“Men of Color: To Arms! To Arms!”

by Elizabeth Berlin Taylor

Overview

Approximately 200,000 African American men served as soldiers during the Civil War. This lesson seeks to teach fifth grade students not only the skill of analyzing a primary source but also the methods that were utilized to entice free blacks to serve in the Union Army during the war. Students will read and then rewrite a recruitment broadside and then will create a visual that contains four reasons why African Americans should fight in the Civil War.

Introduction

On March 21, 1863, Frederick Douglass asserted that “A war undertaken and brazenly carried on for the perpetual enslavement of colored men, calls logically and loudly for colored men to help suppress it.” This was but one of the many appeals by Douglass to recruit African American men to join the Union forces. Douglass argued that if black men helped defeat the Confederacy, they would not only end slavery but would be treated equally by whites after the war. His view about equal treatment was overly optimistic but black soldiers' participation did advance the cause of equality. This has been reconfirmed by many modern historians, including Eric Foner, who in a 2001 essay, wrote that “the enlistment of two hundred thousand black men in the Union armed forces during the second half of the war . . . had placed black citizenship on the postwar agenda.” During the latter years of the Civil War, several appeals for the enlistment of free African Americans living in the North were disseminated, including the broadside “Men of Color: To Arms! To Arms!” which is featured in this lesson.

Materials

Essential Question

Why did Frederick Douglass and others want free black men to fight on the side of the Union during the Civil War?

Objectives

  • Students will be able to read and analyze a primary source document.
  • Students will be able to define difficult vocabulary words and understand their usage in a historical document.
  • Students will be able to create a visual that describes and illustrates reasons why African Americans should have fought for the Union during the Civil War.

Motivation

Ask students to answer the following prompt on a sticky note: “Should African Americans have fought in the Civil War? Explain.” Once students have written their answers, ask them to affix their answers to a continuum drawn on the board that says on one end “strongly disagree” and on the other “strongly agree.” Students should place their sticky notes on the place that best describes their opinions.
Discuss different answers.

Lesson Activities

Put students in groups of four. Pass out two-sided copies of the broadside. One side should show the broadside in its original form. The other should contain the typed transcript, which is easier for students to read.

Assign each group a different section of the broadside. Ask group members to read through their section and underline all of the words they do not understand. Groups will then define each word in their notebooks.

The student groups will rewrite their section in no more than three simple sentences.

Each group will choose a representative to present their rewrite to the class. As the students present, the teacher will either type the answer and project it onto a screen or interactive white board, or will write it on a projected overhead transparency, according to the available technology in the classroom. The teacher will leave the projected and rewritten broadside up as the students begin their other tasks.

Pass out the Picture Window Handout. Students will be charged to come up with four reasons why African Americans should have fought in the Civil War, according to the broadside. Students will write one reason in each frame of the window and will illustrate each.

Assessment

Ask students, “would this broadside have convinced you to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War? Why or why not?” The class should discuss the answers that are suggested by students.

Extension

Students can research other recruitment appeals for free African American soldiers and create a PowerPoint presentation that showcases them.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Already have an account?

Please click here to login and access this page.

How to subscribe

Click here to get a free subscription if you are a K-12 educator or student, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program, which provides even more benefits.

Otherwise, click here for information on a paid subscription for those who are not K-12 educators or students.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Become an Affiliate School to have free access to the Gilder Lehrman site and all its features.

Click here to start your Affiliate School application today! You will have free access while your application is being processed.

Individual K-12 educators and students can also get a free subscription to the site by making a site account with a school-affiliated email address. Click here to do so now!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Why Gilder Lehrman?

Your subscription grants you access to archives of rare historical documents, lectures by top historians, and a wealth of original historical material, while also helping to support history education in schools nationwide. Click here to see the kinds of historical resources to which you'll have access and here to read more about the Institute's educational programs.

Individual subscription: $25

Click here to sign up for an individual subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Upgrade your Account

We're sorry, but it looks as though you do not have access to the full Gilder Lehrman site.

All K-12 educators receive free subscriptions to the Gilder Lehrman site, and our Affiliate School members gain even more benefits!

How to Subscribe

K-12 educator or student? Click here to edit your profile and indicate this, giving you free access, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program.

Not a educator or student? Click here for more information on purchasing a subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Add comment

Login or register to post comments