The Abolitionist Movement Activities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

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

Learning about the abolitionist movement can be truly inspiring, since it shows how people really came together to create change. The activities in this lesson will get your students thinking critically about how abolitionism worked.

Why Abolitionist Movement Activities?

Are your students studying slavery and the Civil War? This kind of learning can be deeply upsetting, since it showcases significant shames from United States history. At the same time, learning about slavery also offers the opportunity to learn about the abolitionist movement. Studying abolitionism can be incredibly exciting and inspiring; it shows how people from so many different walks of life worked together to fight for justice and significant social change. One way to help your students understand the abolitionist movement better is to incorporate activities into your teaching. Activities involve learning from a more hands-on perspective and can appeal to students with a variety of learning styles and strengths. Activities often let students collaborate and get something out of learning from each other. The activities in this lesson will help deepen what your student understand about how the abolitionist movement worked.

Visual Activities

Some students learn best visually, and these activities will help them understand the abolitionism movement.

Sculpt an Abolitionist

Ask your students to work with a partner for this activity. Each team should take charge of learning more about the life and works of a specific key figure in the abolitionist movement. Then, they should work with clay to sculpt a model of that person. While the clay dries, they should write a brief paragraph showing the highlights of that figure's life. After the clay has dried, they should paint the figure to represent period clothing and fashions. Once all of your students are done, you can have an abolitionist museum. Be sure that black and white abolitionists are represented, and women as well as men. Some examples include Frederick Douglass, Lucretia Mott, or William Lloyd Garrison, among so many others.

Graphic Timeline

Have your students work in partnerships to create graphic timelines of the abolitionist movement. Each group should create a timeline that represents the most important events of abolitionism from its start until the end of slavery. Different groups may choose to highlight different events, and that is fine. For each event on the timeline, students should create an illustration depicting what happened or what it represented. Hang your timelines around the classroom for students to compare and contrast.

Kinesthetic Activities

These activities are well-suited for students who like to use their bodies in their learning.

Act it Out

Have your students break up into groups, and ask each group to choose a key event of the abolitionist movement. Events might include the Nat Turner Rebellion, the formation of anti-slavery societies, the escape of Frederick Douglass, the Emancipation Proclamation, and more. Each group should act out a scene from the event they are portraying. They should use their bodies and faces to try to express the import of the particular event. For instance, they might think about what facial expressions they could use to show excitement, fear or sadness, or how they would move their body to demonstrate a sense of struggle or enthusiasm.

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