Frederick Douglass Project Ideas

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Frederick Douglass is such an important figure in the history of the United States, and his life and works have a great deal to teach students about equity and activism. The projects in this lesson are designed to engage your students in thinking deeply about Douglass and the lessons he has to offer.

Why Frederick Douglass Projects

Are you teaching your students about abolitionism or activism? If so, you will probably want to introduce them to the life and works of Frederick Douglass. Douglass is such an inspiring figure in so many ways; his life story and collected works offer lessons about activism, the power of writing, the significance of intellect in relation to politics, and what it means to be a leader. One way to help your students understand the life and works of Douglass on a deep and meaningful level is to have them engage in projects. Projects are often interdisciplinary in nature and thus appeal to students with a wide variety of learning styles and strengths. When students work on projects over time, they consolidate what they know and are often better able to remember major concepts and facts. Finally, students often have fun doing projects, and enjoyment can lead to better motivation for learning. The projects in this lesson are designed to help your students better understand the life and works of Frederick Douglass.

Quote Gallery

For this project, break your students into small groups. Have each group member take responsibility for finding one significant quote from Douglass' corpus. The quote should be significant in relation to Douglass' life and thought, and it should also mean something to the student who selects it. Once each student has contributed a quote, each group should create a gallery display. This is a poster that brings together all of the Douglass quotes from group members and includes an illustration depicting the meaning and significance of each quote. Group members should also write brief explanations of why they selected the quotes they did. When they are finished, hang the posters and let your students do a gallery walk, admiring each other's work. Let them reflect on what they learn about Douglass' life and thought processes from the important words he said and wrote.

Frederick Douglass: The Graphic Biography

Ask your students to work as a class to create a graphic novel about Frederick Douglass' life. To do this, they will have to break up into groups. Each group should take responsibility for one particular chronological 'chapter' of Douglass' life. The group will have to create an outline and think about what is most important to portray about that period of his life. Then, they will create comics telling the story of that time period. Some students might take responsibility for drawing; others might be better at planning or at writing dialogue. When each group is finished, you can bring the chapters together and celebrate your class' creation of a graphic biography.

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