The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

This unit is one of the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Teaching Literacy through History resources, designed to align with the Common Core State Standards. These units were developed to enable students to understand, summarize, and evaluate original material of historical significance. Through a step-by-step process, students will acquire the skills to analyze, assess, and develop knowledgeable and well-reasoned viewpoints on primary sources. This lesson focuses on the Fugitive Slave Act, which was one component of the Compromise of 1850. Students will close read, summarize, and think critically about three primary sources that explore the law and its effects from different viewpoints, including a broadside or poster, a letter by an African American, and excerpts from the law itself. Student learning will be assessed through classroom discussions, activity sheets, and an argumentative essay.

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