5.3: Civil War Era News Stories and Recruitment Advertisements

In an interview with Ken Burns, the historian Stephen B. Oates called the Civil War the "great central experience" of United States history (1989, para 14). The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution promised liberty and justice for all, but Black slavery in southern states contradicted and undermined those values and questioned the survival of democracy as a form government.

In many ways, the Civil War is still with us as a nation today. Black Americans still seek equality under the law. Racism toward Black people still permeates through all aspects of society. Conservative white politicians in red states seek to limit the political participation and voting of people of color. In 1968, the Kerner Commission declared "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white - separate and unequal" (para. 2). That reality remains true in the third decade of the 21st century.

A sheet of US 32-cent postage stamps commemorating the American Civil War/War Between the States. A sheet of US 32-cent postage stamps commemorating the American Civil War/War Between the States | Public Domain

To understand the present, it is important to understand the past, and the activities in this section explore different dimensions of the Civil War and its impacts on civil rights through the lens of newspapers and advertisements.

Activity 1: Read Stories Across State Lines 

Activity 2: Examine Recruitment Advertisements 

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Examine Recruitment Advertisements by Emily Kenyon

Additional Resources

Connecting to the eBook

Building Democracy for All: Harriet Tubman, William Still, and the Underground Railroad

Connecting to the Standards