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His Soul Goes Marching On: The Life and Legacy of John Brown
Lesson Plans


The philosophy of Archives and History is to provide teachers and students with primary source documents and the tools to use them to further their teaching and study of West Virginia and United States history. In any endeavor of this type it is difficult to create lessons where “one size fits all.” From the start we have tried to devise lessons that can be easily adapted, minimized, expanded and/or changed to fit the individual needs of teachers and their students. We have provided all of the following lessons in pdf and Word formats and would strongly encourage their use in any form that you deem appropriate. We would also encourage you to use the other resources and images found in His Soul Goes Marching On: The Life and Legacy of John Brown and any other information found on our website.

If you have questions, comments, lessons of your own that you would like to share, or subject area for which you would like lesson plans, please contact Matt McGrew.

History Scene Investigators – John Brown’s Raid PDF   DOC   PPT

In this lesson students play the role of a crime scene investigator looking at John Brown’s Raid. The investigation begins with three image analysis exercises that use the actual images that appeared in Harper’s Weekly and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. Utilizing the online exhibit His Soul Goes Marching On: The Life and Legacy of John Brown, produced by West Virginia Archives and History, students will compile the important way points on the road to Harpers Ferry and create a timeline of John Brown’s Raid. Students will next compile the evidence that could be used to prosecute the case. With the timeline in place and the evidence collected, students will then investigate the people who carried out the raid. The final exercise for the History Scene Investigators is to compile all of the information that the students have gathered into a final report. The lesson is provided in pdf and Word formats so that teachers can adapt it to their needs. Included are the lesson plan, worksheets, and a PowerPoint that corresponds to the History Scene Investigators –John Brown’s Raid lesson.

Intelligence of Authentic Character – News Coverage and John Brown’s Raid PDF   DOC

When John Brown’s Raid happened in 1859 the railroad and telegraph were relatively new technologies. As with the technology of today these new technologies transformed the coverage of the news. In this lesson students will examine telegraph dispatches that were published in the October 18, 1859, edition of the Wheeling Intelligencer. These dispatches variously describe the raid as a slave revolt, a wage dispute and a labor uprising. The size and scale of the raid went from a handful of people up to 250. After reading the dispatches students will be asked a series of questions about reporting of the raid and will utilize the online exhibit His Soul Goes Marching On: The Life and Legacy of John Brown, produced by West Virginia ARchives and History, to write a report on what actually happened in the raid to compare with the initial reporting. The final questions ask students to consider the pitfalls of instantaneous news coverage. The lesson is provided in pdf and Word formats so that teachers can adapt it to their needs. Included are the lesson plan and the Intelligence of Authentic Character worksheet.

Harpers Ferry Letters PDF   DOC

John Brown’s Raid was one of the most galvanizing events in American history. Slavery was the question of the day, but prior to the raid most Americans filled the middle ground. Following the raid that middle ground evaporated and people were forced to pick a side. In the Harpers Ferry Letters lesson students will explore the impressions of the raid through the eyes of three individuals. The first individual is a resident of Harpers Ferry that watched the raid transpire and felt the full terror that it unleashed. The second is an abolitionist from Massachusetts that applauds the efforts of John Brown to overthrow slavery. The third is an African American soldier that passed through Harpers Ferry during the Civil War. To help provide context to their letters students will utilize the online exhibit called His Soul Goes Marching On: The Life and Legacy of John Brown, produced by West Virginia Archives and History. The lesson is provided in pdf and Word formats so that teachers can adapt it to their needs. Included are the lesson plan and the Harpers Ferry Letters worksheet.

Declarations and the Quest for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness PDF   DOC

The Declaration of Independence has been used by freedom fighters from the time Thomas Jefferson penned it. In his attempt to overthrown slavery, John Brown created "A Declaration of Liberty by the Representatives of the Slave Population of the United States of America." In this exercise students will closely examine and dissect The Declaration of Independence into its component parts and then compare it to John Brown’s "Declaration of Liberty." The lesson is provided in pdf and Word formats so that teachers can adapt it to their needs. Included are the lesson plan, a copy of The Declaration of Independence and "A Declaration of Liberty by the Representatives of the Slave Population of the United States of America."

An Act Worth of Reward PDF   DOC

By the time of the raid on Harpers Ferry, a myth had developed around John Brown. He was known as “Osawatomie Brown” for his part in the slavery violence that erupted in “Bloody Kansas.” Following his arrest John Brown displayed a much different persona and he accepted his role as a martyr. In this lesson students will read John Brown’s speech to the court following the issuing of his death warrant, a letter he wrote to a friend, and his last words scribbled on a note and passed to his jailer as he was taken to the gallows. From these excerpts and the questions that follow, students will examine John Brown’s intentions, beliefs, arguments and his prophetic words that foreshadow the American Civil War. The lesson is provided in pdf and Word formats so that teachers can adapt it to their needs. Included are the lesson plan and An Act Worthy of Reward worksheet.

Editorials: The Guiding Voice of Authority? PDF   DOC

Today students encounter media in various forms, from Internet sites like YouTube and television shows like The Daily Show to talk radio. But can students discriminate between what is news and what is editorial? In this exercise students will examine two editorials written by newspapers following John Brown’s Raid. The first editorial was published in The Wheeling Intelligencer and the second in The Register in Shepherdstown, (West) Virginia. While both of these editorials assume the voice of authority, they disagree on the lessons of John Brown’s Raid. After reading the editorials students will answer a series of questions that outline the views of both papers. The final part of the exercise asks students to explore the differences between traditional news coverage and the editorial. The lesson is provided in pdf and Word formats so that teachers can adapt it to their needs. Included are the lesson plan and the Editorials: The Guiding Voice of Authority worksheet.

The Debate- John Brown: Martyr or Madman? PDF   DOC

Following the death of John Brown a political and social firestorm erupted in the United States. In the south, John Brown was viewed as a crazed abolitionist bent on death, murder and mayhem. In abolitionist circles he was a hero and martyr delivered by the hand of God to heaven. It was these differing views that galvanized the views of most Americans and created the ever widening gulf between North and South as southerners became steadfast in their protection of slavery and northerners questioned the moral implication of slavery and urged immediate emancipation. In this lesson students will be drawn into the John Brown debate. Students will be divided into groups and provided with readings that contain two different views of John Brown. The first worksheet is written to characterize John Brown as a madman. The second set of readings applauds John Brown for his efforts to overthrow slavery. The questions that follow are designed to spark a debate between the various student groups. The final set of questions asks students to ponder Machiavelli’s notion that “the ends justify the means.” The lesson is provided in pdf and Word formats so that teachers can adapt it to their needs. Included are the lesson plan, reading passages and the worksheets necessary to conduct the lesson.


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