Teaching Activities (Free)

Who Fought to End Slavery? Meet the Abolitionists

Teaching Activity. By Adam Sanchez, Brady Bennon, Deb Delman, and Jessica Lovaas. This mixer role play introduces students to the stories of famous and lesser-known abolitionists, through biography and investigation.
Time Periods: Early 19th Century: 1800 - 1849, Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864
Themes: African American, Organizing, Slavery and Resistance

By Adam Sanchez, Brady Bennon, Deb Delman, and Jessica Lovaas

Teaching a Peoples History of Abolition and the Civil War (Book Cover) | Zinn Education ProjectFor all its weaknesses and divisions, the abolition movement was perhaps the most significant social movement in U.S. history: an anti-racist movement, a labor movement, a feminist movement, a free speech movement, an antiwar movement.

The secession of Southern states in response to Abraham Lincoln’s election, which triggered the Civil War, is inexplicable without the fear — and sometimes paranoia — the abolition movement kindled in the Southern imagination.

And yet our textbooks cover this essential social movement in a few cursory pages, at best. In curricula and mainstream media, social progress is assigned to Great Men. Young people fail to learn the lesson they need so desperately in order to recognize their own potential power today: Throughout history, social movements have made the world a better place — more democratic, more equal, more just.

The purpose of the abolitionist mixer is to familiarize students with the stories of famous and lesser-known abolitionists and introduce them to a number of the individuals and themes they encounter both in the role play “‘If There Is No Struggle…’: Teaching a People’s History of the Abolition Movement” and the reading “A People’s History of the Abolition Movement.”

Materials Needed

  • Copies of “Abolitionist Mixer: Questions” (Handout 4-A) for every student.
  • “Mixer Roles” (Handout 4–B), cut up. One for every student in the class.*
  • Blank nametags. Enough for every student in the class.
  • Copies of “A People’s History of the Abolition Movement” (Handout 4–C) for every student.

The lesson PDF includes Handout 4-A, Handout 4-5, and Handout 4-C. Download it for free to access this full lesson.


Lesson originally published by Rethinking Schools | Zinn Education ProjectThis lesson is published by Rethinking Schools in Teaching a People’s History of Abolition and the Civil War.


Share a story, question, or resource from your classroom.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *