Chapter 8: The Second American Revolution

Activity 1

You edit a newspaper in Massachusetts in the 1860s. Write and editorial either supporting or attacking the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.

You may, for example, support it for the power it gives the national government to protect the rights of citizens, or oppose it for excluding women from the vote or for giving the national government too much power.

Then write a letter to the paper about the editorial, arguing the opposite point of view.

Activity 2

Project HIP-HOP Voice: Resistance to Racism

On our trip South, I was surprised to learn that some white people didn’t go along with racism in the 19th century. 

Our first stop was Harper’s Ferry, which is now in West Virginia .  It was located in Virginia just before the Civil War when John Brown led his sons and about 20 other people in a raid.  He thought if he captured the weapons in the federal arsenal there this would lead to a general slave uprising.  He wanted to arm the slaves and overthrow slavery.

Well, it wasn’t such a great plan, as Frederick Douglass told him, and he ended up getting captured inside a building we saw.  But he didn’t seem to regret what he did.  His final words before he was hanged showed he felt he had done the right thing.  He was willing to die to help end the sin of slavery.

I guess John Brown is in some of the history books, although he might not always be shown as a hero.  But other white people who made sacrifices seem to be forgotten.

We did some research for the historian Jim Loewen, who was writing a book on how people and events are remembered through memorials and museums.   He asked us to see if there was still a marble marker standing in a small town in Mississippi called Hazlehurst. 

The marker was for a man called John Prentiss Matthews.  He was from Hazlehurst.  I was really surprised to learn there were white people like him in the South just after the Civil War.  He believed that African Americans should have the same rights as white people.  He started a political party which had the support of Black people and many poor white farmers.  When he went to vote, he was shot dead, I guess because he was trying to bring white people and Black people together.

We found the marker to him – at least it is still there, even if it doesn’t say how he died or what he stood for.  


Are you surprised to learn that white people gave their lives in the fight against slavery and racism?

Copyright 2006, ACLU of Massachusetts