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Challenges & Opportunities

Available to teachers only as part of the Teaching Abolitionism Teacher Pass

Teaching Abolitionism Teacher Pass includes:

  • Assignments & Activities
  • Reading Quizzes
  • Current Events & Pop Culture articles
  • Discussion & Essay Questions
  • Challenges & Opportunities
  • Related Readings in Literature & History

Sample of Challenges & Opportunities

Even during the early colonial period, there were abolitionists in America. But the abolitionist movement did not become a force in American politics until the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Therefore this unit might give you the opportunity to explore with your students the process by which an idea or belief gains momentum. 

  • Were the new voices of abolition—William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Weld, David Walker, Angelina Grimké—more persuasive than earlier opponents of slavery? 
  • Were the new strategies—petition drives and itinerant lecturers—more effective? 
  • Or were larger forces more important: the Second Great Awakening, western migration, and so on?

You might also want to spend some time exploring the divisions and limitations within the abolitionist movement. There was a huge gap separating a radical black abolitionist like Walker from even a radical white abolitionist like Garrison. Exploring this gap might be useful as your students move beyond the Civil War to study what becomes of abolition and abolitionists during the Reconstruction Era.

Miles to Go Before We Sleep

One challenge you may face in teaching this topic is tackling the current state of race relations in America. With numerous recent examples of the difficult dynamic that still exists between black and white and brown people today—Trayvon Martin, Dontre Hamilton, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott—you and your students will have to acknowledge that while the current era may be post-slavery, it is not post-racism. 

Sure, the abolitionism movement provides us with much to celebrate, but a long road still lies ahead, and in discussing achievements to date, you will likely be forced to also discuss the many inequalities that still mar our democracy.