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January 29, 2021

Lesson Plan: Connecting Post-Civil War mob violence and the Capitol Hill Riot

A supporter of President Donald Trump carries a Confederate battle flag on the second floor of the U.S. Capitol near the entrance to the Senate after breaching security defenses, in Washington D.C., Jan. 6, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

 

For a Google doc of this lesson, click here. (Note: You will need to make a copy of the Google doc to edit it.)

Overview

Regarding the violence on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, 2021, historians Kate Masur and Gregory P. Downs gave their perspective in this Washington Post story

It is tempting to consider Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol an exception in U.S. history, but the presence of Confederate flags and Sen. Ted Cruz’s ill-founded reliance on the 1876-1877 election crisis to justify baseless challenges to the 2020 electoral results remind us that anti-democratic violence has deep roots here, especially in the period of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

This lesson will examine some of the anti-democratic violence that took place in the post-Civil War period as well as the Capitol Hill Riot on Jan. 6, 2021. The activities in this lesson ask students to evaluate the significance of these events using specific historical thinking skills including comparison, causation and continuity and change over time. 

Subject: Civics, Government, U.S. History

Estimated time: One 50-minute class period

Objectives: Students will:

  1. Understand the significance of the anti-democratic violence in U.S. history by focusing on the Colfax Massacre of 1873, Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 and the Capitol Hill Riot.
  2. Understand the role of racism in these examples of mob violence.
  3. Draw connections across time periods using specific historical thinking skills.

Main activity:

This lesson can be used in either remote or traditional learning environments. It is designed for students who have learned about the Civil War and Reconstruction.

  1. Distribute Student Handout. (Note: You will need to make a copy of the Google doc to edit it or fill out the answers.)
  2. As a whole group read the quote from Kate Masur and Gregory P. Down’s essay, Perspective | Yes, Wednesday’s attempted insurrection is who we are (Washington Post). If time allows, you might wish to read the whole essay with students or have them read it independently.
  3. Have students examine the chart that lists some examples of racist anti-democratic violence. Students should understand that the chart only highlights a few of many examples of such violence.
  4. Have students watch the segment of PBS’s Reconstruction that covers the Colfax Massacre, RECONSTRUCTION: AMERICA AFTER THE CIVIL WAR | Reconstruction | Part 1, Hour 2 | Episode 2 (36:00-39:00). Students should answer questions on handout regarding what surprised them and what questions they have.
  5. Direct students’ attention to #5 on the Student handout. Have them complete the section on the Colfax Massacre.
  6. Have students watch the segment of PBS’s Reconstruction that covers the Wilmington Massacre, RECONSTRUCTION: AMERICA AFTER THE CIVIL WAR | Reconstruction | Part 2, Hour 2 | Episode 4 (0-5.05 minutes). Students should answer questions on handout regarding what surprised them, what questions they have, and comparisons to the Colfax Massacre.
  7. Direct students’ attention to #5 on the Student Handout. Have them complete the section on the Wilmington Massacre.
  8. Have students watch segment of PBS NewsHour, Mayhem erupts in the U.S. Capitol as Congress certifies electoral votes (mins 0-4:04) and Symbols of hate, and their racial implications, at the Capitol Hill riot (5:43 mins).
  9. Students should answer questions on handout regarding what surprised them, what questions they have, and comparisons to the Colfax and Wilmington Massacres.
  10. Direct students’ attention to #5 on the Student Handout. Have them complete the section on the Capitol Hill Riot.
  11. Debrief with students in a whole-group discussion. Ask them, “How are these incidents similar? How are they different?”
  12. Have students develop a one to two sentence argument that addresses the prompt, “To what extent is the assault on the U.S. Capitol an exception in U.S. history?”

Extensions: Have students read and discuss the Masur and Downs essay. Or have students write an essay that addresses prompt #6 on the Student Handout.

 


Kory Loyola teaches high school AP U.S. History and Debate and Public Speaking and coaches Debate in New Jersey. She is a graduate of Rutgers College and has a Masters Degree in Education from the Rutgers University School of Graduate Education and a Masters Degree in History and Culture from Drew University.


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  • Standards

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    Relevant National Standards:
      Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources
    • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards
    • D2Civ.2.9-12; D2.Civ.8.9-12; D2.Civ.10.9-12; D2.Civ.12.9-12.; D2.Civ.14.9-12; D2.His.1.9-12; D2.His.2.9-12; D2.His.3.9-12; D2.His.4.9-12.; D2.His.5.9-12

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