Reading Revolutions:  Ideas for Teaching

Learning Activities

History Activities:  Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln


The Historical non-fiction piece of writing as composed January 1, 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America. The purpose of the address is to inform the people of the US that from January 1, 1863 slaves shall be granted their freedom from the American slave owners. The document states that all military authorities shall recognize this freedom, as well as the citizens of the US.

About the Author

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States of America. He was born February 12, 1809 and died April, 15 1865. Lincoln was in office as the president of the United States from 1861-1865. While serving in office President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves of America. President Lincoln was assassinated April, 14 1865 by John Wilks Booth.

Teaching Ideas

Pre-Reading Activity
A great way to begin a discussion about a piece of historical non-fiction is to create a historical foundation for the readers. Informing students of the events occurring in the United States, as well as in the rest of the world during this time period will help them understand the value of such a document and proclamation.

Another suggestion for a pre-reading activity is to have students journal or discussion what it means to be free. Student may be encouraged to think about where their freedoms come from, and what being free really means; the question of whether we control our freedom or not could be posed.

Thematic Connections
FREEDOM - Explore what it means to be free. Are there different types of freedoms? Can we control our own freedom? Is freedom really free will? Who should determine the freedom of others? Define freedom.

EQUALITY - Consider whether or not being free makes you equal. After slaves were freed were the equal to all others? How do you gain equality? Must you have equality to have freedom?

HISTORICAL EVENTS - How did the events occurring at this time affect President Lincoln actions? If you were President Lincoln would you have had the courage to make this proclamation? What can we learn about the directions/intentions for the United States of America from this proclamation? How is this proclamation reflected in today's society? Are its values still upheld? Has the meaning of the proclamation changed throughout history?

Connecting to the Curriculum
HISTORY - This document holds tremendous historical value to the United States. Studying this document can shed light on the events of history and how motions such as this one made centuries ago effect how we live today.

POLITICAL SCIENCE - Exposure to this proclamation can help students understand the historical language of politics. Students could evaluate how an address such as this one compares to a more current political address. Students may also take a closer look at the formalities and formats of writing such a proclamation and compare these characteristics to the formalities and formatting of modern day bills and proposals.

LANGUAGE ARTS - This piece of writing demonstrates the historical language of the time period. A comparison of this language and the language used in today's politics could be made. Students could explore which language is more effective in the political world.

VOCABULARY - The vocabulary of this document can be challenging for a reader who has not been exposed to the word-choice and language of this time period. A pre-reading activity should help to guide the students in the process of understanding the language. Also, students can write their own translations of the document to demonstrate their understanding of the difficult language.

Beyond the Book - Internet Resources

The White House
Biography of Abraham Lincoln

National Archives and Records Administration
The Emancipation Proclamation

Emancipation Proclamation
Educator's Guide

America's Reconstruction
Digital History


The National Archives Experience
American Originals

Dr. Denise DeVito
Assistant Professor of Literacy Education Middle and Secondary Education
University of Maine at Farmington