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Michael S. Guzzio
Intended time of Curriculum: 2-3 weeks
Intended Subject Area: English or history
The multicultural aspect of this unit will involve an understanding of the relationship of Blacks and Whites from the late slavery period to the Civil War. Specifically, this relationship will be analyzed in the writings of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, leaders of their respective races.
The interdisciplinary concept will be employed by combining history (especially politics), American literature, and film in the curriculum unit. Within the historical context of the period chosen (1840-1865), the unit will have the students analyze and participate in understanding the power of the written word to influence and even inspire political action and historical events. Students will read and analyze the political writings of the time and see how the written word was transformed into political reality.
This paper is the result of a class taken entitled “Literature and Film,” Film; therefore, plays an important role in this unit. The culmination of the unit is the viewing and analysis of the Civil War epic, “Glory. “ The film serves as a visual reenforcement of the unit’s theme that literature can influence politics and history.
Reading and writing will take place as students read the literature, watch the films, and then offer their analyses and opinions on the issues. By these means, it is hoped that students will not stand outside of literature and history, but realize that the relationship between literature and history is a deep and ongoing process of which they are a part.
The interdisciplinary objective of the unit involves history and English. By reading Lincoln’s and Douglass’ writings, two of the political giants of their time, the students will be able to see how the written thought became law and slowly made its way into the character of the nation. Students will also see how this journey is a slow and unfolding drama as all Americans still struggle with the meaning of freedom in this country. An awareness of the power of the pen to influence historical events will be a major theme of this unit.
The third objective will be applying some concepts on film, as learned in the course from the Teacher’s Institute, to the film “Glory. “ The film will bring the unit to a close. It will also deepen the students’ appreciation how film techniques in “Glory” add to their understanding of how the readings of the unit did create change in race relations in America.
I. Slavery-The moral issue
____b. background information
____d. readings-Lincoln, Douglass
____e. Lesson Plan-The lesson plans in all these sections may be broken up and arranged throughout the section and not solely at the end.
II. The Cry for Freedom
____b. background information
____c. readings-Lincoln, Douglass
____d. Lesson Plan
III. The Fight Begins
____b. background information
____c. Readings-Lincoln, Douglass
____d. Lesson Plan
IV. “Glory”-First Steps on the Road to Equality
____b . background
Each section of the unit will call for a learning period by the student followed by their participation in a writing and discussion activity based on that section. Copyright laws prohibit the publishing of two of Frederick Douglass’ writings which may be hard to find. This will be noted again in the text and a summary of the two articles will appear in this text in more detail than the other readings. The other selections are simply summarized by a quote from the passage and a short statement of the reading’s content. The end of the unit contains a teacher and student bibliography from which the instructor may add to any section as he or she deems necessary.
The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, chp. 13, Selected Writings of Abraham Lincoln, PBS series “The Civil War” (Part I). All available at most libraries.
The tension over the slavery issue, which literally tore the nation in half in the middle of the nineteenth century, is reflected in the writings of Lincoln and Douglass. Slavery had always been “a sleeping serpent” since the days of the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson of Virginia said, “Maintaining Slavery is like holding a wolf by the ears, you did not like it much, but you dare not let it go. “2
This “sleeping serpent” truly awoke in the nineteenth century when the country began to move further west. The states had maintained a delicate balance of power between slave and free states. But, western expansion renewed the debate about slavery and whether it should be allowed to spread. The South wanted it to go West; the Northern states were opposed. Richard Hofstadter writes, “the struggle over slavery, at once a profound moral issue and a conflict between economic and social interests, became a still more serious threat to American union when it became entangled with the problem raised by westward expansion. “3
As the controversy over slavery raged, the South felt threatened by the growing power of the North and by what it felt was Northern intrusion into the Southern way of life. More and more, the North grew intolerant with the entire institution of slavery.
c. Film-”The Civil War” (PBS documentary)
The instructor should now show Ken Burn’s award-winning documentary “The Civil War, Part 1,” sections 1,2,3. This will take approximately 30 minutes. The following is a summary of the three sections:
Section 1-“The Cause”-This gives an excellent summary of slavery as it existed just before the war focusing on the reasons for its continuation in the Southern states.
Section 2-“All night, All Night Forever”-This section shows the cruelty of slavery and its debilitating effect on both slave and master.
Section 3-“Are We Free?”-The third section shows the growing opposition to slavery by such notables as Lincoln, Douglass, and even the extreme radical abolitionist John Brown.
The instructor can lead a discussion in which students attempt to give the Southern arguments for slavery and the Northern arguments against it. Listed below are possible student responses based on the film.
Southern arguments in favor of slavery:
- 1. economic: billions of dollars invested in slaves
- 2. cotton as king: the South was a cash crop economy based on cotton and the slaves to pick it.
- 3. religious: God has made the Black inferior to the White.
- 4. political: states’ rights; the Federal government had no business in a state matter like slavery.
Northern arguments against slavery:
- 1. economic: slavery destroys the work ethic in slave and master and robs the producer (slave) of just rewards. The slave is not allowed to keep the fruits of his labor and the master is robbed of all ambition by having the slave do his work.
- 2. religious: all men are endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
- 3. political: the Constitution affirms the basic equality of all Americans.
North and South appeal to the same areas, but take a different view of the issues. It basically boils down to whether the slave was seen as property or as a human being.
Have students explore how each side viewed the slave question. See if students can find legitimate points and flaws in the thinking of each side and why slavery’s abolition was ultimately the right decision.
The answer to the last question appears obvious, but the film shows how most Southerners did not own slaves, but still opposed Northern interference into their way of life. Even though students will arrive at the “right” conclusion, see if they can demonstrate any understanding for the Southern argument.
d. Lincoln and Douglass
To give a written account of slavery, two passages to be read by instructor and students are given below. A lesson based on these readings follows.
For Frederick Douglass, I suggest The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Chapter 13-”The Vicissitudes of Slave Life. “ The chapter begins with the quote, “I now ask the reader. . . (to) notice another circumstance that entered into my slave experience (which deepened) my horror of slavery, and my hostility toward those men and measures that practically uphold the slave system. “4 The chapter goes on to describe the physical abuse Douglass endured and the pain of separation when family, friends, and he were sold.
The second reading is Abraham Lincoln’s speech of 1854 in Preoria, Illinois. In rejecting the spread of slavery to Western territories, Lincoln stated, “I cannot but hate (slavery’s spread). I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. . . it enables the enemies of free institutions to taunt us as hypocrites. . . “5. Lincoln goes on to suggest not destroying slavery where it already exists, but limiting its spread.
After reading the two passages, write out a response to the following questions working alone or with a partner. This will be followed by a class discussion based on your responses.
- 1. What similar views on slavery do Douglass and Lincoln hold?
- 2. On what points would they disagree?
- 3. What could account for the points of disagreement based on one writer being a former slave and the other being a free white politician seeking office?
Selected Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Great Issues in American History, Douglass Circular found in Majestic in His Wrath.
As what Union Secretary of State William Seward called “the irrepressible conflict”came to a head, North and South realized the coming war was more than just a fight over The Union or secession. Slowly, Lincoln came to realize what Douglass and many Blacks had known all along; the war between the states was ultimately a conflict over slavery. In 1858, Lincoln proclaimed, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. . . I do not expect the government to fall, but I expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. “6
Douglass had urged the emancipation of the slaves in speeches and writings before the war. Lincoln had to be more cautious. As President of the whole nation (North and South), he had to write more moderately as not to alienate the border states and many Northerners who opposed abolition. Lincoln’s first priority was to save the Union and by doing this, end slavery. The difference between Douglass’ moral imperative and Lincoln’s political realities form the basis of study in this second section.
c. Lincoln and Douglass
The first reading is Lincoln’s letter to Horace Greely (Editor of The New York Herald) dated August 22, 1862. This letter was in response to Greely’s call for immediate emancipation. The war was in its second year, and Lincoln responded, “My paramount objective in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. . . “7
The letter shows a President who has not yet come to the realization of the need for emancipation or who felt that politically the time was not yet ripe for it. This would change shortly with his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
The second reading by Frederick Douglass is a Circular he wrote in 1853. Copright laws forbid me from reproducing the article in it entirety. It can be found in Majestic In His Wrath and its bibliographic information can be found at the end of this unit. I will give more detail on this reading than the others because of the possible greater difficulty in finding it.
Douglass founded and was editor of an abolitionist newspaper. He wrote constantly urging Lincoln and the country to realize that the war was over slavery, and emancipation had to be its crowning victory.
He wrote, “(This newspaper) will continue to advocate, as it has done, the immediate and unconditional emancipation of every slave in this country and throughout the world. “8 Douglass appeals to the Christian beliefs of men and women in realizing the evil of slavery and urges all churches to shun any owners of slaves or supporters of slavery. Similar to Martin Luther King a century later, Douglass started his grass roots civil rights campaign in the churches. Douglass felt that pressure on church leaders to use the pulpit to awaken their congregations to the sinfulness of slavery would speed up the day of its destruction. Douglass goes on to reject the idea of recolonization of Blacks in Africa, which even Lincoln supported for a while. It is the writings and actions of Douglass which influenced Lincoln to abandon this unrealistic and wrong idea. Douglass wanted Blacks to be free American citizens with the right to vote. He ends with an inspiring declaration to support the civil rights of all people everywhere.
After each reading, students should write out a response to the following questions and discuss answers in class.
- 1. Why do you think Lincoln was more interested in saving the Union than freeing the slaves? Why might he think he had to first save the Union before emancipation could take place?
- 2. Why was Douglass more interested in freeing the slaves than saving the Union? Why might he have thought the slaves had to be freed before the Union could be saved?
- 3. One can see the problem is either to save the Union or free the slaves. Eventually, Lincoln did free the slaves and save the Union, as we will see in section three. How in actuality were these two issues indivisible? Could one be accomplished without the other?
III. The Fight Begins
The Selected Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Douglass’ “Men of Color, To Arms!” found in Majestic in His Wrath.
Lincoln, influenced by the writings of Douglass, Greely, and others, finally issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which became law on Jan. 1, 1863. Although it only frees slaves in the states in rebellion against the Union, it paves the legal path for Blacks to become soldiers. Lincoln realized Blacks would first have to be declared citizens before they could be soldiers. The war now openly became a struggle not only to save the Union, but to free an imprisoned people (Southern slaves). Northern Blacks were now invited to become liberators of their own race. Lincoln, though still cautious, has declared by his Emancipation Proclamation that the causes of Union and abolition are basically one and the same.
Douglass had a more practical and personal reason for wanting Blacks to be soldiers. He knew that it was the only path open to allow Blacks to prove they had a right to full citizenship. Douglass writes, “Let the Black man get upon his chest the letters ‘U. S. ‘ and no one can deny his right to full citizenship. “9 This leads us to our readings.
c. Lincoln and Douglass
The first reading is from Abraham Lincoln and is a letter he sent to Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, who would become Lincoln’s Vice-President during his second presidential term. The letter reveals one of Lincoln’s motives for freeing the slaves. The letter states, “The colored population is the great available and yet unavailed of force for restoring the Union. “10 Lincoln goes on to urge Johnson to raise Black troops in the state of Tennessee.
The second reading is Douglass’ call for Blacks to military service which is entitled, “Men of Color, To Arms!” I again was unable to reproduce this document and because of the possible difficuly in obtaining it, more than the usual summary is given.
In this call, Douglass makes a stirring plea. It is an argument with which it is difficult for any able-bodied Black to disagree. He writes, “A war undertaken and brazenly carried on for the personal enslavement of colored men, calls logically and loudly upon colored men to help suppress it. “11 He states that it is no time for Blacks to argue whether to get involved in the “Whiteman’s war”; action must seize the day. Once the war is won, no one will be able to deny the Black contribution to it, and then debate about racial justice can begin. He says very plainly that it is “now or never” for ‘men of color’ to save the Union and free their people.
One can see here how Lincoln influenced Douglass, just as the latter had influenced the former. Douglass realizes that by saving the Union, slavery cannot survive in a destroyed Confederacy whose states have been returned to an emancipated Union. He goes on to urge men to join the regiment in Massachusetts, a state that has led the fight in the American Revolution and in the abolition of slavery. It is this call by Douglass that will lead us to section IV with the story of the 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment, the soldiers of “Glory. “ Two of Douglass’ sons even joined the regiment.
These two documents are to be read before the film, but can be used in conjunction with the work in section IV after the students have seen the film.
“Glory”-Columbia Tri-Star, 1989, Director-Edward Zwick
The film stars Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, and Morgan Freeman. This film is the climax of the unit and can truly be called an epic. “Glory” is set against the background of the Civil War and tells the true story of the first Black troops to fight in the war. It shows the creation, training, and battles of the 54th Massachusetts. It was a Black regiment led by the white Colonel Robert Gould Shaw.
Lincoln authorized Governor Andrews of Massachusetts to raise troops, and as we have seen, Frederick Douglass had a direct hand in raising volunteers to fill the regiment. The film depicts the harsh conditions, prejudice, and battles the regiment faced. The climax of the film is the 54th’s famous charge of Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina.
The regiment suffered fifty percent casualties in the ill-fated charge, but proved themselves as soldiers and earned the respect of their White comrades. The film in itself is a study in multi-culturalism as Black and White Union soldiers are compelled to live, work, and fight together. After much mistrust, a feeling of mutual respect grows between the races.
This film gives a visual conclusion to the theme of the unit. It is the writings of Douglass, Lincoln, and others that have brought the soldiers of the film to this first step on the road to freedom. How they respond to that opportunity is the crux of the film. It confims the theme that ideas and writings do influence history as the Black regiment is merely the result of a long literary and political struggle for Black equality that continues to this day.
Lincoln is mentioned and quoted in the film and the character of Frederick Douglass appears in the film. The film shows Douglass’ influence in creating the regiment.
The students can work in groups of three with one secretary writing answers to the following questions. A group discussion of the film based on these questions will follow:
- 1. What physical hardships did the Black soldiers endure?
- 2. What incidents of racial prejudice did they endure?
- 3. Why do you think the Black soldiers did not quit when given the chance by President Lincoln to do so?
- 4. How did Colonel Shaw come to view the Black soldiers under his command? How did the soldiers come to view him?
- 5. In light of the readings of Douglass and Lincoln, what were the pressures on the soldiers to perform well?
- 6. If the battle at Fort Wagner was a serious defeat for the soldiers of the 54th, why was the Union experiment of using Black soldiers still considered a success?
The following is an objective quiz on “Glory” that may be given before the part “c” above to measure the students’ general comprehension of the film. This can be used to see if the students understand the objective basics of the film before going on to the deeper analysis in the subsequent exercises. It is placed on a separate page to allow instructors to reproduce it.
True or False
- 1. _________The 54th Massachusetts fought for the South.
- 2. _________Frederick Douglass was against the idea of Black soldiers.
- 3. _________Northern soldiers were happy to have Black soldiers fighting with them.
- 4. _________Col. Shaw’s father was an abolitionist.
- 5. _________Thomas Searles was an educated free Black.
- 6. _________Black soldiers got the same pay as Whites.
- 7. _________The South proclaimed they would treat Black and White prisoners the same.
- 8. _________The 54th got guns and shoes first because they were going to fight first.
- 9. _________Col. Shaw was determined to have his men go into battle.
- 10. ________The 54th Mass. fought badly which hurt their reputation.
- 11. ________The 54th lost at Ft. Wagner, but word of their bravery spread. (caption at end of film)
- 12. ________Sgt. Mulcahy was tough in training his troops.
|13. ___Col. Shaw||a. The grave digger, promoted for getting shoes for the men|
|14. ___Maj. Forbes||b. Runaway slave, filled with hate|
|15. ___Sgt. Rawlins||c. Educated free Black, Shaw’s friend|
|16. ___Trip||d. Second in command, Shaw’s friend|
|17. ___Jupiter Sharts||e. Irish drill Sgt.|
|18. ___Sgt. Mulcahy||f. Commander of the 54th Mass.|
|19. ___Tom Searles||g. Helped get recruits for the regiment|
|20. ___F. Douglass||h. Runaway slave, stutters, good with a gun|
Key-1-F 2-F 3-F 4-T 5-T 6-F 7-F 8-F 9-T 10-F 11-T 12-T 13-f 14-d 15-a 16-b 17-h 18-e 19-c 20-g
- 1. Trip called Shaw “a weak, White boy. “ Is this true? Why or why not?
- 2. How did Trip’s attitude toward Thomas (“Snowflake”) change by the end of the film?
- 3. Why did Col. Shaw and Sgt. Mulcahy have to be so hard on the men they were training?
- 4. Despite less pay, poor treatment, and Southern threats, the 54th Mass. soldiers stayed and fought on? Why?
- 5. Why and how did the other Northern White troops begin to respect the Black soldiers?
The essays may vary and answers are left up to the knowledge and discretion of the instructor, as are the essays in all the sections.
Part “e” will help students learn to analyze a film. By analyzing “Glory,” students will be able “to read film. “ By doing these exercises in the context of the entire unit, students will discover how the film uses scenes and techniques to present its ideology (message) of Black equality. The film presents the idea that because of Black struggle and sacrifice to save the Union, their right to full citizenship and equality is undeniable. The following exercises provide information and questions geared to help students “dissect” the film and discover its ideology.
It is also the overall intention of the unit to have students see how the events of the film are the direct result of the writing and politics that preceded it, as studied in sections I,II, and III. Writing and political involvement do affect events. The 54th Massachusetts is the physical result or consequence of the convictions, writings, and politics of men like Lincoln and Douglass. The unit has tried to show this progression from idea, to writing, to reality.
In the American Film article, “Fighting Black,” Arnold White writes, “Glory” places such enraptured concentration on the assorted motives and personalities of its Black regiment that the actors fill the gaps in historical myth with their individual fierceness, handsomeness, and emotion. “12
Although the 54th Mass. acted as one in preparation and in battle, the director goes out of his way to show the main Black characters as individual men. Each has his own personality and personal reason for fighting in the war. Identify the personality and the motivation for wanting to serve in each of the following characters and try to compare (how they are alike) and contrast (how they are different) each to another character on the list.
1. Sgt. Rawlins
3. Thomas Searles
4. Jupiter Sharts
Why do you think the director went through so much trouble to emphasize the soldiers’ individuality?
In Film Art, David Bordwell describes a rhetorical film as one which makes the audience hold an opinion and lays out evidence to support it. “Because rhetorical films deal with beliefs and arguments, they involve the expression of ideology. Indeed perhaps no type of film form centers so consistently around explicit meaning and ideological implications. “13
Bordwell defines ideology as “a relatively coherent system of values, beliefs, or ideas shared by some social group and often taken for granted as natural or inherently true. “14 Keeping in mind these two defintions, review (watch again) the last part of “Glory” from the night before the final assault on Ft. Wagner to the end of the film. After the review, answer and discuss the following questions.
- 1. Do you think “Glory” is a rhetorical film? why or why not?
- 2. If you anwered “yes” to question #1, what is the ideology or truth that the film is trying to get across?
- 3. What specific scenes express or support this ideology? how?
These scenes are listed chronologically. What do the four scenes have in common? The first three scenes lead up to the most important fourth scene where the White officer Shaw is laid next to one of his Black soldiers in a pit. What ideology (message or truth) is being presented in this last slow motion scene?
- Slow motion is used in many scenes dealing with violence or death. Four examples are:
- 1. A wounded Col. Shaw is back in Boston watching another wounded man in a wheelchair.
- 2. The Black soldiers do mock battles after being issued guns.
- 3. Shaw gets shot and killed in the final assault on Ft. Wagner.
- 4. Shaw and Trip are placed together in a mass grave (final scene).
The horse is used throughout the film as a prop to show the growing equality between Black and White. Review the following chronological scenes.
Analyze each scene for camera angle to see who is speaking to whom from above or below the horse. How does the order and camera angle of these three scenes show a growing respect and equality between Shaw and his regiment? Keep in mind how Shaw begins on the horse when he first meets his regiment and abandons it when he is with them for the last time.
- 1. Shaw first addresses the recruits while sitting on top of his horse.
- 2. Shaw gets down from his horse to talk to Maj. Forbes about how the men should be treated.
- 3. Shaw sends his riderless horse down the beach before the final battle in which he is killed.
It is also suggested that the instructor have the students write their own speeches to argue the pros and cons of a current or historical issue. This will involve them in writing, public speaking, and debate. It will allow the students to more fully understand and appreciate the process of politics (the influence of public opinion) as used by Lincoln and Douglass. Both sides of the issue can present speeches and the audience (class) can judge who was more effective based on content, truth, and public speaking skills.
Douglass, Frederick, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. New Jersey: Outlet Book Company Inc. , 1993. This is Douglass’ autobiography covering his childhood in slavery, his escape, and his rise to become one of the leading political figures of his era.
Gross, Anthony, The Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, New York: Barnes and Noble Books, l994. This is a collection of short writings by Abraham Lincoln, from his early days to the White House, revealing the humor and intelligence of our sixteenth President.
Hofstadter, Richard, Great Issues in American History, Vol II. New York: Vintage Books, l958. This is a collection of writings by leading American figures on the great issues of the time between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
Miller, Douglas T. , Frederick Douglass and the Fight for Freedom, New York: Facts of File Publications, l988. This book tells the story of Douglass as slave, free man, editor, public speaker, author, and office holder. In each position, Douglass is shown never to waiver from his primary mission, the destruction of slavery and oppression.
Mitgang, Herbert, Selected Writings of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Bantam Books, 1992. As the title indicates, it is a collection of Lincoln’s most memorable speeches and prose.
Pym, John, “For the Union Dead,” in Sight and Sound, New York: Spring, l990. A film review of “Glory” which provides good background and insight into the film.
Voss, Frederick, Majestic In His Wrath. Washington, D. C. : Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995. A pictorial account of Frederick Douglass’ life with accompanying narrative.
White, Arnold, “Fighting Black,” in American Film, New York: l990. Interview with Director David Zwick about his film “Glory. “
Wills, Gary, Lincoln at Gettysburg-The Words that Remade America, New York: Simon and Schuster, l992. An academic analysis of the revolutionary style and political imagery of Lincoln’s most famous speech.
Cummins, Duane and White, William, The Origins of the Civil War, Beverly Hills: Benziger, l972. A short book which gives an excellent balance of the Northern and Southern positions that led to the bloodiest conflict in American history.
Douglass, Frederick, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. New Jersey: Outlet Book Company Inc. , l993. This is Douglass’ autobiography covering his childhood in slavery, his escape, and his rise to become one of the leading political figures of his era.
Gross, Anthony, The Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, New York: Barnes and Noble Books, l994. A collection of short writings of Abraham Lincoln, from his early days to the White House, revealing the humor and intelligence of our sixteenth President.
Miller, Douglas T. , Frederick Douglass and the Fight for Freedom. New York: Facts on File Publications, l988. This book tells the story of Douglass as slave, free man, editor, public speaker, author, and office holder. In each position, Douglass is shown never to waiver from his primary mission, the destruction of slavery and oppression.
Mitgang, Herbert, Selected Writings of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Bantam Books, l992. As the title indicates, it is a collection of Lincoln’s most memorable speeches and prose.
Pym, John, “For the Union Dead,” in Sight and Sound, New York: Spring, l990. A film review of “Glory” which provides good background and insight into the film.
Sandburg, Carl, Abraham Lincoln, Vols. I,II,III. New York: Dell Publishing Co. , Inc. , l954. Poet and author Carl Sandburg’s masterful retelling of the events, words, and deeds that made up the life of an American original.
Voss, Frederick, Majestic In His Wrath. Washington D. C. : Smithsonian Institution Press, l995. A pictorial account of Frederick Douglass’ life with accompanying narrative.
White, Arnold, “Fighting Black,” in American Film: New York, l990. Interview with Director Edward Zwick about his film “Glory. “
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