African American Soldiers in the Civil War Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

This lesson plan can be used to teach students the role of African Americans during the Civil War. Students will watch a video lesson, discuss content, take a quiz, and complete a project.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe the role of African-American soldiers in the Civil War
  • explain how African-American men in the Union Army were treated and why
  • identify who the Freedman were and what they did during the Civil War


1 - 1.5 hours

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1

Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


Key Vocabulary

  • Contraband
  • First Confiscation Act
  • Second Confiscation Act
  • Emancipation Proclamation
  • Freedmen
  • Freedmen's Bureau

Warm-Up and Preparation

  • Divide the class into two groups - the Union Army and the Confederate Army.
  • Ask students to imagine they are Civil War generals and to think about military strategy from their side in respect to African Americans.
    • How may they use African-American men in the war?
    • What can you do to recruit both freed and/or enslaved African Americans to fight for you?
  • Allow students to brainstorm independently, then have them discuss their ideas as a whole group.
  • Discuss:
    • Why is using African Americans during the Civil War important?
    • What advantages and disadvantages are there?
  • Instruct students to set aside their work for now and take notes on the video lesson.

Direct Instruction

  • Start the lesson African Americans in the Civil War: History & Facts and pause at 1:12. Ask:
    • Why did African Americans probably had the most vested interest in the outcome of the Civil War?
    • When did the moral question of slavery move to the Union forefront? Why?
  • Instruct students to make four sections in their notebooks labeled 'Slaves,' 'Contraband,' 'Freedmen,' and 'Soldiers,' then resume the lesson with instructions for students to take notes on these topics as the video plays.
  • Pause at 10:05 and divide students into four groups, assigning each one of the four topics of slaves, contraband, freedmen, and soldiers.
  • Instruct groups to meet together to discuss the role African Americans played during the Civil War as their topic.
    • For example, what role did slaves play in the Civil War? What did they do? Why?
  • Tell groups to prepare to share their information with the class by choosing a representative to speak. Additionally, have groups prepare three questions about their topic, at least one of which is a high-level question.
  • Give groups time to share work and ask questions, then play the remainder of the lesson and take the quiz to determine understanding before moving on to the activity.

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