown maintained a solemn and dignified demeanor throughout his trial.From the video The Blue and the Grey, show the speech John Brown gave before his sentencing following the raid on Harper's Ferry. If the video clip is not available, use a copy of his speech (see Handout One). Discuss the questions provided with the speech. During the discussion, emphasize the importance of his personal beliefs or values to his actions, his demeanor and his persuasive speech. 

  3. Give each student a copy of Frederick Douglass: Boston Anti-Slavery Meeting (see Handout Two). Give students some background on Douglass, including that he was born into slavery and escaped; was an orator and journalist supporting the abolition of slavery; and served as a government official in several capacities. Paragraph by paragraph, discuss the questions provided, emphasizing the following points: the difference between generosity and justice, the importance of high expectations of one's self and the importance of personal beliefs or values on his actions.

  4. Distribute copies of Sojourner Truth: Ain't I A Woman? (see Handout Three). Spend some time reviewing who she was.A very good synopsis of her life after her work in the Underground Railway is provided in For the Benefit of All: A History of Philanthropy in Michigan, page 37. She was a slave until the state of New York freed all of its slaves in 1828. Then she preached and traveled throughout most of the United States speaking out against slavery. She recruited supplies for African American regiments during the Civil War and advocated setting aside land in the West for a freed people's settlement. Ain't I A Woman? was one of her most famous speeches and had nothing to do with slavery, but everything to do with the rights of women. Discuss the questions included with her speech, emphasizing her message, how her life's experiences affected her beliefs and values, and her persuasive techniques in getting her message across.

  5. Using the information gained from studying the three speeches and their speakers, ask the class to reach consensus on three qualities that make an effective speech and three qualities that make an effective speaker.


Ask each student to prepare a two or three-minute speech on one of the three speakers and the qualities that made him or her effective. Have each student pair off with another person and perfect the speech by delivering it to his or her partner. One note card may be used. Students should try to emulate those qualities and the content reflected upon by the whole group. Monitor groups randomly. A rubric used in grading should include these categories: historical accuracy, a good attention-getter, three specific reasons with examples demonstrating why the person was an effective speaker and a catchy conclusion which restates the reasons.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Identify how subgroups and families in society demonstrate giving, volunteering, and civic involvement.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss and give examples of why some humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Give examples from history of how intolerance of ideas, religion, and minorities contributed to social disintegration.
      2. Benchmark HS.7 Identify and give examples of the important roles women and minorities have played in the civil society sector in history.
    3. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Utilize the persuasive power of written or oral communication as an instrument of change in the community, nation or the world.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the community, state or nation, such as petitioning authority, advocating, voting, group problem solving, mock trials or classroom governance and elections.