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Young Frederick

In this module, students view a clip examining how literacy helped Frederick Douglass consider the possibility of a life beyond slavery, analyze primary sources from the era, and consider discussion prompts for more dialogue and deeper reflection.

Essential Question:
How did literacy provide a “gateway” for Frederick Douglass? Where did the gateway lead?

Thinking Questions:

  • How might Frederick Douglass’s life be different if he had stayed on the plantation on the Eastern Shore?
  • What was Frederick Douglass able to learn by observing others in his new household In Baltimore?
  • Why didn’t slave owners want enslaved people to learn how to read?

Analyze the photograph, Isaac & Rosa, slave children from New Orleans.

  • Look closely at the image and make observations about what you notice, wonder, and feel.
  • Why do you think this photograph was taken?
  • What do you learn about Issac and Rosa from this photograph?
  • What’s missing from the photograph that you wonder about?
  • What questions do you have about childhood for enslaved children?

Examine the map, General map of the United States, showing the area and extent of the free & slave-holding states.

  • What do you notice first? What size and shape is the map?
  • Why do you think this map was made?
  • What place or places does the map show?
  • Look closely at the key at the bottom of the map. What do you learn about the population of enslaved people in the free states and slave-holding states?
  • How can you tell the difference between free states and slave-holding states on this map?

Analyze the illustration, Baltimore from Federal Hill.

  • Look closely at the illustration and make observations about what you notice, wonder, and feel.
  • What do you notice first? What size and shape is the illustration?
  • Why do you think this illustration was made?
  • What place or places does the illustration show?
  • Who do you think was the audience for this illustration?


  • Students will analyze the impact of antebellum reform movements on American politics and society by:
    • Evaluating the impact of social reform movements on temperance, prison, and educational reform.

    • Tracing the evolution, arguments, and impacts of the antebellum women’s movement.

    • Identifying the methods, arguments, and impacts of the abolitionist movement.

  • D2.Civ.6.6-8. Describe the roles of political, civil, and economic organizations in shaping people’s lives.

  • D2.Civ.10.6-8. Explain the relevance of personal interests and perspectives, civic virtues, and democratic principles when people address issues and problems in government and civil society.

  • D2.Civ.14.6-8. Compare historical and contemporary means of changing societies, and promoting the common good.

  • D2.Geo.4.6-8. Explain how cultural patterns and economic decisions influence environments and the daily lives of people in both nearby and distant places.

  • D2.His.1.6-8. Analyze connections among events and developments in broader historical contexts.

  • D2.His.3.6-8. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to analyze why they, and the developments they shaped, are seen as historically significant.

  • RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

  • RH.6-8.8 Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.

  • RH.6-8.9 Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.

  • WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.