- Students will be able to evaluate the impact of John Brown’s approach to the abolition of slavery by examining primary sources to determine whether he was a hero or a villain.
- Students will be able to apply elements of the arguments over John Brown to modern-day controversies.
For additional study, see Paul Finkelman, “John Brown: America’s First Terrorist?” Prologue Magazine, 43 no. 1 (2011):16–27.
Begin by walking students throughHandout A: John Brown Background Essay and Timelineand accompanying discussion question. DistributeHandout B: Student Document Handout.
Guided by the Key Question, students analyze the documents alone, with a partner, or in small groups, as best suits the teacher’s classroom.
Key Question: John Brown sought to destroy slavery. In the methods he chose to carry out this goal, was he a hero or a villain?
Students synthesize the documents by working in small groups to fill in Handout C: DBQ Document Organizer and then draft a thesis in response to the Key Question. Depending on time available for this lesson, the teacher may also require students to develop an outline, and/or a rough draft of the essay individually or in small groups.
The teacher may assess student work using methods such as:
- Peer review of thesis/outline/essay
- Reflection on thesis/outline/essay
- Self-grading or teacher assessment with DBQ rubric from the College Board