Summary Objective 14

Students will analyze the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln and the subsequent decision that several slave states made to secede from the Union to ensure the preservation and expansion of slavery. Maps to Key Concepts 3, 4, 7 & 10


What else should my students know?

14.A Lincoln disliked slavery but believed that the Constitution protected the institution where it existed. He ran on the Republican platform of non-expansion of slavery into the territories.

14.B The first seven states to secede from the Union were South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. In their declarations to the world explaining why they seceded, slavery and the political conflict over slavery were the central factors.

14.C The Confederate States of America was established in February 1861 (but never recognized by any other government or nation). Its constitution legalized and protected slavery.

14.D It is estimated that 20,000 Indigenous people participated in the Civil War on the Union and Confederate sides. Their reasons varied. The Confederacy, seeking to ally with enslaving peoples of the Southern nations, promised to protect slavery as well as Indigenous land. The Union, meanwhile, declared that, to uphold existing treaties, Native nations had to side with them. Many Native nations initially tried to remain neutral but were drawn in once the war touched their territories.


How can I teach this?

  • In Lincoln’s “First Inaugural Address,” he reiterated, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery where it exists” and asked “dissatisfied fellow countrymen” to rethink their decision to destroy the government.
  • In Lincoln’s December 22, 1860, letter to Alexander H. Stephens, the future Confederate vice president, he stated that slavery was safe where it existed and outlined the differences between enslavers and Republicans, namely, “You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted.”
  • States that left the Union created documents explaining why they did so. These documents cite Lincoln’s hostility to slavery as the key reason for secession. South Carolina’s “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union, December 1860” provides a useful example.
  • In his famous 1861 “Cornerstone” speech, Alexander Stephens argued that slavery was central to the project of the Confederate States of America.
  • In a short video by Learning for Justice, Christy Coleman explores the reasons that Southern states were willing to go to war to protect the institution of slavery.
  • Episodes one and two of Learning for Justice’s Teaching Hard History: American Slavery podcast discuss the ways that slavery caused the Civil War, offering concrete strategies for teaching.
  • The City of Alexandria, Virginia, offers an accessible overview of Indigenous people and the Civil War. The Cherokee Nation, which was surrounded by Confederate territory and divided in its support of Union and Confederate causes, experienced great loss. The population of the Cherokee Nation declined from 21,000 to 15,000 people after the war.
  • The John Hope Franklin Young Scholars, a group of middle school historians in Durham, North Carolina, made a documentary in 2015 called The Civil Rights War about untold stories of the Civil War in North Carolina. The documentary highlights the civil rights struggles of Lumbee and Cherokee people, freedmen, and women on the home front during the war.



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