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American Writers Video Lessons

Directions: Use the themes, questions and video clips below to teach and learn with portions of C-SPAN's American Writers program featuring Frederick Douglass and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Link to the complete video clip list to identify clip descriptions and create your own lessons. Each theme contains questions and video clips appropriate for varying grade levels. Lesson Credit:
Curriculum Advisory Team member, Kevin Sacerdote.

Choose from three themes:
The Ongoing Struggle for Freedom
Level One
Watch  Clip 64
Level Two
Watch  Clip 29
Level Three
Watch  Clip 55

1. What did Douglass have to undergo in slavery? How did he achieve a measure of freedom within slavery?
2. To what degree did Douglass associate with the fight for women's suffrage? What was at stake in the debate over black men's suffrage? What did Douglass set black male suffrage as a priority?
3. What value did Douglass place on the principles of freedom embraced by the founders of the United States? Compare the founders struggle for freedom with both his own personal struggle, and that of blacks in America?
4. What are some means by which Douglass gained freedom for both himself and others? What methods did he oppose? Why?
5. How would Douglass evaluate the quality of freedom in America today?

Racial Equality
Level One
Watch  Clip 11 & 12
Level Two
Watch  Clip 25
Level Three
Watch  Clip 52

1. How did Douglass view his own racial identity? Did Douglass believe that race was important? Argue both sides of the question.
2. How would Douglass explain the evolution of slavery in America? How did it start? How did it end? What happened after abolition?
3. How did he define racial equality? How must racial equality be achieved? Draw a connection between his own personal experiences with race and his views on racial equality.
4. What landmarks in racial equality did Douglass observe over his lifetime?
5. How did Douglass speak out for his race? Was he always effective?

Language: Douglass as Orator and Writer
Level One
Watch  Clip 9
Level Two
Watch  Clip 14
Level Three
Watch  Clip 39

1. How did Douglass learn to read?
2. Describe some of his experiences with language. Characterize the development of his relationship with words. What were some milestones?
3. What effect did the written word have on him? What impact did he have through his own written and spoken words?
4. For what qualities were Douglass' speeches known? Describe a typical Douglass speech. What was the content? delivery? To what degree did Cedar Hill itself serve as a symbolic podium for Douglass? How did he communicate through his actions as well as words?
5. How did Douglass use oral and written communication to achieve his goals. Make a direct connection between one speech and one goal. Did he achieve his goal?
6. Can Douglass as a communicator be compared to any figure in contemporary society?


I   II   III   IV   V   VI   VII   VIII


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