Songs of the North, the South and Slaves: High School History Lesson

Songs of the North, the South and Slaves: High School History Lesson
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The Forces Behind the Civil War

In order to fully appreciate the driving forces behind the Civil War and the monumental task Lincoln took on in his struggle to preserve the Union, one thing above all others must be understood. That one key element is emotion. The level of emotion driving young Americans to stand on either side of those “border states” and declare war on one another was just as high as the level of emotion running in the veins of the slaves, as they worked in the fields by day and plotted their escapes on the Underground Railroad as they toiled in the cotton.

Even today, so many key events in our world stage are captured finally and forever by music and musicians. It was no different in the 1860’s. Introduce your students to Lincoln’s Playlist, the music that was at the forefront of his time in office

A Musical Lesson

First, you will need an iPod or another device for playing music to your class. Download “Dixie”, “Go Down, Moses”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”, and make copies of the lyrics for your students on a lyric worksheet.

Using the attached power points and discussion questions, review the songs, their hidden meanings and the insights captured by each writer. Have students listen to each of the songs several times, noting on their sheets the way each song made them feel and how they think the population reacted to that particular song. Use the follow-up questions at the end of each presentation as a discussion for the class. For an extra written assessment, use the Underground Railroad worksheet for a final grade. Their averages will be in perfect harmony with their smiling faces!

Songs of the Civil War Power Point

Negro Spirituals Power Point

The Underground Railroad in New Jersey Worksheet


This post is part of the series: Abraham Lincoln: High School History Lessons

This series focuses on Abraham Lincoln and issues surrounding the Civil War. Students will examine a variety of secondary and primary sources to learn more about this time in history.

  1. Written From the Heart: The Letters of Lincoln and Lee to teach History and Literacy
  2. The Issue of Secession From All Sides: Poetry, Prose and Primary Sources
  3. Lincoln’s iPod: A Playlist for The North, The South and The Slaves
  4. Rhetoric and Rebellion: A Look at Primary Source Excerpts to Understand Lincoln’s Challenges