Frederick Douglass
Lesson plans and teaching resources

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Lesson Plans
Introductory lecture, discussion questions, vocabulary lists, chapter-by-chapter study questions, a multiple-choice test, essay questions. Also available: puzzle pack, vocabulary pack, response journal, activity pack, more.

|Biography and Background| |Resources for Reading|
|Resources for Research and Writing| |Related Sites|

Biography and Background

Biography: Frederick Douglass
A brief written biography and a 3:27 video clip.

Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938
This collection from the Library of Congress includes ideas for 5 different lessons.

Songs of Slavery
Students read and analyze 4 songs, write a protest song of their own, and discuss "the significance of music and coded language in the slave community."

The Underground Railroad in New York State
This site catalogs information on the People and Places of New York that were involved in the activities of the Underground Railroad, and provides reliable information about their role in African Americans' struggle for freedom.

Resources for Reading

Close Reading: Frederick Douglass
The goal of this two to three day exemplar is to give students the opportunity to explore the point of view of a man who survived slavery. By reading and rereading the passage closely, combined with classroom discussion about it, students will explore the various beliefs and points of view Douglass experienced as he became increasingly aware of the unfairness of his life. Students will need to consider the emotional context of words and how diction (word choice) affects an authorís message. When combined with writing about the passage and teacher feedback, students will form a deeper understanding of how slavery affected those involved. Includes passage for close reading. Designed for grade 8. 22 pages; word processor required.

"An Appeal to Congress for Impartial Suffrage"
This article by Douglass was published in The Atlantic in 1867.

Escape from Slavery, 1838
Excerpts from Douglass's writing illustrated with period photographs.

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself
Chapter-by-chapter questions for analysis and discussion.

From Courage to Freedom: Frederick Douglass's 1845 Autobiography
Three lessons based on Douglass' first autobiography. Students analyze Douglass's vivid first-hand accounts of the lives of slaves and the behavior of slave owners to see how he successfully contrasts reality with romanticism and powerfully uses imagery, irony, connotative and denotative language, strong active verbs, repetition, and rhetorical appeals to persuade the reader of slavery's evil. Students will also identify and discuss Douglass's acts of physical and intellectual courage on his journey towards freedom.

"The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro"
Don't miss the video in which actor Danny Glover reads Douglass's words, 6:10.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself
Downloadable text in multiple formats, including EPUB, Kindle, and plain text.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave
Summary and some discussion questions.

This article by Douglass was published in The Atlantic in 1866.

"Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln"
Text of Douglass' speech, available online, in PDF, or in Google Docs format.

Teacher's Guide to Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself
Overview, study questions, and learning activities from Penguin Putnam. Requires Adobe Reader or compatible application for access.

Vocabulary from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
A list of 234 words drawn from the autobiography, presented with definitions in the sentence in which they were used.

"What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?"
This close reading activity focuses on the arguments and rhetorical strategies Douglass used. It includes students handouts and an online interactive activity.

Resources for Research and Writing

Biography Writing with Patricia and Frederick McKissack at
Students learn how to research and write a biographical sketch, including research and writing strategies. They can also receive a Certificate of Achievement. Sample biography of Frederick Douglass is available onsite.

Famous Person: Frederick Douglass
This set of lessons is designed for 5th and 6th graders. It includes biography, classroom activities, and suggestions for assessment.

Frederick Douglass
On this page, a brief biography. Follow the links to teaching ideas, discussion questions, and archived support materials.

New 11/20Frederick Douglass: Activist and Autobiographer
Resources and teaching suggestions from the US Library of Congress.

Related Sites

Douglass in the Classroom
After reading and researching, 4th graders form a tableau vivant in response to the question, "Would you rather be a male or female slave and why?" Includes handout.

Mapping Slavery
From the U. S. Library of Congress: "The 1860 census was the last time the federal government took a count of the Southern slave population. In 1861, the United States Coast Survey issued two maps of slavery based on the census data: the first mapped Virginia and the second mapped Southern states as a whole." This infographic may contribute to student understanding of the background to the Autobiography.

"Poetry Out Loud" Winner Reads "Frederick Douglass"
Follow the link to an audiofile of high school student Shawntay Henry reciting Robert Hayden's poem "Frederick Douglass."

Reliving History Through Slave Narratives
After reading narratives from former slaves that were recorded in the 1930's as part of the Federal Writers' Project, students conduct research on slavery and tell a story based on their findings. The lesson incorporates an exploration of storytelling techniques. Designed for grades 5-8.

Frederick Douglass: The Last Day of Slavery by William Miller
The teacher guide for this children's book includes summary, prereading and comprehension questions, vocabulary, suggestions for use in literature circles, reader response and writing topics, ESL and interdisciplinary strategies. Access to this 8-page document requires Adobe Reader or compatible application.

National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
Sponsored by the National Park Service, this site provides links to national historical sites and to additional information about the Underground Railroad.

Slave Narratives
A collection of narratives and activities to engage students.

What Does This Song Really Say?
Students listen to, sing, and read the lyrics to various African American spirituals. They discuss the coded messages in the songs, and the purpose of these codes. Students then write original coded messages, and present their work in a performance format.

"What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"
Students note details as they read. Includes text-dependent questions and suggested evidence-based answers, academic vocabulary, a culminating writing prompt and model essay, and additional learning activities. Word processor required for access. Free Trial offer

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