AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and PBS have an extensive collection of existing material related to the abolitionist movement, which is accessible on the Further Reading page for The Abolitionists.

For teacher's guides, we have partnered with PBS LearningMedia and the National Endowment for the Humanities to provide detailed curriculum resources and lesson plans for use in the classroom.

From PBS LearningMedia

Several educational resources from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Abolitionists are available on PBS LearningMedia. The resources feature video segments from the broadcast, each of which is supported by background essays and teaching tips to help facilitate the use of the media in the classroom. The resources are indexed to the Common Core State Standards, and connections to related resources within the digital library are provided.


From the National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities, a major funder of The Abolitionists, offers the following lesson plans for teachers, students, and parents searching for high-quality material. Find even more on the EDSITEment website.

Taking Up Arms and the Challenge of Slavery in the Revolutionary Era
This lesson is designed to help students understand the transition to armed resistance and the contradiction in the Americans' rhetoric about slavery through the examination of a series of documents.

Slavery and the American Founding: The "Inconsistency not to be excused"
This lesson will focus on the views of the founders as expressed in primary documents from their own time and in their own words. Students will see that many of the major founders opposed slavery as contrary to the principles of the American Revolution.

After the American Revolution: Free African Americans in the North
In this lesson, students will meet some of those African Americans living in the North in the years between the American Revolution and the Civil War, and practice the techniques authors use to transform information about individuals into readable biographies.

From Courage to Freedom: Frederick Douglass's 1845 Autobiography
In this curriculum unit, students will read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself with particular attention devoted to certain chapters. They will analyze Douglass's vivid first-hand accounts of the lives of slaves and the behavior of slave owners to see how he successfully contrasts reality with romanticism and powerfully uses imagery, irony, connotative and denotative language, strong active verbs, repetition, and rhetorical appeals to persuade the reader of slavery's evil.

Lesson 1: From Courage to Freedom: The Reality behind the Song
Lesson 2: From Courage to Freedom: Slavery’s Dehumanizing Effects
Lesson 3: From Courage to Freedom
Launchpad: Frederick Douglass “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

Perspective on the Slave Narrative
To help students recognize the complex nature of the slave narrative and its combination of varied literary traditions and devices, this lesson explores the work of William W. Brown from a variety of perspectives.

Launchpad: Perspectives on the Slave Narrative

Life in the North and South 1847-1861: Before Brother Fought Brother
A complex series of events led to the Civil War. The lessons in this unit are designed to help students develop a foundation on which to understand the basic disagreements between North and South through the investigation of primary source documents.

Lesson 1: Factory vs. Plantation in the North and South
Lesson 2: People and Places in the North and South
Lesson 3: A Debate Against Slavery
Lesson 4: Life Before the Civil War
Lesson 5: Women's Lives Before the Civil War

The Growing Crisis of Sectionalism in Antebellum America: A House Dividing
What characterized the debates over American slavery and the power of the federal government for the first half of the 19th century? How did regional economies and political events produce a widening split between free and slaveholding states in antebellum America? In this unit, students will trace the development of sectionalism in the United States as it was driven by the growing dependence upon, and defense of, black slavery in the southern states.

Lesson 1: An Early Threat of Secession: The Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Nullification Crisis
Lesson 2: Slavery's Opponents and Defenders
Lesson 3: The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854: Popular Sovereignty and the Political Polarization over Slavery
Lesson 4: Abraham Lincoln, the 1860 Election, and the Future of the American Union and Slavery

The Emancipation Proclamation: Freedom's First Steps
While the Civil War began as a war to restore the Union, and not to end slavery, by 1862 President Abraham Lincoln came to believe that he could save the Union only by broadening the goals of the war. The Emancipation Proclamation is generally regarded as marking this sharp change in the goals of Lincoln's war policy. Through examination of the original document and related writings, students can return to this "first step" and explore the obstacles and alternatives we faced in making the journey toward "a more perfect Union."

Voting Rights for Women: Pro- and Anti-Suffrage
Understanding the positions of the suffrage and anti-suffrage movements -- as expressed in archival broadsides, speeches, pamphlets, and political cartoons -- will help your students better appreciate the struggle for women's rights and the vestiges of the anti-suffrage positions that lasted at least through the 1960s and, perhaps, to the present day.

My American Experience

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Share Your Story

What aspect of the abolitionist movement moves you the most? Is there an event you wish you could have witnessed in person? A story you love? A person you admire or can relate to? Share your story with American Experence.

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • DIG: Gretchen Stone Cook, Kargman, Rose (Abolitionists)
  • Arthur Vining Davis Foundations
  • NEH
  • Yawkey Foundation