The Election of 1860 Role Play

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. 12 pages. Role play based on the election of 1860 allows students to explore the political debates of the time and the real reasons for the Civil War.

  • Time Periods: Civil War Era: 1850 - 1864, 19th Century | Themes: African American, Slavery, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements | Reading Levels: High School | Resource Types: Teaching Activity PDFs

1860electionMost of my students share a cartoonlike version of the causes of the Civil War: slavery was horrible; President Abraham Lincoln was a great man who hated slavery; so, to free the slaves, he fought a war against the South; the North won and the slaves were freed. This common but wildly inaccurate history reinforces at least two unfortunate myths: the United States fights wars only for high moral purposes; and African Americans owe their freedom to the efforts of a great white man. The activities in this lesson offer students a more complex and truthful historical picture, and, thus, help to puncture these myths.

Four political parties competed for the presidency in 1860. The outcome resulted in a social earthquake that permanently transformed the United States of America. The role play asks students to confront the actual issues addressed by the different parties in 1860. It gives students the tools to analyze some of the main causes of the Civil War, and helps them expel the simplistic notions of the war’s aims that they may, perhaps unconsciously, carry around.

This lesson was published by Rethinking Schools.

 

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