Middle School Resources

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Bids for Freedom

This lesson will help middle school students understand how the judicial system was fractured over the question of slavery in the decade before the Civil War. Students will compare and contrast the petitions for freedom of Bridget "Biddy" Mason and Archy Lee, slaves who were held in California, and Dred Scott, whose well-known lawsuit for freedom resulted in an infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision. Students will understand attempts by African Americans to realize the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and how those attempts connected to the compromises regarding slavery in the 19th century.

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Equal Protection and the Yick Wo v. Hopkins Case

Through a careful reading of historical sources and through interpretation of context clues related to the landmark Yick Wo v. Hopkins lawsuit, students will understand that city and federal laws did not uniformly support or deny Chinese laborers' rights to equal protection under the law in the 19th century. Students will learn that a law may seem impartial in its language, but if it is enforced in a discriminatory manner, that is a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. This lesson can be implemented in units on Immigration or Reconstruction.

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