High School Unit I

Activity 1: Interviewing Anti-Slavery Activists

Students can use the search tool on the Mass Moments website to find a list of “moments” that feature individuals who were prominent in the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts. The essays can be read online or printed out.

A good approach is to have students work in pairs, concentrating on learning about a single individual. One student takes on the role of an abolitionist and the other the role of an interviewer. (He or she may wish to play a real journalist.) To prepare, students read the Mass Moment essay, primary sources, and additional resources listed at the end of the lesson, and then plan a five- to eight-minute interview that they will conduct in front of the class.

In addition to the abolitionists featured in the related Mass Moments listed for this lesson, students can investigate and interview:

  • William Wells Brown
  • Edward Everett Hale
  • Lewis Hayden
  • Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • Hutchinson Family
  • Samuel May, Jr.
  • Robert Morris
  • William Cooper Nell
  • Theodore Parker
  • Wendell Phillips
  • Charles Lenox Remond
  • Maria Stewart

Students can find information about these individuals on websites listed in the Suggested Resources at the end of the lesson.

When all the interviews have been conducted, conclude with a class discussion of the following questions:

1. What wrongs were anti-slavery activists seeking to right?

2. What strategies did activists use to advance the cause of abolition and/or equal rights?

3. Which strategies might have been the most controversial then? Which are still controversial? Why?

4. Which strategies used in the 1800s are still used today? Which are not? Why?

5. What surprised students about the activists the class interviewed?