Propaganda, Its History and Techniques, and Its Use by Proslavery and Abolitionist Movements

Author: Lisa Kelly


University City High School

Year: 2010

Seminar: American Literature and American Painting, 1840 to 1940

Grade Level: 11

Keywords: abolitionists, History, proslavery, Slavery

School Subject(s): English, History, Literature

This curriculum unit is intended for the study of American Literature and History, which, in our district is taught during the 11th grade. Covering the entire unit will take 6 to 8 50-minute class periods. The resources I’ve used are all easily available online.

This unit is intended to do several things.

It is designed to familiarize students with methods of persuasion and propaganda. Students will learn or relearn the well-known methods of persuasion such as bandwagon, half-truth, and namecalling, and analyze examples of each. Students will also practice ‘reading’ or analyzing images in the same way that they have analyzed text, searching for similar persuasive methods. I hope that studying persuasion will help students to decipher and resist misleading commercial or political messages. I also hope that as they  become savvier readers and viewers, students will feel more adept at navigating political messages and show more competence and engagement in participatory democracy.

The unit presents a less commonly taught part of the history of slavery; often students are bored with the topic because they have skimmed its surface or covered the same figures several times over the years. These lessons examine how each side of the slavery debate tried to persuade Americans of the rightness of their cause. It includes many images, both because they were a big part of the abolitionist cause, and because images are a powerful tool for understanding.

Download Unit: Kelly-Lisa-unit.pdf

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