Skip to Content

John Brown & Harpers Ferry, Grades 9-12

Lessons, Resources, and Activities Explore an Important Event Leading to the American Civil War

Found In: language arts & literature, social studies, 9-12

Lesson Plans & Activities

Lesson Plans

Bring a Painting To Life
Students in grades 6-12 write and perform monologues and dialogues based on the painting “The Last Moments of John Brown.”

Will the Real John Brown Please Stand Up!
Students in grades 6-12 explore, through discussion and writing activities, various perspectives of John Brown's character and actions as expressed through paintings, period newspaper articles, and quotes by contemporaries.

Additional Lessons (Historical Context)

An Early Threat of Secession: The Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Nullification Crisis
Students in grades 9-12 determine how controversies over slavery's expansion and federal tariffs further entrenched the divisions between northern and southern interests.

Slavery's Opponents and Defenders
Students in grades 9-12 explore the wide-ranging debate over American slavery by presenting the lives of its leading opponents and defenders and the views they held about America's "peculiar institution."

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854: Popular Sovereignty and the Political Polarization over Slavery
Students in grades 9-12 examine the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and how it affected the political balance between free and slave states. They explore how its author, Stephen Douglas, promoted popular sovereignty to avoid a national crisis over slavery in the federal territories.

John Brown's Raid 
Students (9-12) discover why John Brown chose Harpers Ferry as the objective for his October 1859 raid.

Background Resources

Slavery and the Making of America
History, maps, narratives and biographies, and teacher resources.

Territorial Kansas Online
Explore the turbulent times of "Bleeding Kansas."

Thoreau - On John Brown
“A Plea for Captain John Brown,” a lecture read in November 1859.

Frederick Douglass on John Brown
Though Douglass and Brown had been friends for 11 years, Douglass refused to join Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. Douglass wrote this lecture in 1860 as a tribute.

John Brown
People, stories, and images associated with Harpers Ferry and John Brown.

John Brown’s Harpers Ferry Raid
Articles, maps, images, and lesson plans.

John Brown Trial (1859)
Includes the trial report and testimony, Brown’s interview and address to the court, Lee’s report, Senate report, and more.

The Portent: John Brown's Raid in American Memory
The Virginia Historical Society website on the 150th anniversary of John Brown's raid on the Federal Armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia.

John Brown: Hero or Terrorist?
Resources and teaching unit.


last updated: October 7, 2019


Average User Rating (0 users)

3 stars
of 5.

Your Rating