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Slavery In the Antebellum South: Varying the Learning Process with Primary Sources


This learning activity engages students in an analysis of multiple primary sources relating to slavery in the antebellum South from the Library of Congress. It is tiered to accommodate different levels of student comprehension and ability, and to guide students of all learning levels to higher-order thinking.


After completing this learning activity, students will be able to:

  • articulate the differences in social, economic, and legal status of slaves in the antebellum South
  • speculate why the institution of slavery existed
  • identify some of the arguments offered by 19th century abolitionist and pro-slavery groups

Time Required

Two class periods

Recommended Grade Range



Slavery of African-Americans

Subject/ Sub-Subject

Social Studies/ History


McREL 4th Edition Standards and Benchmarks

United States History

Standard 12. Understands the sources and character of cultural, religious, and social reform movements in the antebellum period.

Benchmark 1.

Understands perspectives that influenced slavery in the antebellum period (e.g., changing ideas about race, the reception of proslavery and antislavery ideologies in the North and South, arguments used to defend slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries)


Activity adapted from a lesson plan developed by Courtney Kisat, Teaching with Primary Sources Program at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois

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