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Teaching Hard History Text Library

Welcome to the Teaching Hard History Text Library. This collection includes more than 100 primary sources selected to support robust teaching and learning about the Key Concepts and Summary Objectives found in A Framework for Teaching American Slavery. The texts are also mapped to the four domains of the Social Justice Standards. Each includes a set of text-dependent questions.

Informational

Sherman’s Special Field Order, No. 15

Sherman’s Order is the source of the phrase, “forty acres and a mule,” a believed promise for land redistribution to former enslaved people.
Grade Level
6-8
9-12
General William T. Sherman
Topic
Slavery
Race & Ethnicity
Subject
History
Social Justice Domain
Justice
Informational

Army Office Letter and “I am Committee” Broadside

This Reconstruction-era broadside shows the ways in which African Americans were intimidated and threatened in order to maintain a racially stratified society.
Grade Level
6-8
9-12
Topic
Slavery
Race & Ethnicity
Subject
History
Social Justice Domain
Diversity
Justice
Informational

Letter to Isaac M. Schermerhorn

In this letter, Lincoln offers his argument in favor of finishing the war rather than reaching a peace agreement with the Confederate government.
Grade Level
6-8
9-12
Abraham Lincoln
Topic
Slavery
Race & Ethnicity
Ability
Subject
History
Social Justice Domain
Identity
Diversity
Justice
Action
Informational

Letter to President Lincoln

Goodings argues against the lower pay of black soldiers than white soldiers in the United States Army ($10 a month vs. $13 a month). Goodings sets forth a number of arguments in favor of equal pay for black soldiers, asking President Lincoln to intervene and even out this inequality.
Grade Level
6-8
9-12
James Henry Goodings
Topic
Slavery
Race & Ethnicity
Ability
Class
Gender & Sexual Identity
Subject
Civics
History
Economics
Social Justice Domain
Identity
Diversity
Justice
Action
Informational

An Act to Confiscate Property Used for Insurrectionary Purposes

In this document, the U.S. government outlined its new policy towards escaped formerly enslaved persons during the Civil War.
Grade Level
9-12
37th U.S. Congress
Topic
Slavery
Race & Ethnicity
Immigration
Subject
Civics
History
Economics
Social Justice Domain
Identity
Diversity
Justice
Action
Informational

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

In this passage from the autobiography, Jacobs describes her life as a teenager in the household of her enslaver. She describes the sexual advances of her adult male enslaver, as well as the jealousy and ire of her adult female enslaver those advances caused.
Grade Level
6-8
9-12
Harriet A. Jacobs
Topic
Slavery
Race & Ethnicity
Ability
Class
Gender & Sexual Identity
Subject
History
Social Justice Domain
Identity
Diversity
Justice
Action
Informational

Frederick Douglass Describes Enslavers

In this specific passage, which comes from the book’s first chapter, Douglass describes his enslavers. The passage focuses on Douglass’s memory of his first encounter with the brutality of his enslavers.
Grade Level
6-8
9-12
Frederick Douglass
Topic
Slavery
Race & Ethnicity
Religion
Ability
Class
Gender & Sexual Identity
Subject
History
Social Justice Domain
Identity
Diversity
Justice
Action
Informational

Letter to Ziba B. Oakes, February 1, 1855

King writes to inquire about the availability and price of certain categories of enslaved persons in Charleston, South Carolina. King also makes some general comments about the state of the economy in Milledgeville.
Grade Level
6-8
9-12
Jesse King
Topic
Slavery
Race & Ethnicity
Class
Gender & Sexual Identity
Subject
History
Economics
Social Justice Domain
Identity
Diversity
Justice
Action
Informational

Letter to Ziba B. Oakes, February 26, 1855

Sumter inquires about an enslaved woman named Clarissa, whom Oakes had evidently “advertised” for sale as a “cook & washer.” Among his questions, Sumter inquires specifically whether Clarissa "has had children or miscarried."
Grade Level
6-8
9-12
F. Sumter
Topic
Slavery
Race & Ethnicity
Ability
Class
Gender & Sexual Identity
Subject
History
Economics
Social Justice Domain
Identity
Diversity
Justice
Action
Informational

Militia Act of 1862

The Militia Act paved the way for the Emancipation Proclamation, but it also illustrates inequality and reflects perspectives of white supremacy.
Grade Level
6-8
9-12
Topic
Slavery
Race & Ethnicity
Subject
History
Social Justice Domain
Diversity
Justice
Informational

“Cornerstone” Speech

In this speech, Alexander H. Stephens justifies the Confederacy’s secession, arguing that the “cornerstone” of the Confederacy is the maintenance of the institution of slavery and the belief in the inferiority of African Americans.
Grade Level
6-8
9-12
Alexander H. Stephens
Topic
Slavery
Race & Ethnicity
Subject
History
Informational

Letter to Alexander H. Stephens, December 22, 1860

Lincoln’s letter to Alexander H. Stephens states his desire to prevent slavery’s spread and not threaten it where it already existed. This speaks to the centrality of slavery as a cause of the Civil War.
Grade Level
6-8
9-12
Abraham Lincoln
Topic
Slavery
Subject
History
Social Justice Domain
Justice
Informational

First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

Lincoln’s first inaugural address illustrates the centrality of slavery in southern states decision to secede after the 1860 election.
Grade Level
6-8
9-12
Abraham Lincoln
Topic
Slavery
Subject
History
Social Justice Domain
Justice