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HIST211: Introduction to United States History - Colonial Period to Reconstruction

Unit 6: An Age of Reform and Resistance   *The antebellum years were a period of rapid social change in America. Many distinct groups – including religious sects, slaves, free blacks, and women – asserted their claim to equal rights in a democratic nation. Perceiving that American society was in need of reform, these groups either sought to change existing institutions or to forge new ones. Evangelicals (particularly in the South) as well as Shakers and Mormons sought to restore an earlier, more primitive form of Christianity to America. And in order to solve the problem of Southern slavery and Northern free blacks, many anti-slavery reformers devised plans to colonize blacks in Africa. Other bleak aspects of American society, including the prison system and the prevalence of alcoholic beverages, spurred the formation of the Temperance Movement and prison reform movement. Meanwhile, Southern slaves planned or carried out revolts in Virginia and South Carolina in an attempt to resist enslavement and gain their freedom.

In this unit, you will examine how the antebellum era was an era of reform. Some Americans, such as anti-slavery proponents and members of new religious groups attempted moral reform, while others (prison reformers, Temperance Movement supporters, Utopians and transcendentalists, public educators, women’s rights activists, and rebellious slaves) focused on social reform. By studying all of these groups and their reform objectives, you will understand that reform cut both ways in antebellum America: While many groups had seemingly progressive and democratizing goals, they were also often racist and socially conservative.*

Unit 6 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take approximately 14.5 hours.

☐    Subunit 6.1: 4.5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.2: 2.25 hours

☐    Subunit 6.3: 6.5 hours

☐    Subunit 6.4: 1.25 hours

Unit6 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - define the Second Great Awakening and explain its relationship to antebellum reform; - explain the main themes of and philosophies driving antebellum reform; - describe slave rebellion and analyze the causes of that resistance; and - analyze and interpret primary source documents from the era, using historical research methods.

6.1 Religious Reform   6.1.1 The Second Great Awakening   - Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 31: Reform Crusades” Link: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 31: Reform Crusades” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson”
button, and watch the presentations for the following three topics:
“Humanitarian Reforms,” ”Social Reforms,” and “Women’s Rights.”
Click on the “Text” tabs for each topic and read all of the pages.
Then, click on the links under “Explore” and read the accompanying
text.  

 This resource discusses the various reform movements in antebellum
(before the Civil War) America, including the emergence of a women’s
movement. In many cases reformers were inspired to reform American
society by their religious convictions during this period of
religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening.  

 Watching these presentations and reading the accompanying text
should take approximately 45 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Henry J. Sage’s Sage American History: “Social and Cultural Issues in the Antebellum Period” Link: Henry J. Sage’s Sage American History: “Social and Cultural Issues in the Antebellum Period” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this webpage until you get to “The Antebellum South: Life on the Planation,” which you read earlier in this course. This reading will give you a sense of the evangelical worldview that emerged in the 1820s and 1830s – the phenomenon referred to as the Second Great Awakening – and will provide an overview of the various reform movements of this same period.

    Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  • Reading: Ashland University’s TeachingAmericanHistory.org: Charles Finney’s “What a Revival Religion Is” Link: Ashland University’s TeachingAmericanHistory.org: Charles Finney’s “What a Revival Religion Is” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this 1835 sermon by Charles Grandison Finney, who is often considered the Father of Modern Revivalism. This sermon was printed and distributed in thousands of copies of the New York Evangelist, a popular religious publication of the era. How does this sermon express the goals and values of the Second Great Awakening?

    Reading this sermon and answering the question above should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.1.2 Religious Pluralism   - Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 30: Transcendentalism, Religion, and Utopian Movements” Link: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 30: Transcendentalism, Religion, and Utopian Movements” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson”
button, and watch the presentation for the second topic, “The Second
Great Awakening.” Click on the “Text” tab and read all of the pages.
Then, click on the links under “Explore” and read the accompanying
text.  

 This resource discusses the diverse religious movements of the
Second Great Awakening. Please be sure to consider the questions
posed after the primary documents presented in the “Explore”
links.  

 Watching this presentation and reading the accompanying text should
take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Lecture: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation: David Blight's “The Second Awakening and Antebellum Reform, Part 1” and “Part 2" Link: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation: David Blight's “The Second Awakening and Antebellum Reform, Part 1” (YouTube) and “Part 2” (YouTube)

    Instructions: Watch these lectures, which discuss new religious movements that arose as a result of the Second Great Awakening and examine the impact of this historical development on diverse religious groups in the United States.

    Watching these lectures and pausing to take notes should take approximately 1 hour.

6.1.3 African Americans and Religion   - Reading: National Park Service: “African American Churches of Beacon Hill” Link: National Park Service: “African American Churches of Beacon Hill” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read this article, which discusses the history of the
African American churches in Boston and their most prominent
members, who were often involved in the abolitionist movement. Why
was religion such a central component of black life during this
time?  

 Reading this article and answering the question above should take
approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

6.2 Anti-Slavery   6.2.1 Anti-Slavery: Moral and Social Reform   - Reading: Cornell University’s Carl A. Kroch Library: “‘I Will be Heard!’: Prominent Abolitionists” Link: Cornell University’s Carl A. Kroch Library: “‘I Will be Heard!’: Prominent Abolitionists” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read this webpage. Then select the “Continue the
tour” link at the bottom of the page and progress through each page,
from William Lloyd Garrison through Pennsylvania Hall. These pages
contain biographies of prominent abolitionists and discuss their
efforts to oppose slavery.  

 Reading these webpages and taking notes should take approximately
30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: United States Library of Congress’ African-American Mosaic: “Abolition” Link: United States Library of Congress’ African-American Mosaic: “Abolition” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read the overview of the abolition movement at the top of the webpage. Then scroll down the page, click on each link on the left-hand side, and study these images. These broadsides, songs, and pamphlets have helped define abolition as a social movement. These webpages illustrate the efforts of abolitionists through their organizations and publications to persuade the American public to reject slavery.

    Reading this webpage and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Lecture: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation: David Blight's “Anti-Slavery Movements Part 1” Link: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation: David Blight's “Anti-Slavery Movements Part 1” (YouTube)

    Instructions: Watch this lecture, which examines how and why abolition replaced emancipation and colonization as the main thrust of reformers bent on opposing slavery in the United States. The Second Great Awakening inspired the emergence and growth of the abolitionist movement.

    Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take approximately 45 minutes.

6.2.2 Colonization and Liberia   - Reading: United States Library of Congress’ African-American Mosaic: “Colonization” Link: United States Library of Congress’ African-American Mosaic: “Colonization” (HTML)

 Instructions: Re-read the overview of the colonization movement,
which was introduced in subunit 5.1.1, and read the page about
Liberia. Then scroll down each page and click on the images on the
left-hand side. Use the back button to get back to
“Colonization”. These broadsides, songs, and pamphlets help define
colonization and the experiment in Liberia in the context of the
larger anti-slavery movement.  

 Reading these webpages and taking notes should take approximately
30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: These resources are in the public domain.

6.3 Reform Associations   - Lecture: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation: David Blight's “The Second Awakening and Antebellum Reform, Part 3” Link: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation: David Blight's “The Second Awakening and Antebellum Reform, Part 3” (YouTube)

 Instructions: Watch this lecture, which discusses the motivations
of social reformers in Antebellum America and examines the main
reform movement of this period.  

 Watching this lecture and pausing to take notes should take
approximately 30 minutes.

6.3.1 Crime and Punishment   - Reading: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s University Libraries: Documenting the American South: “Dorothea Dix’s Advocacy for the Mentally Ill in North Carolina” Link: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s University Libraries: Documenting the American South: “Dorothea Dix’s Advocacy for the Mentally Ill in North Carolina” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read this webpage to learn about the efforts of famed
social reformer Dorothea Dix to reform mental health care. Also, you
can read Dix’s address to the state legislature. Dix’s address and
reform efforts revealed the harsh conditions the mentally ill
endured as well as the poor conditions of the nation’s jails and
prisons. Please consider how Dix’s reform work overlapped with other
reform movements of the period, such as abolition and temperance
(see subunits 6.2.1 and 6.3.2).  

 Reading this webpage should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: This resource is posted with the permission of
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

6.3.2 The Temperance Movement   - Reading: University of Michigan, MLibrary Digital Collections’ The Making of America: Henry Ward Beecher’s “Common Sense for the Young Man on the Subject of Temperance” Link: University of Michigan, MLibrary Digital Collections’ The Making of America: Henry Ward Beecher’s “Common Sense for the Young Man on the Subject of Temperance” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read pages 9 – 34 of this sermon by the noted
clergyman Henry Ward Beecher.  Beecher was a prominent reformer who
was involved in both the temperance and abolitionis tmovements in
the antebellum period.  He was the son of the preacher Lyman Beecher
and the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of *Uncle Tom’s
Cabin*. In this sermon, Beecher expresses the common themes of the
Temperance movement, such as the vices associated with consuming
alcohol and the virtues associated with self-control and
temperance.  

 Reading this sermon and taking notes should take approximately 1
hour and 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.3.3 Utopianism and Transcendentalism   - Reading: University of California College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 30: Transcendentalism, Religion, and Utopian Movements – Transcendentalism, Utopian Movements” Link: University of California College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 30: Transcendentalism, Religion, and Utopian Movements – Transcendentalism, Utopian Movements” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, click the “Start Lesson”
button, and watch the presentations for the first topic,
“Transcendentalism,” and third topic, “Utopian Movements.”  Click on
the “Text” tabs for both topicsand read all ofthe pages. Then, click
on the links under “Explore” and read the accompanying text.  
    
 This resource examines transcendentalist philosophy, which inspired
reformers and abolitionists in this era, and the emergence of
Utopian communities, which sought to create model societies as a
means to stimulate social and religious reform.  

 Watching these presentations and reading the accompanying text
should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Texas A&M; University: The Web of American Transcendentalism: Ann Woodlief’s “Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)” Link: Texas A&M University: The Web of American Transcendentalism: Ann Woodlief’s “Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read Woodlief’s short biography of Emerson to get a good overview of Emerson’s work, paying special attention to the discussion of his essay “Nature,” which you will read below.

    Reading the biography and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Texas A&M; University: American Transcendentalism Web: Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Nature” Link: Texas A&M University: American Transcendentalism Web: Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Nature” (HTML)

    Also available in:
    eText format for Google Books

    Instructions: Read Emerson’s 1836 essay “Nature” in which he relies on nature – as well as his own spirituality and intuition – rather than reason to explain mankind’s role in the world.

    Reading this essay and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

6.3.4 Public Education   - Reading: Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society’s Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography: Susan Ritchie’s “Horace Mann” Link: Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society’s Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography: Susan Ritchie’s “Horace Mann” (HTML)

 Instructions: Click on the link above and read this biography of
Horace Mann, the most prominent proponent of free public education
in the antebellum period. Please note how his Unitarian faith
inspired his effort to improve public education across the nation.  

 Reading this biography should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.3.5 Women’s Rights   - Reading: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Learn NC: Carolina Watchman: “For What Is a Mother Responsible?” Link: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Learn NC: Carolina Watchman: “For What Is a Mother Responsible?” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read this 1845 editorial concerning the
responsibilities of mothers. This editorial presents the traditional
view of women’s social role in antebellum America.  

 Reading this editorial and taking notes should take approximately
15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Fordham University: Paul Halsall’s Internet Modern History Sourcebook: “The Declaration of Sentiments, Seneca Falls Conference, 1848” Link: Fordham University: Paul Halsall’s Internet Modern History Sourcebook“The Declaration of Sentiments, Seneca Falls Conference, 1848” (HTML)

    Instructions: Read this webpage. The first convention for women’s rights was held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, partly in response to the limitations placed on women’s participation in the anti-slavery movement.

    “The Declaration of Sentiments” was modeled on the Declaration of Independence and incorporates that document’s emphasis on the limitation of power and the goal of equality. In this manifestation, however, the oppressor is not the King but American men. A total of 68 women and 32 men signed “The Declaration of Sentiments.”
     
    How does “The Declaration of Sentiments” signify a new interpretation of rights and liberty in the United States?

    Reading this webpage and answering the question above should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: This resource is posted with the permission of Fordham University.

  • Lecture: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation: David Blight’s “Anti-Slavery Movements Part 2” Link: YouTube: The Saylor Foundation: David Blight’s  “Anti-Slavery Movements Part 2” (YouTube)

    Instructions: Watch this lecture, which explores the links between the abolitionis tmovement and the nascent women’s rights movement.

    Watching this lecture and pausing to take notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

6.4 Slave Resistance   - Web Media: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 33: Decade of Crisis – Slave Resistance” Link: University of California: UC College Prep’s U.S. History: “Lesson 33: Decade of Crisis – Slave Resistance” (Flash)

 Instructions: Click on the link above, select “Start Lesson,” and
watch the presentation for the first topic, “Slave Resistance.”
 Click on the “Text” tab and read all of the pages.  Then, click on
the links under “Explore” and read the accompanying text.  
    
 This resource discusses slave insurrections, such as Nat Turner’s
Revolt and the Underground Railroad, which facilitated the escape of
slaves in the South to freedom in Canada.  

 Watching this presentation and reading the accompanying text should
take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

6.4.1 Nat Turner’s Rebellion   - Reading: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s University Libraries: Documenting the American South: Nat Turner’s “The Confessions of Nat Turner, the Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, VA” Link: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s University Libraries: Documenting the American South: Nat Turner’s “The Confessions of Nat Turner, the Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, VA” (HTML)

 Instructions: Read this text, which is Nat Turner’s first-person
account of the slave rebellion he led in Virginia in 1831. Dictated
to the lawyer Thomas Gray, these “confessions” detail the death and
destruction that Turner and his co-rebels unleashed.  

 Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 1
hour.  

 Terms of Use: This resource is posted with permission of University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.