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Lincoln-Douglas Debates Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

This lesson plan helps you provide context and details to your instruction of the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. By lesson end, students will understand how a series of debates for a Senate seat forever changed American history by introducing Abraham Lincoln to the American political stage.

Lesson Objectives

After the completion of this lesson plan, students should be able to:

  • describe the substance of the debates between Lincoln and Douglas
  • compare and contrast the positions of the two men in their own words

Length

40 minutes plus 40 minutes for activity

Curriculum Standards

  • 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.11-12.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Key Terms

  • Popular sovereignty
  • Lincoln-Douglas debates
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Stephen Douglas
  • House Divided speech

Instructions

  • Start by reviewing the divisions that existed in the country as a result of the issue of slavery in the early to mid-19th century.
  • As a class, watch the Study.com video lesson The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858: Summary & Significance, pausing for the following points of discussion:
    • 3:48 - What motivated Douglas to debate Lincoln? What role did new technology play in this series of debates? Also, why did the state legislature matter?
    • 6:39 - How did Douglas refer back to the Founding Fathers? How did Lincoln do it?
    • 10:34 - While Lincoln may have not won the Senate, he benefited more from the debates in the long run. How was that possible?

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